SUMMIT, NJ - Four Summit residents -- Jonathan Betz, Paul Formichelli, Julia Keenan, and Jeffrey Wagenbach as citizens-at-large - have been appointment to the Summit Economic Development Advisory Committee at the Summit Common Council's second meeting in May.
The Council, at its April 3 meeting, had approved -- in a 4-3 vote along party lines -- Council Member at-large Beth Little's resolution to establish the Committee. which will be comprised of It seven community-at-large members, the mayor, the council president, the chairs of the Finance and Building and Grounds committees, and the City administrator. Its mission will be to take a “holistic approach” to evaluating the City’s current commercial uses and ratables and looking at new opportunities.
Ward 2 Council Member Mary Ogden wished to be clear that while she -- along with Ward 1 Council Member Mike McTernan and Ward 2 Council Member Steve Bowman -- hadn’t voted for the committee, she did support the appointments of these “excellent people” who had volunteered to serve. Bowman echoed her sentiments.
Council introduced a quartet of finance ordinances. Little, in introducing the measures, noted they all appropriate the funding for the City budget previously passed by Council. The first authorizes the issuance of $2,375,000 bonds or notes for various improvements to municipally-owned facilities such as the Memorial Field tennis courts, the Transfer Station, for the purchase of rescue equipment for the Fire Department and vehicles for various departments.
The second authorizes $712,500 bonds or notes for upgrading the sewer system. The third authorizes $95,950 bonds or notes for various parking utility improvements such as resurfacing parking lots and improving signage at various Parking Services Agency parking lots, while the fourth authorizes $$1,482,000 bonds or notes for resurfacing and reconstructing roads including Wallace Road, Hobart Avenue, Linden Place, Oakland Place, Laurel Avenue, and Larned Road.
The public hearing for these ordinances will take place at the Council's June 6 meeting -- a meeting that was moved to that day due to the state primary election taking place on Tuesday, June 5. Passage of these ordinances requires a two-thirds majority vote.
Ogden pulled a resolution from the Consent Agenda to allow it to be heard on its own. The resolution authorizes additional expenditures of $14,655 for the $6.5 million Community Center renovation project. Grant money will allow the building to be completely powered by a generator, rather than partially as initially planned. As a result, the Community Center may be used as a warming station or even a shelter if necessary. The additional funds are to cover architectural and engineering changes necessitated by the larger generator.
Marjorie Fox, Ward 2 council member, asked whether the grant had already been received and if the funds were already in-hand. Paul Cascais, Department of Community Services director, clarified that the City had already been awarded a grant for generators for two facilities – one for Public Works and one for DCP – but the City had not yet gone forward with the project. Jamie Colucci, DCP project supervisor, further clarified that the changes are primarily for materials such as more robust cabling, since nothing has been installed already; labor costs will not be affected. Overall, the project is moving, according to Colucci, “full speed ahead,” adding that residents can see progress in the center’s framing in front and the gym going up in back of the construction area and noting that there will be much work visible over the next few months and then the work will move inside. The resolution passed.
in addition to the Economic Development Advisory Committee citizen appointments, several resolutions were voted on. Little moved to authorize the schedule of school levy payments, pursuant to the school budget previously approved by Council.
Fox moved a resolution to authorize zoning board reassignments. With the resignation of, David Trone, the zoning board now has a vacancy. The resolution moves the first alternate member to full member status and all other alternate members up one position. Applications are being accepted for the open Alternate 4 position.
Gould moved two safety resolutions. The first authorizes the state contract purchase for fire department radios for an amount not to exceed $252, 015.60. Monies for the purchase of these radios had been authorized in prior capital budgets. The new statewide system is already in use by the shared dispatch center. These new radios will fix dead zones in Summit, increase safety, and facilitate communications with other municipalities’ responders. The infrastructure is owned and maintained by the state. A second resolution authorizes the acceptance of an $8,000 donation from Celgene Corporation to the Fire Department to help with training and equipment costs.
Bowman moved resolutions to award the following bids: to Fischer Contracting of Scotch Plains for the Plymouth Road improvement project ($248,614.05); to T.R. Weniger of Piscataway to replace the 25-year-old City Hall storm water ejector pump, protecting the basement and its contents ($54,600); and to Asphalt Paving Systems of Hamilton for microsurfacing 15 City streets and two Board of Education parking lots (not to exceed $134,736.72). Microsurfacing economically extends the life of a roadway. Gould asked whether it would make sense to do additional roads, since the price of oil is climbing. Cascais replied that the City lacks sufficient resources to prepare additional roads at this time, but that can be reexamined next year.
All the resolutions passed.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Nora Radest and City Administrator Michael Rogers had been in Washington, DC, for the 37th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services, along with Police Chief Robert Weck, Captain Andrew Bartolotti, and Lieutenant Michael Rabasca. They accompanied the family of Summit Detective Matthew Tarentino, who was killed in the line of duty in a three-car accident on May 30, 2017. Radest called the experience “extraordinarily moving,” and thanked the team of riders from the Summit police department who joined those officers biking to DC as part of the annual 'Unity Tour' in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
In her report, Radest said the Morris Avenue bridge is being prepared for paving. NJ Transit still promises a mid-June completion, and Radest hopes to share a firm opening date at the next Council meeting. Also specific to NJ Transit, from June 4 to December 31 NJ Transit will be adjusting weekday service schedules on four Morris & Essex trains to install Federally-mandated safety equipment. Radest said that the disruption to Summit riders should be relatively minor during this round of work, but she suggested commuters should sign up for alerts on the NJ Transit website.
Beginning June 4, all Summit court proceedings will move to the New Providence Municipal Center as part of the shared services agreement with New Providence and Berkeley Heights.
Rogers announced that Summit has received a $400,000 grant from the NJ Department of Transportation’s Safe Streets to Transit Program, which provides funds to improve the overall safety and accessibility for mass transit riders walking to transit facilities. The grant will be used to improve commuter safety in the vicinity of the train station, including curb realignment, sidewalk replacements, signage, lights, and related initiatives.
Noting that this is the first night of Ramadan, Naidu extended best wishes to those celebrating, and reminded residents that the Council will be “on the road” on June 13 at 7 p.m. at the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad building. Naidu, Radest, and two Council members will be present for informal discussions with members of the community.
The Mayor proclaimed the week of May 20 to 26 as Public Works Week. Radest noted, “It is in the public interest for the citizens, civic leaders, and children of Summit to gain knowledge of and to maintain a progressive interest and understand the importance of public works and public works programs in their respective communities.”
During public comments, Bill Rapp, past commander of the American Legion post and current NJ State Commander of the Military Order of the World Wars, called up Fire Chief Eric P. Evers, to thank him for his ongoing support, including collecting worn flags from the Legion’s collection box, and presented him with the silver Patrick Henry Medallion for “patriotic achievement.” The Patrick Henry Award is designed to provide recognition to local officials and civic leaders who distinguish themselves with outstanding and exceptional service to the Armed Forces of the United States, the National Guard, or National Guard Association of the U.S.
Historical Preservation Commission chairman Tom Conway and member Melissa Spurr presented the HPC’s efforts to protect and enhance Summit’s historic charm. Conway stressed that the HPC is a free resource for the city as it works through its Master Plan and other development-related issues. Spurr explained that the commission is an advisory group created by ordinance. It maintains a survey of the city’s 12 historical districts, reviews building applications, make recommendations, and educates the public. She noted that there are more than 100 structures bearing the HPC’s historic plaques. The commission is launching an interactive walking tour developed by student Megan Chang and hopes to inaugurate an annual historic preservation award beginning in 2019.
Spurr added that part of the importance of historic preservation is pride of place, and a sense of identity, but it has economic benefits as well including state grant eligibility and tax credits.
Conway took viewers through a slideshow showcasing good and bad examples of historic preservation in town, juxtaposing new structures that fit in harmoniously with their surroundings and those which do not. The HPC is working with City staff to strengthen the design standards for buildings “compatible” and “in keeping with” their surroundings. He noted that there’s no cost to the city for asking a developer to create a better design.
Spurr showed some examples of successful adaptive reuse, saying “everybody wins.” The Master Plan process has shown that people in Summit know what kinds of buildings they want to see, and the HPC will be involved in discussions around the Broad Street corridor and the DRO. “Good design enhances property values,” said Conway.
Gould asked about the Butler Parkway homes. Conway explained they’re of post-Korean War vintage, and even used some surplus war materials in their construction. They have served both as starter homes and homes for downsizing residents, but many are being torn down and replaced with larger houses. Conway suggested that what may save them is that their mid-century aesthetic is favored by Millennials, and that the City needs to consider which streets in that area remain most intact.