SUMMIT, NJ - Stephanie Gould was sworn in last night to complete the remaining two months of her late husband Matt Gould’s Summit Common Council term at the first meeting of Hilltop City governing body following the August break.
The September 3 meeting began with a “Moment of Reflection” for Matthew Gould, Ward 1 Councilman / President pro tempore who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on August 13 from a heart condition.
Stephanie Gould was greeted with applause and hugs from her fellow Council members after being approved unanimously.
Council Member-at-Large Beth Little explained that when an elected Councilman cannot finish his term, the process to replace him, according to N.J.S.A 40A:16-1, which states that -- within 15 days of the vacancy -- his / her party must suggest three names to be considered as replacements. She said that although the replacement “feels very quick” it is required by the law.
“I’m so grateful to Stephanie,” she said.
Gould’s appointment will be in effect until a successor is voted in at the General Election on November 5, for the remainder of the term, through December 2020.
Council President David Naidu, in introducing the moment of reflection, said, “His influence continues to be felt on this Council and will be felt by those that come after us.”
“We should reflect on his ideas and priorities, such as solar, plastics, trees, and pedestrian safety, to name a few, and how we can honor him by accomplishing his goals with our actions,” Naidu said.
Union County Freeholder Al Mirabella and Chatham Borough Councilwoman Carolyn Dempsey were present for the induction.
Little was voted in as the new president pro tempore and will act as president in Naidu’s absence.
In other matters dealing with city personnel issues, Tammie Baldwin was approved as the new City treasurer replacing Marge Gerba, CFO / Treasurer since 2015 and who recently retired after eight years with the City.
A new position of program aide was added in the Department of Community Programs. Director Mark Ozoroski said that it is an “entry level” position with a “grade 5” annual salary of $42,000.
In other law and labor news, Councilman Ward 2 Council Member Steve Bowman said that a salary increase for up to $155,000 was approved for the City treasurer / chief financial officer position; a vacancy was declared for a 20-year retiring employee in the department of public works; and an extension for leave without pay was approved for Police Detective Chris Medina, who was studying for and taking the New Jersey Bar Exam.
Finance Chair Little said that very little change -- actually only one minor item -- was required to certify the 2018 Audit Review.
“Having only one suggestion from the auditor is remarkable,” she said.
Ward 1 Councilman Mike McTernan said, “It is a real testament to how lucky we are in Summit to have such professionals working in City Hall.”
Ward 2 Councilman Greg Vartan said that the City has applied for a $23,000 grant to the NJ Department of Community Affairs for Recreation Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities (ROID). He said that over the last nine years, Summit has received $169,000 through this program. The ROID grants, which Summit uses for the TryCAN program, allows the city to offer activities to individuals with disabilities so that they can participate fully in recreational programs. TryCAN coordinates inclusive recreational and social development programs for local special needs children.
Little said that the children who participate in the TryCAN program as mentors to the special needs program benefit as well. “The children who volunteer get way more out of the program than the children enrolled; it’s a win-win,” she said.
Ward 2 Councilwoman Marjorie Fox reported on capital projects, including the purchase of two 2019 Ford Escape vehicles from the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council, for $46,644. She said that the City considered hybrid vehicles, but in order to allow construction inspectors to visit sites, they needed to be able to drive on “uneven terrain--they need to have four-wheel drive.” She said that there are no hybrid sports utility vehicles with four-wheel drive.
In the future, she said, the City will explore purchasing construction vehicles that are electric, along with a charging station.
She also said that the City will purchase a 2019 Caterpillar articulated wheel loader for solid waste management for $229,102. This includes a $32,000 trade in, she said. The purchase, she said, was accounted for in the capital budget.
McTernan said that although it sounded like a large dollar amount, “these things have been vetted quite thoroughly.”
Bowman added that neighboring towns have spent much more.
Fox also said that there was a request for authorization execution of easement agreement at 42 Shadyside Avenue for driveway widening.
Naidu said that zoning set up ordinances for specific reasons. He noted that this is the second time that this property has been the subject of an exemption.
“There are rational reasons why we have restrictions,” he said. “Runoff from rainwater puts a tax on the sewer system and infrastructure.” Although he voted in favor of the exemption, he said, “We need to focus on the original intent of the ordinance.” He said that these exceptions are “undermining the rationale” of the ordinance.
Vartan moved a safety and health resolution for the purchase of a three-year lease / purchase of two police vehicles for $25,365.46 per year.
He also mentioned the collection of “unclaimed bicycles and personal items” that are being held at the police station and will be auctioned. Police Chief Robert Weck said that they are required to hold the bicycles for six months before they go up for auction.
McTernan said, “they are in the basement of City Hall gathering dust; when bike’s go missing don’t despair -- there is a good shot it’s here.”
Resident Dr. Richard Berardi has stepped up to fill a vacant position on the Board of Health, due to the sudden passing of Dr.Thomas Giusto.
Mayor Nora Radest said of Giusto, “He was a strong, active member of the Board of Health and he will be greatly missed.”
In her mayor’s report, Radest requested that the community participate in a water bottle drive for Newark. She asks for donations of wrapped cases of water to be dropped off in the City Hall parking lot on Wednesday, September 11, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Thursday September 12, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Newark is suffering from a clean drinking water crisis, she said.
She reported on the first day of school, and said that the 3,987 Summit students included 240 Full-Day Kindergartners.
“I’m very happy we funded FDK,” she said. Radest was an integral part of the approval process.
She said that the school walking routes have several new crosswalks “to improve pedestrian safety," and asked Summit residents to drive carefully, particularly since school has reopened.
McTernan said, “Slow down. Drive safe -- you’ll get there when you get there.”
Radest mentioned a billboard in town that says,” We have a lot of children in Summit, but have none to spare.”
The City will have a 9/11 remembrance for the 18th anniversary of the terror attacks. A brief ceremony will take place at the Fire Department at 9:50 before the ringing of the memorial bell at 9:55, she said.
City Administrator Michael Rogers said that the City will be recognizing the “Prepared, not Scared” campaign, which is this year’s theme for National Preparedness Month, a FEMA community disaster and emergency planning initiative. He said it is especially appropriate with Dorian ready to hit the Southeastern U.S.
Naidu congratulated Vartan on his recent nuptials.