SUMMIT, NJ - The agenda for the Summit’s Common Council’s February 4 meeting was a brief one -- consisting largely of routine resolutions presented annually to keep City's government running -- and, as a result, so was the respective meeting, clocking in at just 66 minutes in length.
Ward 2 Council Member Greg Vartan moved four Finance resolutions. The first authorized the transfer of appropriations from accounts with surpluses to those with insufficient funds, a standard procedure until the new operating budget is approved. This passed on a unanimous roll call vote. The second amended the temporary municipal operating budget, with Vartan emphasizing that no increase was involved. Also authorized were two contract renewals for professionals currently serving the City – one with the municipal auditor, Wielkotz & Company LLC, not to exceed $66,000, an increase of $1000 over last year’s contract, and one with the bond counsel, Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP, not to exceed $60,000.
Three Capital Projects & Community Services resolutions were moved by Council Member at-Large Beth Little. The first authorized the City engineer to execute 2020 NJDEP, NJDOT, state, and County permit applications on behalf of the city. This eliminates Council having to vote on each separate request during the year, thereby ensuring projects are approved expeditiously with oversight provided at the Common Council committee level. Little’s second resolution second authorized the submission of the Tree City USA recertification application and annual accomplishment report. This will be Summit’s 24th year as a Tree City, demonstrating its “commitment to effective, ongoing community forestry.” In line with that, Little’s third resolution authorized a professional services agreement with John Linson, the City's forester, not to exceed $55,000. Ward 1 Council Member David Naidu noted that Linson will now provide monthly reports to the Department of Community Services and Capital Projects committee. He added that Linson gives the City the ability to enforce its tree-related ordinances.
Stephen Bowman, Ward 2 Council Member, moved a pair of Law & Labor resolutions. One authorized an amendment to the Joint Meeting compensation contract. Bowman explained that an ordinance enacted in 1899 dictates that Summit Council members are to serve without compensation. Since the Joint Meeting trustee position provides remuneration, the Council member – in this case, Bowman – donates the sum to the Summit Area Public Foundation. This streamlines the process. His second resolution memorialized the Council’s signing of the certification of compliance with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's 1964 "enforcement guidance on the consideration of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions." This certification must be submitted with the municipal budget pursuant to state law.
All resolutions passed.
Typically, the consent agenda is voted on without discussion, but Council President Marjorie Fox opened the floor to the public and Council Members for comment. Referring to a resolution related to recycling, Little pointed out that the changing landscape for recyclables will ultimately cost municipalities more to deal with them. She suggested individual households will have to become more cognizant of how they recycle as well as focus more on reducing and reusing in the future.
The Council heard two presentations. Vivian Furman and Estelle Fournier, co-chairs of Summit Public Art, presented a proposal for the “Promenade Fountain, a Jewel in the Rough.” The committee, now in its 18th year, hopes to place a permanent art installation at the Promenade Fountain, which Furman called “a significant signature piece for our city.” The art would improve the fountain’s appearance during all four seasons while retaining its original structure, allowing it to become a “beautiful and impactful focal point.” The committee envisions a ceramic mosaic tile installation, using a material that is both traditional and suitable to the wet environment, on the wall facing the Promenade. Fournier shared examples from other cities.
SPA estimates the project to cost around $75,000 to $100,000 and take two to three years to complete. Fournier said her committee would take the lead in creating a working group, ideally a partnership between the City, Summit Downtown, Inc., and SPA, some time this year. She also asked for assurance from the city that the fountain is mechanically sound. Furman presented numbers based on a “high” estimate, assuming the city and SDI would each contribute at least $35,000, and SPA no more than $35,000. Characterizing the project as “capital improvement,” Furman urged the city to find room in the budget for it.
Fox called the project “place-making.” Naidu also expressed enthusiasm for the project, saying “ideal public art is there in front of you … you get to live it,” citing its importance especially for those unable to visit museums. He reminded listeners that SPA’s work is funded by private donations, not tax money. Fournier added that the committee typically works with temporary installations, and is unable to invest all of its funds into a permanent piece. At the same time, SPA has created a fund to go towards a permanent installation, adding to it each year.
At the end of the presentation, Mayor Nora Radest thanked the pair for their service on the committee [and welcomed the incoming SPA co-chairs, Marie Cohen and Shally Saini].
Henry Bassman, commander of Summit’s American Legion Lindsey-Street Post, shared the story of the Four Chaplains. Monday was the 77th anniversary of the sinking of the Army transit ship USS Dorchester on February 3, 1943. The date is now recognized as “Four Chaplains Day.” Aboard were 904 men, including Methodist minister George L. Fox, Reform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Catholic priest John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister Clark V. Poling. Father Washington has a New Jersey connection, having been born in Newark, studied at Seton Hall, and attended Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, before serving at churches in Elizabeth and Kearny. The men had met at Army Chaplains School at Harvard and were aboard the Dorchester to report to their new assignments in Europe.
Bill Rapp, past post commander, reported that the service branch medallions for the Medal of Honor monument on the Village Green will be installed in the next few months. He then made a plea that Council fund the refurbishing of the WWII and Korea monument on the Green. Rapp indicated that many of the names are nearly illegible and some of the panels are pulling away. Naidu asked for a proposal for the project, which Rapp promised to provide.
Susan Hairston, Ward 1 Council Member, recalled her childhood connection to the post, which began as an African-American post [and where her father was commander]. Both Bassman and Rapp emphasized that member recruitment is ongoing, especially in the African-American community, and that the American Legion “is for all veterans.”