Mayor Roehrich: Last Friday we held the annual St. Patrick’s Day Senior Luncheon. Over 50 seniors were in attendance. The Junior Women’s Club helped at the event held at the Senior Center. We are probably going to have to look into larger venues and the luncheons are becoming so popular we had to turn away some people interested in registration because of capacity.
The introduction of the 2017 municipal budget is on tonight’s agenda. Though there will be opportunity for questions and comments at the public hearing scheduled for April 17, which we encourage people to attend, I would like to give a brief overview. The municipal tax for the average assessed home of $438,519 will increase $28.66 which equals 1.55%.
While continuing to limit annual tax increases to less than 2% for several years, without utilizing any allowable exemptions, the Township Committee has steadily increased capital spending on roads. This year that amount will be $905,000. In 2013, that amount was $298,000. Some of this year’s funding was a non-recurring increase offset by reductions in snow operations and utilities that may or may not be possible next year. The road work funding is split between the capital budget and a capital ordinance being introduced tonight. This ordinance, like all debt authorized by the Township Committee for the last decade or so, is offset by the debt service paid down during the same year.
There is one last topic I’d like to cover, that of being a welcoming municipality, which has not been discussed by the Township Committee. To some extent, the reason for this may be because of the fluidity of the term. There have been articles in the papers associating the term with immigration and sanctuary cities. Committee members have all also received correspondence form a resident that does not make the same connection. Recently the Mayor of a neighboring Township addressed what their police department’s practice is. As with Chester Township, Washington Township police have not been trained and deputized to enforce immigration laws. Their focus is on community policing. Also, like Chester Township, if an alleged offender has a detainer request, our police contact federal officials. If there were not a timely response, they would transport them to the county jail.
Regardless of the sanctuary city debate, being welcoming does not depend on passing a resolution but rather on actions taken by a community. As a local government we try to welcome new residents by sending them information about the Township, the services we provide, ways to contact us and volunteer committees they can join when we learn of home purchases and at Township events. Through those volunteer committees we try to engage residents, both old and new, in the government of our community. However, what truly makes us a welcoming community is the work of our civic organizations, some of which are here this evening.
These organizations are comprised of diverse groups united by a common experience, such as the Veterans Association or open to all people with a common goal, such as public service in the case of fire companies or the many scout troops in Washington Township. In fact, we probably have the most Eagle Scouts of any community in the state. The Township Committee supports these groups when they hold events that bring the community together like Memorial Day or the Fall Festival, which was run by the WTCO, and has now been succeeded by the Fireworks and Green Festival. It’s not only events but the civic organizations themselves that bring people together. When we held our volunteer appreciation night, we had in attendance over a hundred representatives from these groups. I believe, if we could count all the members, we’d be talking about thousands not hundreds.
a longtime volunteer firefighter and former chief of the Schooley’s Mountain Fire Protection Association, as well as Township Chief passed Nov. 9. He served as Mayor of Washington Township and on the Township Committee.
The Township Committee will host a special meeting this Wednesday at 7 p.m., half an hour earlier than our regular meetings so everyone can get home for the debate, regarding the Regional Board of Education Funding question on the November ballot. School board members will be present but will not be making a presentation.
Information on the referendum is available on the school board’s website. This can also be found on the Township website along with the board’s presentation..
Trick or Treating in Washington Township will be between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on October 31, 2016.
No overnight parking will begin on Nov. 1. Per ordinance, n
The Green Festival & Fireworks will take place on September 10 beginning at 4 PM behind the Middle School.
A question will be on the November ballot about regional high school funding. The Township Committee will hold a meeting in September to provide information to the public about the question and its tax implications. The school board will have representatives attending the meeting and there will be opportunity for public comments and questions. A date will be announced shortly.
June 20th, 2016 Mayor's Update
Mayor Roehrich: This week, Washington Township will be resuming the Animal Census that began last summer. Census takers, who will be identifiable by Township IDs and shirts, will cover streets and neighborhoods that were not visited last summer. Please be aware all cats and dogs who reside in the Township must be licensed annually, by January 31, and have a rabies vaccine that is valid through November 1 of the year of licensing. For 2016, fees were reduced to $10 per dog and $9 per cat. License applications are available on the Township website and from the census takers.
Applications are being accepted for openings on volunteer committees including the Recreation Advisory Committee, Historic Preservation Commission, and the Economic Sustainability Committee. There are also openings for alternates on the Historic Preservation Commission, Recreation Advisory Committee and Municipal Utilities Authority. Application forms are available on the township website.
We have received a preliminary plan for a modified retaining wall for the East Mill sidewalk project. The plan itself does not meet the scope of the change order and the Engineer has been in contact with the contractor. The contractor has informed him the required geotechnical report will be provided by July 5th.
Washington Township joined Mt. Olive in an action to intervene in Morris County v. M&E railways. On Friday, June 10 Superior Court Judge Stephan Hansbury directed M&E Railway to work with Morris County to come up with viable safety and emergency response plans to deal with the rail cars filled with butane that are being stored on the tracks of the county owned High Bridge Rail Line.
I also have a railcar update. The court date set for today for extended to the 29th. While we won’t hear the emergency plan from M&E Railways until then, the number of butane-filled railcars at the site will remain the same until then. The motion to intervene filed by Washington Township and Mt. Olive was due the 24th. We do not now know if the extension granted for the plan will affect that.
May 16, 2016 Mayor's Update
Washington Township will host its annual Memorial Day Ceremony to salute our brave servicemen and servicewomen who have given so much for our country on Saturday, May 28th in Rock Spring Park at 12 PM (rain or shine) at the Veterans Memorial Site in Rock Spring Park.
The keynote speaker will be Lieutenant Colonel Edward C. Croot, Commander, Mid-Atlantic Recruiting Battalion and Class of 1989 West Morris Central Graduate.
Decoration and refreshments are provided by Girl Scouts and the Long Valley Women’s Club annual donation helps support the ceremony.
Tonight we will recognize many of the volunteers and businesses whose efforts have made Washington Township an even better place to live. There are many groups and many individual volunteers that contribute to our community. Tonight we will be thanking those that have helped improve public facilities, like our parks, and provide Township services that we could not without their help or raising your taxes. There are so many who have contributed their time or materials to further improve public parks or to help their neighbors, through programs like Meals on Wheels, that not missing anyone of these wonderful community members becomes a challenge.
We have members of three volunteer fire companies: Schooley’s Mountain, Fairmount and Long Valley, as well as the Long Valley First Aid here. Not only are these volunteers first responders at emergencies, their membership is vital for organizing the Community Night Out and many participated in the Washington Township CEO which put on the fall festival. The effort to bring back the fireworks to Washington Township is now spearheaded by Long Valley Fire and Auxiliary members. Many people do not realize that though the Township contributed to events past, the fireworks were entirely run by volunteers and largely funded by donations, vendors and parking fees.
I will take this opportunity to congratulate Long Valley Fire Company on their 95th Anniversary.
Boy and Girl Scouts are responsible for many improvements to parks and other facilities through Eagle and Gold Scout projects. There are too many Scouts to call out individually tonight but we thank all of them and I will mention a couple recent projects the public may have noticed: the new AEDs in the parks and the improvements to the Veterans Memorial which were both Eagle Scout projects.
Many of these projects are supported by local businesses. Two of which are Harrington Construction, who has donated material and construction assistance for many Scout projects and Ort Farms who have donated food to events like Community Night Out and the Green Festival & Family Fund Day and will be celebrating their 100th. The CERT time provides traffic control for parking at these events and manned the phones at the Emergency Operations Center at Sandy.
Some other things you may have noticed around are the flower planters and pots here in front of the municipal building and at the Senior Center. These are provided by the Long Valley Garden Club and Kids for Kindness.
There are numerous Township Boards, Commissions and Committees made entirely of volunteers including Health, Economic Sustainability, Environmental, Green Team, Historic Preservation, Library, Municipal Utilities, Open Space, Planning, Recreation, Shade Tree and Zoning. None of these volunteers receive compensation but many of the have to comply with onerous state-required financial disclosures. We thank you for what may often seem like thankless work. I also want to thank my fellow committee members who are also volunteers in that they donate their time and receive no compensation.
April 18, 2016
Thank you to the Shade Tree Committee, Boy Scouts and other volunteers that participated in the annual Shade Tree planting which was held on North Bridge Drive this Saturday.
Washington Township will host our Annual Memorial Day Ceremony to salute our brave servicemen and servicewomen who have given so much for our country on Saturday, May 28th in Rock Spring Park at 12 PM (rain or shine) at the War Memorial Site.
Come join us as we salute our brave veterans and our fallen heroes. Rock Spring Park is dedicated to this program and will be closed to all other activities on this day. Any questions regarding this event please contact the recreation office at (908) 876-5941
In May, the Police Department will be leading an emergency event table top exercise with other first responder organizations and the Office of Emergency Management as well as various municipal departments. I will also take this opportunity to remind everyone of the brochure outlining the various means of communications that the Township will use during such events which was sent out with the tax bills after Sandy. These methods range from traditional media, the Township’s social media and nixle to digital signboards and physical information sheets available on signboards to be posted at designated locations around the Township. The brochure is available in the front office, Township website and on the back table for those here tonight.
Effective June 1, 2016 the Recycling Center hours at the DPW facility on Rock Road will change. The new hours will be: Saturday's 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM and the 1st Wednesday of the month 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
There will be a public hearing on the budget later his evening.
March 21, 2016 Regular Meeting
I attended the St. Patty’s Day Senior Luncheon last Thursday. There were more than 50 seniors in attendance, including several new faces which is always good to see. We have many great volunteer groups in the Township and two that help with every senior luncheon are the Long Valley Junior Women’s Club who volunteer as servers and the Girl Scouts who make the centerpieces. At a future meeting, we plan to recognize all the various groups that help make this a great community to live in.
On tonight’s agenda is the introduction of the 2016 Municipal Budget. A public hearing on the budget will be held on April 18 after which it can be adopted. The budget increase is 1.66% and the tax rate increase only 1.64% due to an increase in added assessments and decrease in tax appeal settlements. The 1.64% tax increase equates to about $30 per year on an average assessed home of $439,512. For several years running, Washington Township has had the third lowest municipal taxes per capita in Morris County.
I’ve also asked that creation of an Ad Hoc Police Range Committee be put on tonight’s agenda as a discussion item. The proposal to investigate the possibility of a police range on Township property has generated much interest and many concerns.
The process of considering the proposal is still in its infancy, which may be why there are so many misperceptions. To set the record straight: no vote has been taken on the proposal, no construction has begun on a range, no site plan or planning board application has been submitted and there have been no secret meetings. The presentation by the Police Department was on the agenda posted to the Township website and sent to the media five days before the meeting, though Patch did not run an article to the day of the media there was one in the Observer several weeks before. The presentation was also announced on the front page of the Township website and on social media, which is not typically done for individual agenda items.
When the police pitched the idea, the Township Committee decided only that they were open to considering it. Though not necessary, the Committee also decided an application, if the proposal were to get that far, would be submitted to the Planning Board which would review the plan at a public meeting and make a recommendation to the Township Committee. It was also stated, on the record, that the police would notify a wider area than the neighbors within 200 feet as required by law if an application was submitted to the Planning Board.
It was also decided that before even minimal tax dollars were spent on a site plan, Morris County would be contacted to confirm a police range on the site was even a possibility. At our last meeting, a member of the public suggested an F.A.Q. be put out. That is a great idea, but many of the questions that have been raised, simply cannot be answered yet. Perhaps preparing a full site plan immediately would have prevented misinformation about details not yet known from being spread. While hindsight does offer a better perspective; it is not, in fact, 20/20.
In discussing concerns raised by the public with the Chief of Police, one thing became apparent: while we cannot go back in time we are now presented with an opportunity to include the public in a process which has generated much interest. When the Chief interviewed for his current position, some of the goals he stressed were community policing and public engagement. Since the process of considering the possibility of a police range has not proceeded very far, it costs nothing but a little time to hit the reset button and restart the process with public participation via an ad hoc committee. Whether or not a range is ever approved, we now have the opportunity to create a forum for public engagement and increased interaction with their police department.
That is why I’m suggesting creation of an Ad Hoc Police Range Committee. The Committee could consist of five or seven voting members from both the area currently being looked at and other parts of the Township if they are to consider all options for a police range. It can include both those who are in favor of the concept but not sure of the location and those who have raised concerns but not jumped to any conclusion. I’d also suggest the Committee include a non-voting advisory member from the Police Department who can answer questions and provide insight into the concept, a non-voting member from the Planning Board who can share knowledge of land use process and a non-voting liaison from the Township Committee. One of the range masters for the Police Department can also attend a meeting to explain in detail safety measures that are currently in place and would continue to be in place at any range utilized by the Department.
If the Committee decides to move forward, volunteer applications can be solicited as is done with other boards and committees and interviews held before the next Work Session. The Committee can discuss candidates and charges to the Ad Hoc Committee at the Work Session and then create the Ad Hoc Committee and appoint members at the April Regular Meeting.
The Reservoir Road site was one preferred by the Police Department. If this is the only site the Committee wishes to consider we can wait for a response from the county’s Open Space Committee and Utility Authority before considering the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee.
[The Township Committee decided at the meeting to solicit applications for an Ad Hoc Police Range Advisory Committee with a deadline of April 20 and potentially appoint members at the May 16 meeting]
January 2, 2016 Reorganization Meeting
First, I would like to thank the Township Committee for re-electing me mayor for another year. It is with great pride that I serve the Township that I grew up in and have chosen to stay and raise my own family in. Next, I would like to thank the volunteers and employees in this Township. It is you that truly make it such a great place to live. Many of our volunteers from the Ort family are here and I congratulate you on celebrating your 100th year.
This was a busy year: retirements, negotiations, land purchases, promotions along with the everyday operations and the continued service we provide to our neighbors through shared service agreements.
Three grants totaling $115,000 were received for generators at the Municipal Building, Senior Center and the Recreation/Buildings & Grounds Buildings, and will be installed this coming year.
Recently, Morris County awarded $210,000 in grant funds for the preservation of two properties in Washington Township. These projects are a Cataract Park expansion and a new park off Coleman Road.
Throughout the yea,r the Recreation and Senior Department holds various classes, programs and luncheons. In December alone, the Department helped Santa with 182 letters, held a Holiday Luncheon attended by 64 seniors and - with help from Girl Scout Troop 81122 - held a fun filled afternoon with Santa, face painters, a balloonist, and a caricature artist with over 80 attendees. A new event this year was the “Taste of Spring” dinner for seniors held at the Washington Twp. Senior Center. We had 19 Kids for Kindness volunteer as personal servers for the 26 seniors that signed up for the event.
The Rock Spring Park basketball courts were removed by the DPW and new courts installed by a contractor this fall. In the spring, the courts will be painted West Morris Central colors by the basketball club. The club also replaced the rims and backboards.
This year we set aside $780,000 for roads as last winter was especially harsh. Over the summer, 1.97 miles of Naughright Road and East Valley Brook were repaved. An additional .75 miles of overlay and 3.4 miles of chip and oil were done bringing the total miles of work on Township roads to six. The work on East Valley Brook was partially funded with $250,000 in discretionary aid from the NJDOT.
A grant of $150,000 was also received for extending the East Mill Road sidewalks. This project will go out to bid in the Spring.
A new paver was acquired through one national purchasing cooperative, another was used to contract for a refurbishment of a fire truck in order to add years to its useful life.
Working with Morris County, we finally got approval from the DOT for a reduced weight limit on Schooley’s Mountain Road and signage posted by the State and County on their roads. It took many years, the compilation of extensive data and persistence by the Police Lieutenants to accomplish this.
Thanks to the outstanding work of our patrolmen, detectives, traffic and K-9 officers, supervisors, administrators and support staff, Washington Township was ranked the 15th safest city in America and the second safest in New Jersey by SafeWise. To compile this report, SafeWise used the most recent FBI crime data from 2013 to analyze and rank municipalities with a minimum population of 10,000 people.
There were several promotions in the Police Department this year. After the retirement of Chief Bailey, Lt. Almer was promoted to Chief. An additional Lieutenant and an additional Corporal position were created. This was done while keeping the total number of officers the same.
In her first year defending county tax appeals our new Tax Assessor, Donna Re, reduced the amount of ratables lost in half.
In 2014, dogs and cats licensed increased from 1,569 to 2,035; this resulted in the Township Committee reducing the per license cost from $15 to $13 per animal in 2015. With the census done over the summer there are now over 3,300 dogs and cats licensed and the Township Committee has adopted an Ordinance to further reducing the license fee to $10 per dog and $9 per cat for 2016.
For the first time, pet licensing was done at the free rabies clinic. Over 200 vaccinations were given last January; it was one of our largest turnouts for a clinic on one of the coldest days of the year. One hundred and three licenses were done. Licensing will be offered again on site during the Jan. 9 rabies clinic next Saturday.
All of the above was done with no increase in staffing and while keeping the total tax increase, using none of the exceptions allowed by the state, under 2%. The tax increase over 2014 was 1.84% which equaled $33 per year for the average homeowner. Washington Township again had the third lowest municipal property taxes per capita in Morris County for 2015.
Looking forward to 2016 we again will strive to maintain a fiscally responsible budget that provides for the health, safety and welfare of our citizens, to continue road infrastructure, maintenance and improvement and to build the bathrooms at Palmer Park. We will continue to work with our freeholders on improvements to Schooleys Mountain Road.
In conclusion, I want to again thank the hundreds of volunteers and their families for all that they do and sacrifice to make this a great place to live, and a special thanks to my wife and family for their support and understanding. On behalf of the Township Committee I want to wish all a healthy, happy and prosperous 2016.
December 21, 2015
Generator bids for the Municipal Building, Senior Center and the Recreation/Buildings & Grounds Building are due Wednesday.
Volunteer applications are being accepted for Recreation Historic Preservation, Board of Health and Municipal Utilities Authority. Applications are also being accepted for the Police Department
November 16, 2015
· The Morris County Open Space Committee has recommended 6 parcels for preservation grants to the Morris County freeholders. Two of the six are in Washington Township and have been recommended for a combined $210,000 in grant fundin
You can get your pets vaccinated for free & licensed at the same time Jan. 8 DPW garage 9-11 AM. The Township Committee is voting tonight to adopt an Ordinance reducing license fees for the second year in a row. If adopted, the 2016 fees will be $10 for dogs and $9 for cats.
The Health Department has a limited supply of vaccine still available for adults 18 years of age or older. If you have not gotten your flu shot yet, please call the Health Department to schedule a time before supplies run out.
Join Washington Township Recreation Saturday December 5, 2015 for a fun filled afternoon with Santa, face painters, a balloonist, and a caricature artist. Our local Long Valley restaurants will cater this event. The cost for this event is $8.00 per person when pre-registered and free for children under two.
For more information please call the Recreation Department, or visit the township’s website at wtmorris.org and download the registration form. The deadline to register is November 23, 2015.
Also on the Township website is information from the Police Department on a phone scam wherein callers purport to be from the IRS and collecting back taxes. The Library recently held a lunch and learn on this topic.
September 21, 2015
The Rock Spring Park basketball courts will be paved paved around end of month. After setting for two weeks, the lines will be painted. In the spring the courts will be painted West Morris Central colors by the basketball club.
The committee will have an ordinance on its agenda next month to reduce animal license fees from $13 per pet to $10 per dog and $9 per cat for 2016. Additional revenue from increased licensing, while increases in costs have been kept minimal, has allowed the fee reduction to take place.
The Old Turnpike Road bridge is closed and is expected to reopen mid December.
August 17, 2015
An online article in the Daily Record last Thursday allows readers to view where their taxes for municipalities in the state and by county. Sorting by county shows that Washington Township taxpayers have the smallest percent of property taxes going to the municipality in Morris. We can also look at taxes per person. Wharton Borough annually publishes a breakdown of property taxes per capita for Morris County municipalities, according to which Washington Township has the third lowest municipal tax per resident.
This summer, 4,385 feet of Naughright Road and about 2,080 feet of East Valley Brook from Fairmount to Old Farmers has been completed. Further paving will be done on East Valley Brook beginning on Aug. 24. That will bring the total roadwork bid out to 1.87 miles, an additional .75 miles of overlay and 3.4 miles of chip and oil will bring the total miles to six.
This does not include the Morris County funded work on West Mill Road which will be another 3.8 miles and is anticipated to be completed this Wednesday. The Old Turnpike Road Bridge deck will be replaced between now and December 15. That project will be done by Warren County.
A door-to-door census of dogs and cats was done over the summer. The state requires a census be done bi-annually to ensure licensing. The primary purpose of the licensing requirement is to prevent the spread of rabies. All dogs and cats over seven months are required to beand licensed. Licensing also assists Animal Control Officers identify the owners of domestic animals lost or running at large. The greater the number of licensed animals, the less each license needs to be to cover those costs. Notices in the tax bills along with reminders both by mail and phone increased the number of licensed dogs by nearly 300 in 2013. The fee was subsequently reduced by $2 per license. The census conducted this summer has resulted in the licensing of an additional 400 dogs. A further change to the fee structure will be discussed on a future agenda.
May 18, 2015
Mayor Roehrich: On Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 3pm the Recreation dept. hosted a free “Taste of Spring” dinner for seniors at the Washington Twp. Senior Center. We had 19 Kids for Kindness volunteers as personal servers for the 26 seniors that signed up for the event. The Valley restaurant catered a menu of Baked Ziti, Chicken Parmigiana, Salad, and Boneless Wings. The guests had a choice of different beverages and desserts and were entertained by Harpist Patricia Turse.
The event was very well received and a copy of a heartwarming letter sent by one of seniors to the Kids4Kindness was sent to the Township. Because the seniors had such a good time, the Rec Department & Kids4Kindness quickly put together a free night of Pizza bingo scheduled for June 12 @ 5pm. The Recreation Department will be providing pizza and the Kids for Kindness will be providing prizes.
There will be a tremendous amount of road improvement progress at both the municipal and county level this year:
Last year, the county sought input from the Township on a study for future improvements to Schooley’s Mountain Road. A design plan for improving the intersection of Schooley’s Mountain Road and Camp Washington was funded in this year’s county budget. The County is currently reviewing design proposals.
West Mill Road from Beacon Hill to the county line was milled last week by the county. Paving was scheduled for this week and may finish days early. The county will also be paving from Beacon Hill to the light.
This summer the Township also has several major road reconstruction projects scheduled. During the early summer, as soon as possible after school gets out, 4,385 feet will be milled and paved on Naughright Road and about 2,080 feet of East Valley Brook from Fairmount to Old Farmers. In August, when the camp is on break, E Valley Brook will be milled paved from Old Farmers 3,790 feet east. The total distance is just under 2 miles.
Repaving will be done on Black River, Pickle and Apgar. The DPW will also be doing as much chip and oil as time allows which will extend the life of the roads. If approval of plans submitted to the DOT happens in a timely fashion, sidewalks will be extending along the southbound side of East Mill Road to the Sunoco gas station.
The SafeWise Report released its “100 Safest Cities in America” report two weeks ago. Thanks to the outstanding work of our patrolmen, detectives, traffic and K-9 officers, supervisors, administrators and support staff, Washington Township is the 15th safest city in America and the second safest in New Jersey. To compile this report, SafeWise used the most recent FBI crime data from 2013 to analyze and rank municipalities with a minimum population of 10,000 people.
The Township recently settled a lawsuit filed against it. To clarify some of the original reporting: The Township maintained and continues to maintain the four-year term of the former Assessor expired June 30, 2014. The settlement was made solely to avoid the cost of litigation and to resolve all claims by the plaintiff; there is no admission of any wrongdoing by the Township and no requirement for reemployment. The municipality is responsible for its $20,000 deductible as well as 20% of the combined settlement and defense costs above that amount, which is estimated at $40,000. Though the insurance company has not done final invoicing yet, the Township share is expecting to be around $28,000. Fortunately, the reorganization of the Tax Assessing Office will save the Township about $24,000 annually. While the new Assessor did receive a salary of $60,000 with her promotion from assistant she remained a full-time employee; the former Assessor worked seven office hours per week at a salary of $52,795 per annum. The assistant position was filled with a part-time hourly employee.
Update provided at the April 20, 2015 Washington Township Committee regular Meeting
Mayor Roehrich: The budget public hearing adoption is on tonight’s agenda. The tax increase will be 1.84% which is $33 per year for the average homeowner. The tax increase would have been 1.5% if not for a loss of ratables. This year we set aside $780,000 for roads as the winter was especially harsh.
We have received a grant for East Mill Road sidewalks in the amount of $150,000. The grant, along with $50,000 already set aside by the township and $20,000 that is included in a capital ordinance to be introduced tonight will be used for sidewalks and a retaining wall from the corner of Fairmount Road to the Sunoco gas station.
Clean Communties week will be May 23 to May 30. Anyone interested in volunteering with the cleanup can contact the DPW. The week will end with a paper shredding event on Saturday, May 30 from 9 am to noon.
Update provided at the March 16, 2015 Washington Township Committee Regular Meeting
Mayor Roehrich: Budget Introduction is on tonight’s agenda. The tax increase will be 1.84% which is $33 per year for the average homeowner. The tax increase would have been .25% less (about 1.5%) if the total net valuation remained the same. This year we set aside $780,000 for roads; not including $450,000 appropriated last year for East Valley Brook which will be done in 2015.
Municipal service requests for 200' Lists, property record cards, additions to the website calendar, reporting dumping, potholes, power outages, tall grass, zoning violation and unlicensed animals can now be made online. The link to the request form is available at the top of every page on the Washington Township website.
Officials from the DOT have reviewed data collected in 2014 and have expressed a willingness to support a change in the Schooley’s Mountain Road weight limit restrictions which will be discussed tonight.
File of Life magnets from the 1st Aid Squad are now also available at the front office, the Health Department and the Senior Center. A card with info about medical conditions can be filled out by residents and placed in a pouch with a magnet to attach it to their refrigerator. A window sticker then alerts emergency responders to its presence.
Michael Cuccaro Eagle Scout Candidate for Troop 436 is pursuing an aggressive project to install Public Access Defibrillators in all municipal parks. His original goal was to raise $3,000 for purchase of units, but he has since increase his goal to $5,000. To help Mitch reach his goal he is sponsoring a Beef Steak on April 10 at Saint Luke’s Church. The first park to receive AEDs will be Palmer Park, if additional funds are raised more parks will receive AED.
Yesterday a Town Wide Cub Scout Pine Wood Derby was hosted at Cuccinella School. This was a first for all Dens competing on one day. It was a great success.
Update provided at the February 16, 2015 Washington Township Committee Regular Meeting
We've had very cold temperatures but fortunately, there were no power outages during the weekend's storm.
There will be a budget meeting tomorrow in the Senior Center at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.
Update provided at the January 19, 2014 Washington Township Committee Regular Meeting
Morris County has reduced speed on Schooley’s Mountain Road to 25 miles per hour from James Trail to the center of town. You may have noticed their signboards about the reduction and warning of slippery conditions.
There will be a budget meeting tomorrow in the Senior Center at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.
There was a rabies clinic Saturday, Jan. 10. Over 200 vaccinations were given; it was one of our largest turnouts on one of the coldest days of the year. One hundred and three licenses were done. This was the first time the licensing was done at the same time as the clinic.
Update provided at the October 20, 2014 Washington Township Committee Regular Meeting
Vice-Mayor William Roehrich: The County Engineer’s office did a site visit last week at the Columbia Trail crosswalk on West Mill Road. The county removed some vegetation and will contact property owners about vegetation removal on their properties. They will have an answer on speed slowing mechanism, such as a sign with blinking lights, by end of week.
New warning signs were installed by the county last week on Schooley’s Mountain Road where several accidents have occurred. The County is looking to do an overlay of high friction material (will not be red material tested a few years back) or micro-surfacing by end of November. If it cannot be done by then they will mill that section.
Schooley’s Mountain Road line painting will be redone when overlay or milling is done. They will send someone to look at Bartley Road where the lines have been coming off.
There will be a meeting of First Responders, Health and OEM to determine what equipment needs to be acquired Wednesday. A police officer is in training at Hackettstown Hospital as we speak.
There are two new drop-offs in the township. The DPW has installed the eyeglass and hearing aid drop-off for the Lions Club at the Municipal Building. Also, the Police Department obtained DEA approval and has installed a drop-off for prescription drugs and other medications.
On Nov. 8 at the Long Valley First Aid Squad Building on East Mill Road there will be an adult health screening.
The COAH board met and failed to pass the third round of affordable housing regulations. There is no timeline as to when it will happen so we will have to just wait for the time being.
Vice-Mayor Roehrich then asked Comm. Tracy Tobin for an update on the paper shredding event held Sept. 27
Committeeman Tracy Tobin: This year, over 20,000 pounds of paper were shredded at two events. The one during the summer was overwhelming; the truck filled to capacity. This month’s went more smoothly. There was no wait longer than two minutes. That event was limited to township residents - ID was required to get stickers - because the event had become so popular.
Update provided by Mayor Short at the September 15 Township Committee Regular Meeting
The county will be repaving 2.4 miles of Bartley Road. The road will be milled and later repaved, beginning this week. The project will take seven days.
Saturday, September 12 was the Police Department 50th Anniversary Celebration. Over 200 people attended even with all the rain. There were many former Chiefs, officers and other employees and current officers. They were joined by current and former Township Committeemen, legislators and the Police Pipes and Drums of Morris County. There were demonstrations, tours and food. The Chief and Lt. Niemynski did a great job on the celebration.
This is emergency preparedness month. I urge all residents to fill their gas cans, fill their prescriptions and test their generators. There are other tips on the township website’s Office of Emergency Management page. In three of the last four years we’ve had major outages this time of year.
Update provided at the Monday, August 18, 2014 Township Committee Regular Meeting
Mayor Short: Washington Township is the only community in Morris County to receive a Discretionary Aid grant from the Department of Transportation. We received $250,000 for East Valley Brook Road. Because school will be starting soon the work will be done next summer.
On September 13 at the Police Headquarters, there will be a celebration of the Police Department’s 50th Anniversary. There will be speeches, food, demonstrations, an inspection, tours and an opportunity to meet current and past officers and Chiefs.
The Route 46 Bridge replacement closure began August 16 and is supposed to last until August 26. The backup today was several miles so I strongly suggest drivers take alternate routes. There will be intermittent lane closures on Schooley’s Mountain Road between Newburgh Road and the county line the next two days. Milling and paving will not begin there until August 27. Bartley Road will be paved this fall.
Mayor Short then asked Committeeman Tobin to provide an update on the Green Festival and Family Fun Day held on August 16
Comm. Tobin: The Green Festival is about raising environmental awareness in the Township. That has been combined with the Recreation Committee’s Family Fun Day these last two years. Family Fun Day started with a historic baseball game at 11:30 that some members of the public got to participate in. There were also various activities for children of different ages and a K-9 demonstration by police. This was the best Green Festival of the three we’ve had. There was a wide variety of vendors and educational displays.
Mayor Short: There is another township event upcoming: on Sept. 10 before the Township Committee Work Session there will be an Open House. This will be an opportunity for interested residents to learn about volunteer groups and committees.
Update provided at the July 21, 2014 Regular Meeting of the Township Committee
Work began on Schooley’s Mountain Road today, the Route 46 bridge will be closed August 16 for ten days and the Newburgh Road bridge is closed. The County will be paving Bartley Road around October. Paving has been completed on Naughright Road, a Township road, and we are waiting to hear back on a grant application for founding for E. Valley Brook Road. Please be patient, there will be some inconveniences with all the road work, nearly 12 miles in all, but it is much needed.
An Attorney who has negotiated a pending settlement with Cooper Chemical over environmental compliance has expressed interest in redeveloping the site.
On August 16, Aa Green Festival and Family Fun Day will be held at Rock Spring Park. There will be numerous vendors and $1 hot dogs and hamburgers.
On September 13 at 3 p.m. a 50th Anniversary Ceremony open to the public will be held at the Police Department. Food will be provided and many past officers and Chiefs will be in attendance.
A bucket truck was purchased in an auction for $6 from Morris County. It will take a few thousand dollars to bring it up to working condition, after which it can be employed for tree trimming and building maintenance.
Update provided at the May 19, 2014 Regular Meeting of the Township Committee
Prior to this Regular Township Committee Meeting, I met with representative from various volunteer committees to get an update on their business, issues, and progress.
New COAH requirements were announced on May 1. It appears going forward Washington Township will be required to rehab 20 units and to build 11 units within the Township. The Township has ten group homes, did numerous buy-downs and maintains 1 rental currently.
The Memorial Day Celebration will be held at the Senior Center on May 24, 2014 at Noon. It is a moving ceremony and I encourage everyone to attend.
The Newburgh Road Bridge will close on June 24 for 6 to 8 months.
There will be a meeting on June 17 with the Highlands Council to discuss the possible construction of residential and commercial structures, a firehouse and a 30,000 sq. ft. community center in Long Valley.
A Schooley’s Mountain Safety Study was conducted by the County. A 58 page document will be released with suggestions for safety enhancements.
Between the Township and County paving project, Schooley’s Mountain Road, Naughright Road, Black River Road, Hacklebarney Road, Bartley Road and West Mill Road - as well as about 8 miles of chip and oil - will be done this year. Some of Parker Road will also be repaved as part of an EPA project.
Update provided at the April 21, 2013 Regular Meeting of the Township Committee
Over the past few weeks the Administrator and I met with DEP Assistant Commissioners and other DEP representatives and consultants about the Fenni more landfill in Roxbury Township. There has been some discussion over whether some of the contents would be trucked out or capped. Washington Township’s concern was the release of Hydrogen Sulfide during removal. Fortunately, the site will be capped based on the recommendation from DEP.
I’ve also met with the Freeholders regarding county roads and other concerns. The concerns were well-received and have resulted in a two meeting scheduled for next week. Myself, the Administrator and a representative of the police department will meet with staff from the county’s planning and public works department and a freeholder on Schooley’s Mountain Road safety and the Newburgh Road bridge replacements.
We have also had a meeting with Highlands Council staff on a possible redevelopment area designation along Route 46.
There will be a drug collection this Saturday at the police department from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The bare-root tree planting scheduled for this Saturday has been rescheduled to May 3 due to weather conditions. The trees cost about $50 each but planting can cost $450 to $500. So to get more trees planted, the DPW digs the holes and the Shade Tree Commission and other volunteers do the planting. Fifty-five trees will be planted off Flocktown Road those who wish to volunteer can contact Shade Tree Commission Chair Steve Zaikowski at 201-874-9105.
At this Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting, a conceptual plan for a Long Valley Center will be presented. It will include the potential relocation of the Long Valley Firehouse, commercial and residential development including affordable housing as well as a 30,000 square feet community center with pool.
From April 1 to 21 the Township’s Police Department has participated in the UDrive, UText, UPay initiative. Nearly 200 summonses have been issued.
Update provided at the March 17, 2014 Regular Meeting of the Township Committee
The Township Committee has spent the last 6 weeks working on the budget. Basically, it amount to dealing with a very difficult winter season. We exceeded $100,000 for Department of Public Works Overtime, exceeded our salt budget and the roads took a big hit. If not for the cost of winter operations, the budget increase would have only been .68%.
The 2014 Budget includes an extra $30,000 in DPW for patching and salt as well as $720,000 for roads. Between paving and chip and oil, about 8 miles of roads will be done this year. The county will be paving about five miles of county roadway in Washington Township including parts of Schooley’s Mountain Road and Bartley Road.
The municipal tax levy will increase 2.89% which equals about $42 for the average homeowner. Of that increase, $26 is for winter operations. However, we need to not fall behind on roadwork. Most roads last 25 to 30 years, chip and oil extending their life by about five year, and there are 140 miles of municipal roads that need to be maintained.
The 2014 Budget also includes about $44,000 for slurry spreaders. This mixture, can be applied before a storm. This means that the DPW can be sent out during regular hours rather nights and weekends for storms. There could be a savings of $80,000 - $90,000. The slurry mix is being used in Mendham Borough and Bedminster Township; Committeeman Tracy Tobin has been instrumental in its adoption here.
There were only three minor outages this season. Compared to the three or four last year when we had thousands out at a time, it appears JCP&L’s improvements are working.
Update provided at the February 17, 2014 Township Committee Regular Meeting
Once again, we are expecting another storm tonight. I have been in contact often with JCP&L over the last few weeks and their communication has been excellent. Last Thursday evening there was a transformer fire which our Fire Department put out quickly. JCP&L restored power within the 3 hours they estimated.
Budget meetings are being held every Tuesday night at the Senior Center and the public is encouraged to attend. There have been 21 snow events this winter. Material expenses this year have already exceeded our normal appropriation. The Governor’s Office has announced these expenses can be budgeted outside the 2% tax levy cap, but we will be working to keep it within the cap.
update provided at the January 20, 2014 Regular Meeting of the Township Committee
Mayor Short recognized Martin Luther King Day and stated that society has come along way in the past 50 years, and that we should be thankful for the freedoms that we have and the open mindedness in our government and our society.
The CERT Team recently took part in a CERT Disaster Drill., replicating a Gas Explosion. It was very real and very informative for all participants. Boy Scouts and other volunteers were victims and Mayor Short was very impressed by the expertise and professionalism of our emergency personnel responding to the mock scene.
Mayor Short urged residents to be prepared and take caution for the pending snow storm this week. Ten inches are expected tomorrow.
Budget Meeting dates have been set. The meetings will be held at 6:00 PM at Senior Center on February 4, 11, 18, 25, and March 4. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.
Safe Wise – Mayor Short read an excerpt from recent report acknowledging that Washington Township is the 4th Safest Community in the State of New Jersey.
Mayor's speech given at the January 4, 2014 Township Committee Reorganization
update provided at the November 18, 2013 Regular Meeting of the Township Committee
Newburgh Road has been closed periodically for prep work. The bridge demolition will likely not happen until the spring. As soon as a date is scheduled with the County we will publicize it. The Route 46 bridge will also be closed but only for one week. There is a meeting on Nov. 25 and more details will follow.
There have been several Veteran's events recently and a replica of a panel of the Viet Nam Memorial with John Lindaberry's name is on display in the back of the courtroom. John Lindaberry died 46 years ago this past Saturday, when a road at the Califon Road Cemetary was named after him during a ceremony. A road at the Zion Lutheran Church was named for Vincent Fields during a ceremony on the 11th. Over the summer, a road in Rock Spring Park was named after Jamie Smith.
There have also been several events at the schools this past week. The Washington Township Veterans' Association did an excellent job organizing and advertising the events. Overt 50 people were in attendance at each one. The Police and Public Works Department also did a great job helping.
There will be a Menorah Lighting at Andrea's at 6 p.m. on Nov. 27 and a tree lighting at Zion Lutheran on Dec. 1.
This is a quiet time of year which we are thankful for. We have not had any storms which we are also thankful for and not too many power outages.
update provided at the September 16, 2013 Township Committee Regular Meeting
The Fall Festival will be held this Saturday. It will begin with a larger than ever parade down East and West Mill Roads at 4 p.m. followed by the festival at the Middle School ending with fireworks at dark.
On Oct. 5, a paper shredding event will be held at the Department of Public Works from 9 a.m. to noon. There is no charge but there is a limit of 4 boxes per person.
There were 43,000 in our general area without power this week due to storms. Within Washington Township there were 2,500 JCP&L customers without power due to a tree down and possible lightning strikes. I’ve asked what can be done so this doesn’t happen the next time there is a storm and have been told by JCP&L they are working on an engineering report. This report will determine what happened to cause the loss of power and what can be done.
Other recent happenings include a meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee earlier this evening and the ongoing food drive. Our municipality is competing against others in McMatch during the month of September. Donations will benefit the Long Valley Food Pantry which is in particular need of school age lunch supplies.
Road & Bridge Work Update provided at the Sept. 11, 2013 Work Session
The Department of Public Works resurfaced 1850 feet on East Springtown Road last week
Last Friday a Weight In Motion Device was installed by the DOT on Schooley’s Mountain Road in response to the township’s request for a change in the weight limit restriction from “gross” to “registered” weight. The device measures truck weight and traffic. Traffic control was provided by the state police and the Township DPW assisted in the weight calibration. At the township’s request it was placed before Big Turn so the trucks stalled and turned around or towed at the turn would still be counted. The measurements taken by the WIM could also be used to request state police enforcement of overweight vehicle.
From September 9, 2013 to Sept. 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. resurfacing of Schooley’s Mtn. Rd. in the area of JamesTrail to Camp Washington Road will be done by the Morris County Department of Public Works. Traffic will be one-lane in alternating directions. Please plan an alternate route to avoid traffic congestion.
A firm start date on the Newburgh Road Bridge project has not been determined. However, the county has committed to signing a week before the closure. The project is expected to take one year.
update provided at the August 19 Washington Township Committee Regular Meeting
The Department of Transportation sent investigators to visit Schooley’s Mountain Road last week in response to our request for a weight limit change. We have requested the language be changed from gross vehicle weight to registered vehicle weight to aid in enforcement. We expect a response from DOT within a week.
The county will be paving the section of Schooley’s Mountain Road by James Trail in early September. Widening of the eastern shoulder of Bartley Road between Palmer Park and West Morris Central High School should be completed by next week.
I’ve met with the Morris County MUA concerning the rate increase for waste pickup by Sanico. I’ve also read dozens of pages of legislation and do not expect to see a change in the increased garbage pickup fees. For years, we’ve had lower rates as the requirement to dispose of waste in-county was not strictly enforced. Residents and businesses do still have the option to shop around as garbage disposal services are available from different vendors including:Raritan Valley Disposal (908) 534-4004
- Sanico (908) 475-3300
update provided at the June 17 Washington Township Regular Meeting
Bids on roadwork for Old Farmer’s Road have been received and will be awarded tonight.
I have met with Evan Ridley in the Governor’s Office and he will be helping us pursue approval for the weight limit change on Schooley’s Mountain Road form the department of Transportation.
The township’s two new police officers have graduated from the academy and are out on the road.
update provided at the May 20 Washington Township Committee Regular Meeting
An update on post-Superstorm Sandy actions will be posted on the website and provided to Patch and the Observer-Tribune.
A joint meeting with the Planning Board will be held June 12 to discuss a request for a zoning overlay across from Heath Village.
Over $46,000 was awarded to Washington Township for its Clean Communities program.
The township's Office of Emergency Managements is training about a dozen new Community Emergency Response Team members which will bring the total CERT team size to over twenty. The OEM also organized a Shelter management training class which was attended by many CERT members, other residents, township employees and even officials from other municipalities.
The big event of the township's 275th Anniversary year will be the parade, festival and fireworks on Sept. 21. The rain date will be September 22.
provided at the April 15 Township Committee Regular Meeting
There were two power outages this past week. On April 10th, 1,551 residents in Washington Township, Califon and Chester were without power for over 2 hours due to a lightning strike. A repeater on Furnace Road was manually reset by JCP&L and power restored. On April 13th, 503 customers of the Chester substation were without power for 102 minutes due to a tree that came down on power lines.
Washington Township will be providing the services of its CFO and Tax Collector to Califon beginning May 1. The shared service will generate $30,000 in revenue. The total shared service revenue in this year’s budget is $500,000.
provided at the March 18 Township Committee Regular Meeting
A town hall meeting with Congressman Leonard Lance will be held in the Washington Township Municipal Building meeting room on Monday, May 25 from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m.
I will be meeting with the freeholders this Wednesday to discuss local concerns including: Schooley's Mountain Road safety issues (Long Valley Bypass), the condition of Schooley's Mountain Road (need of repaving), parking for Columbia Trail (fence and markings of crosswalk), construction of a shoulder on Bartley Road for walking(between Palmer Park and H.S.), trees/debris on the shoulders of County Roads that has not been removed, reopening of Schooley's Mountain Park for swimming, skating and boating, communication issues (County dispatch), potential for continuous "green arrow turn signal" at the intersection in the center of town, and weight limitations on Schooley's Mountain Road.
On Thursday, I will be meeting with JCP&L Area Manager Stan Prater to discuss staging areas for their work crews during emergencies, and additional information for circuit maps. He will be presenting a $1,000 donation form JCP&L for the township's 275th anniversary celebrations.
We have reached an agreement in principle with Califon Borough to provide them Chief Financial Officer and Tax Collector services.
provided at the February 18 Township Committee Regular Meeting
I have had three meetings with JCP&L since Superstorm Sandy, the latest last Thursday. I have also met with the Board of Public Utilities. The Office of Emergency Management has also met three times. We have met with neighboring communities to discuss regional shelters. We have also met with residents as well as emergency responders to discuss communication improvements.
Intense tree trimming by JCP&L contractors is continuing. Trimming by helicopter along high tension wires from the Hastings area to that of the West Morris Regional High School was scheduled to begin on the 18th and continue through April 1. Discussions with JCP&L on improving communications are ongoing. Circuit grid maps have been provided to the Township.
Letters were sent to electricians and plumbers asking them if they had an interest in being placed on a list to be used in the event of emergencies. Letters were also sent to area gyms and health clubs asking them to open their shower facilities during emergencies. Another round of CERT (civilian Emergency Response Team) training will begin in March. Shelter management with other municipalities is also being discussed.
The cell tower at 1 East Springtown Road is now operational and has a 210 galloon diesel tank for a backup generation of power. Equipment at the tower on West Springtown Road near Zellars Road will be updated and a 210 gallon diesel tank has also been installed.
Radios have been installed in vehicles to improve communications between DPW and Police. Sandwich style boards, for emergency updates when electronic communications are outare in the process of being constructed. These boards will be placed at key locations throughout the Township in event of electronic communication failure. A critical location list provided to JCP&L. A letter supporting legislative remedies has been sent to our representatives in Trenton.
The township is applying for generators at the municipal building and senior center. We are also working with the local Board of Education and MUA to make Old Farmer’s Road School a shelter.
JCP&L has been notified of damaged poles and will be returning to repair spliced lines.
In other news, the new fire truck and ambulance have been delivered and are being painted and equipped. We’ve been meeting with the local board of education about a land swap which will enable them to implement solar power at the middle school. A budget meeting will be held Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Senior Center. To get under the 2% levy cap, $160,000 will have to be cut form the budget requests. All budget meetings are open to the public and we encourage all residents to attend.
provided at Jan. 21 Township Committee Meeting
Recently, I have met with members of the Board of Public Utilities and have had a couple of meetings with JCP&L management. I will be meeting next week with their Area Director to express some additional concerns. So far, they have responded to our suggestions and requests for maps and information. However, this process will have to be continous and extend over a period of time.
We will begin holding budget meeting shortly. Over the last four years the municipal budget has decreased by over $900,000 but there has been a greater decrease in revenues.
Growth is at a near stand-still with only 11 Certificates of Occupancy and 1 building permit for new homes issued in 2012.
There will be a mayors' meeting in Chester Borough on Jan. 31. The mayors of the Chesters and Mendhams and I will discuss shared services and emergency management coordination. We will be meeting every two months and the meetings will be open to the public.
The township is working with the DEP, EPA, MUA and the K-8 District on obtaining a generator so Old Farmers School can serve as a shelter.
There will be a Flu Clinic Saturday, January 26 from 9 am to noon. Vaccines will be available for 5 and older for $20; there is no charge under Medicare Part D.
joint message from West Morris Regional School District Mayors
To: Residents of the West Morris Regional District
Due to Super Storm Sandy, we continue to deal with the massive impact this natural disaster has had on our towns. As a result, our next Mayors’ Advisory Meeting will be held in January.
Our goal in June of 2011 was to work together to inform and engage our residents in a thoughtful and honest conversation regarding the configuration, funding and quality of our Regional High School. We met with the Department of Education and apprised them of our situation, and in February of 2012, the DOE journeyed to our district to give us an objective view of our schools. Those of you who attended the meeting or saw the presentation on any of the town or school websites, know that the DOE believes we have an excellent school with a diverse curriculum that offers not only scholastic excellence, but the sports, arts, activities and support to enrich our children and prepare them for the future.
The Mayors worked diligently to reach consensus on a study but, due to strong positions taken by all involved, all five towns unfortunately could not arrive at a consensus. We all agree that a comprehensive study addressing all possibilities and funding combinations could have been explored. This opinion was also supported by the County and by educational law specialists. Funds were budgeted by the communities to pay for a study, but now the monies set aside by each municipality in 2012 for the study will not be re-budgeted for 2013. We will continue to pursue the legislative solution regarding regional school funding that would provide local flexibility to adjust funding scenarios in the future.
This issue has created animosity between our towns that is neither productive nor is it reflective of our communities as a whole. It is time for all us to move on and proactively work together on issues we can accomplish as a collective community that will benefit all of us.
The five mayors agree our meetings have provided the opportunity for some much needed dialogue between our towns and have opened doors for us to work together on issues beyond education. For this reason, we will focus our January meeting on the lessons learned during the Sandy Storm including ways to address JCPL’s performance and explore any shared services that could help us during such critical times.
We encourage all of our residents to attend this meeting and participate in our efforts to make our entire community a wonderful place to work and live. We want to extend a special thanks to the Boards of Education representatives who have donated their time and energies to work with us these last several months.
We look forward to seeing you on January 31, 2013 at 7:30PM the Chester Borough town hall.
MAYORS 2013 MESSAGE provided at the Jan. 1, 2013 Township Committee Reorganization Meeting
First, I would like to thank the Township Committee for the confidence you have placed in me to be Mayor in 2013. As Mayor, I will continue to accept the praises as well as the complaints from our constituents. However, I want to remind the public that all five Committee members have an equal vote and share equal responsibility in making all municipal decisions. We volunteer for the love of the community.
2012 proved to be another challenging year. During the budget process, it was necessary for this Committee to make difficult, but necessary decisions to keep our municipal budget under the 2% mandated cap. I am proud to say that the increase was a mere 1.39%. This also included all debt and pension payments which could be excluded. I do want to remind the public that only 15% of the taxes you pay go to the municipal government. Despite an extremely tight budget process, several improvements were made throughout this past year. In 2012, we paved approximately 5 miles of roads, purchased a new ambulance (to be delivered in 2013), purchased a new fire truck (to be delivered in 2013), purchased additional radio communications equipment to comply with the mandated January 2013 narrow banding requirement, purchased two police cars, will soon close on seven acres (open space fund) to provide for the connection of two large preserved parcels, expanded our conservation easement monitoring program, and purchased a new senior bus. In addition, the Township Committee also budgeted for a "fire review study" to analyze the three volunteer fire departments as to their equipment, training, and personnel. The study should be completed this month. We also worked jointly with the K-8 BOE as to the construction of a bus maintenance facility to be located at the DPW location on Rock Road. Construction should be completed by June of 2013. This facility is projected to save the taxpayers approximately $125,000 per year in maintenance costs that are currently being outsourced. This savings along with a decrease in our K-8 student population hopefully will show a decrease in our local school budget.
This budget year (2013) will prove, once again, to be challenging. The effects of the Highlands Act, the stagnated economy and recent loss of revenue due to commercial tax appeals will once again require some sacrifices. Increased health insurance costs and pension payments will also be a detriment to the 2013 budget. We have, once again, asked all the municipal departments to submit flat budgets for 2013. The municipal budget has decreased by over $900,000 over past four years. However, revenues have decreased at a much greater pace. I can assure you that this Committee will do everything possible to keep the municipal budget flat or at a minimal increase in 2013. I also want to invite all of our residents to attend our budget meetings as well as the BOE budget meetings. The meetings are open to the public, very informal, and your concerns are valued.
Washington Township was recently selected, by New Jersey, to be a model community for shared services. Currently our shared services arrangements bring in approximately $500,000 annually in revenue to the municipality. We will continue to work smarter and more efficiently with the surrounding communities to consolidate operations to save our residents money. A meeting has already been scheduled for this month. There will be some major personnel changes in 2013. Administrator Debbie Burd and Police Chief Michael Bailey have announced their intentions to retire this year. Contemplating these retirements, this Township Committee took positive actions in 2012 to provide for continuous and efficient operations. We will be very diligent in selecting replacement personnel for these positions. Some goals for 2013 will be for continuous paving of roadways in the Township, purchase of generators for the municipal building and other municipal facilities, purchase of digital sign boards, upgrade of communication systems, create public access and trails to our municipal open space/recreation parcels, complete the downtown commercial sidewalks, and look into the possible relocation of the Long Valley Fire Department. The year of 2013 also marks the 275th anniversary of Washington Township. Monthly events have been scheduled throughout the year. In addition, plans are currently being worked on for a festival, parade, and fireworks display in September.
Hurricane Sandy reminded us how humble we are to nature's forces. The continued interruption of power and prolonged power outages will not be tolerated. I will be giving testimony at a Board of Public Utilities meeting tomorrow. I will also be meeting with JCP&L representatives on January 10th to discuss power issues and how these may be mitigated in the future. I have received valuable input from the public, DPW, police, emergency services, and our OEM and will relate these ideas to get positive results. We will also concentrate heavily on communication issues as well as expanding our CERT team (civilian emergency response team).
I am proud of how our community came together during the power outages that followed Hurricane Sandy. Our OEM, DPW, Police, Fire Companies, and First Aid Squad performed brilliantly as did our CERT team and volunteers. But most of all, I am most proud of our residents. They opened their homes to neighbors, family, and complete strangers in a time of need. Food was offered as well as sanitary facilities and showers. Volunteers stepped up, churches opened their doors, neighbors removed downed trees from homes and to allow for access, meals were served by community groups and generators were shared with others. The community came together and we all survived. Despite all the preparation, we must be more prepared in the future. We must all take more personal responsibility. Many residents also became aware of the local radio station (WRNJ) which provided updated communications over the 14 days of power outages. It is not a matter of will we have prolonged outages in the future, but rather when. My commitment is that this Township Committee will take the necessary positive steps for better communication and preparedness in the future.
I want to thank all the volunteers that dedicate their personal time for the benefit of the community. These individuals are not the complainers, but rather the folks that leave their own families to help others in the time of need. On behalf of the elected officials of Washington Township I want to wish all the residents of Washington Township a healthy, happy and prosperous 2013.
provided at the Dec. 17, 2012 Township Committee Regular Meeting
Several post-Sandy evaluation meetings have now been held. A meeting was held last Tuesday on improving the well-check program last week with the Health, Senior and Police departments. On Wednesday I hosted a public meeting on improving emergency communications. There will be a BPU meeting in Morristown on January 3. A meeting is also schedule with the mayors of the Chesters and Mendhams to discuss emergency management cooperation on the 10th. I've also scheudle a meeting with Mark Jones a Vice-President at JCP&L been completed. The new cell tower behind the police station is almost completed. The 4G and 500 gallon diesel storage tank for the tower's generator should help ensure cellular communications during future emergencies. The township is working with the EPA and DEP as well as the school district to get a generator at Old Farmer's School so it can be used as a shelter or warming center in the future.
In other news, Washington Township has been chosen as a model municipality for its shared service agreements. The necessary paperwork for the bus maintenance facility has been completed and the facility should be ready for the 2013-14 school year. Residents are encourage to sponsor awreath through ICOWTA, donations will benefit the Interfaith Food Pantry at Long Valley Presbyterian.
Measures have been taken by the Police Department and Board of Education to heighten security. Though all the details cannot be shared, there will be a police presence and increased patrols at the local schools.
provided at the Nov. 19, 2012 Township Committee Regular Meeting
Zion Lutheran church will be holding a non-denominational service Wednesday night. They will hold their annual tree lighting Dec. 2.
There will be a post-Sandy debriefing with the Office of Emergency Management, CERT, Police, DPW and other municipal departments.
The past three weeks have been a real challenge to residents of the North East, New Jersey, and Washington Township. It is humbling that despite all the proactive measures that were taken; the wrath of Mother Nature still has her way. This is the third storm that has struck Washington Township in the past four years. All have been devastating, but Super Storm Sandy was, by far, the most devastating and powerful. My statement on Patch on October 27th stated that this Hurricane may be catastrophic.
The hurricane was predicted well in advance. Residents were cautioned to prepare for a long lasting devastating event. In order to avoid some issues with last year’s October storm, I communicated with JCP&L requesting that out of state crews be staged in the area and lodging be secured. This was acknowledged by JCP&L area manager, Stan Prater. I was advised that it had been taken care of. Nixle messages were sent to Township residents as well as communication on Patch and the Township web-site. I called for an OEM meeting on Friday, October 26th. The meeting was attended by our OEM team, CERT (civilian emergency response team), police, fire, first aid, DPW, Health Dept., administration as well as several of the elected Township officials. This was the first of numerous meeting that took place over the next couple of weeks. Jimmy Smith, Bruce Clark and others continued in preparation which was to be the worst storm to ever hit NJ. Morris County OEM became heavily involved and requests were made for digital message boards, generators, water supplies, sleeping cots, ice, as well as priority contact numbers. Residents were again cautioned as to the potential severity through our communication channels.
The full impact of the storm hit Monday. Scott Frech, DPW Superintendent, had half his crew stays the evening for tree removal and other potential issues. I received a call that evening at 11:45 from Scott stating that he had to take his crews off the road as trees were coming down all over and this was life threatening to the workers. One actually hit a DPW truck. The workers were to sleep at the Senior Center; however like 96% of our residents the Senior Center also lost power and heat. Some slept in their cars, others at police headquarters, DPW facilities, and the First Aid Squad Building. Police Headquarters was on generation power, no land lines for communication, no internet and cell phones were “dead” due to generation failures at cellular towers.
I arrived at OEM/Police Headquarters at 7:15 AM to find several police officers, Jimmy Smith and Bruce Clark. Immediate decisions had to be made that could potentially affect every resident in the Township. Virtually every street in the Township was impassable. The second half of the DPW crew reported for work. Several had to be picked up as trees blocked their passage. We were in a complete state of emergency. The DPW crews, as well as our three fire departments and numerous residents all came together and began to clear our streets and driveways. We had to have an open access to every resident that may need emergency assistance. At the end of the day, every resident could be reached, if necessary, by emergency vehicles.
I can’t give enough gratitude to all those who pitched in as a community helping neighbors, friends, and unknown acquaintances. The dilemma was that we couldn’t remove trees that had “live wires”. High priority call numbers were used to contact JCP&L officials. It took over 36 hours to receive a response! I participated in a conference call with the Governor’s Office as did other mayors, pleading our case for assistance. Unable to contact the radio station, I drove to Hackettstown and recorded my first of over 25 messages to the residents of Washington Township. That is in addition to four live interviews.
The CERT team reported for duty. Another OEM meeting was called. Warming shelters were set up at Fairmount Fire Stations as well as Schooleys Mountain Fire Dept. A gentleman by the name of Elmer Dey, a longtime resident attended. He was a licensed Red Cross Shelter Manager. Elmer worked endlessly throughout the event at both fire houses. CERT members worked at the shelters as did other resident volunteers. Arrangements were made with Morris County OEM for additional water and ice supplies additional cots and the request for generators. Internet was not available and the Township was on generators. Charlie Davidson and I spent four hours driving around town accessing damages and answering residents question in preparation of FEMA. FEMA arrived the next morning as arranged and Neil Ruggiero (Construction Official) toured the Township for an official declaration. The OEM hotline number rang continually. It was manned for days by volunteers. These were individuals that left their homes, took personal time from their jobs to handle requests of their neighbors in town. I made contact several times a day with Senator Bucco, Assemblyman Bucco, Congressman Frelinghuysen, and Congressman Lance. These elected individuals worked extremely hard for their constituents. I also reached out to Senator Menendez office. They relayed information, problems, street closures, immediate needs, etc. directly to JCP&L. My messages and concerns to JCP&L were unanswered or proved to be a public relations campaign. Most of the provided information was false. Their promises were simply their hopes.
I felt it necessary to put pressure on JCP&L. I did over 25 segments with WRNJ Radio (a real savior to our residents); I was on National Public Radio, NJ 101.5 radio, municipal handouts, digital signboards, The Star Ledger, Daily Record, as well as an interview with Associated Press. I received calls from residents in Virginia and Ohio wanting to know what they could do to help. Finally, we started getting attention as to our needs. Numerous daily conference calls continued, hourly calls to our legislators as well as radio segments and updates on Nexle, Tweet, Township web-site, Observer Tribune and Patch.
The Senior VP of External Affairs from First Energy as well as the Regional Manager called me and said they didn’t like what I was saying. I told them I only began and was more disappointed by the minute. I told them that all I need from them was the truth. People can handle the truth but we can’t let our residents live in hope and despair. Tell me what really is happening.
Arrangements were made to have our police officers visit the homes of the elderly and special needs residents. Water supplies and food supplies were made available and delivered. The Salvation Army, Red Cross, Wheels on Meals brought in food and was distributed in our shelters and to others in need. The Township also arranged for the “Dog Pound” hot dog truck to supply hotdogs to our residents at Rock Spring Park. Arrangements were continually made for special need families and aid was given. Arrangements were made for drop-off locations for spoiled foods. Cris Cook-Gibbs inspected the commercial establishments for sanitary conditions and spoiled food supplies.
Myself, and other volunteers spent dozens of hours every day caring for our residents and using every means possible to get power restored. The truth is that JCP&L restores power to the highest population centers first. They try to hit the greatest restoration numbers. Sadly enough, with our 45 square miles and 18,500 residents, we will remain as a non-priority with the current JCP&L structure. JCP&L numbers were erroneous, their estimations were wrong and quite honestly I was lied to by JP&L numerous times. As they would relate information to me, I would release it to the public. Unfortunately, wrong information.
I had scheduled a family trip last year. I feel it needless to address this issue, but because there has been so much misinformation, I will address it briefly. I spoke with other Township Committee members and felt confident that, in my absence, they were well qualified and available to continue the recovery operations. Tracy Tobin, the most senior Committeeman, and I discussed the process of recovery and the actions that were being taken. Tracy has been on the Township Committee for almost 30 years and served, in the past, as Mayor and Vice-Mayor. Tracy and I probably spent 60 hours together the previous week addressing the issues and I felt confident that he would handle the crisis to a conclusion. All the elected official contact information was exchanged. We spoke together with representatives of JCP&L and new contact information was exchanged. I had all the confidence in Tracy and made the decision to continue with trip plans. If I had not had complete 100% confidence in Tracy and the other Township Committee members, as well as my ability to communicate while out of State, I would have not taken the trip. The Township Committee is made up of five elected individuals and we each have an equal voice and vote. The Mayor position is voted on in January of each year as the leader and sometimes that leadership role must be delegated. I stayed in contact, while away, and received updates and related information as needed.
Let me clear up a couple of rumors….
I. I was not on a trip with Bill Roehrich (my wife Sue and close friends)
II. I did not take a Township generator to my home. In fact, I purchased a generator, and when my power was restored, I loaned it to others (including gas).
III. I was in contact with the owners of the Sunoco Service Station as well as the US Dept. of Energy attempting to get them a generator to pump fuel.
IV. I did lose my power like everyone else and restoration took approx... 7-9 days. My power was not restored first.
V. Yes, I did have damage to my home
VI. I did not have internet access or land line telephone service.
VII. No, I do not own stock in First Energy Corp.
Where do we go from here? I think we have to recognize and acknowledge that power outages will continue to be a challenge in the future for residents of Washington Township and the surrounding municipalities. The steps that the Township took were to make things a little easier. It was like placing a band aid on an open wound. The wound, in this case was JCP&L and their lack of professionalism, care, and actions. I plan on taking the following actions: 1. I have scheduled a “de-briefing” meeting next Tuesday with OEM and key personnel as to what we did correctly and what steps we could have taken to make things more bearable. 2. Form a consortium of mayors and elected officials to address JCP&L and their lack of response. 3. Work closely with FEMA to help arrange for assistance where it is warranted. 4. Bring our municipal concerns directly to First Energy and the Board of Public Utilities. 5. Apply for Federal assistance to recover the money the Township spent during the days following the storm (FEMA). 6. Form a volunteer citizen group to work on solutions and suggestions to communication issues and other issues that could arise. 6. Ask our Assemblyman and State Senator to work on legislation for possible “regulation” of JCP&L which would include major monetary and accountable operation standards. 7. Apply for grants to have generators in our municipal offices and schools. 8. Arrange for “mass purchasing” of generators at a discount price for those residents interested. 9. Form a list of “volunteer electricians” who can assist our residents with generators and electrical issues. 10. Express our concerns to Verizon Wireless, Verizon, and Comcast and to back-up generation systems. 11. We will seek aid and assistance to residents on the availability of FEMA or other disaster aid. 12. I will have our attorney monitor all legal actions against JCP&L and advise us on our course of action to become involved.
I would ask all residents to remember that every volunteer left their home to help others. Some took time from work to volunteer to help others. We are expanding our CERT team and I would ask those in the audience with community concerns, not their personal concerns, to volunteer to be part of that group. This is not a political issue. This is about concerned citizens helping others in the time of need. Finally, I am extremely disappointed in JCP&L. I am tired of their promises and will do everything in my power to make sure our residents are not treated as a third world nation in the future. Throughout the storm and subsequent days, I spoke to and e-mailed hundreds of residents about their concerns. I was unable to retrieve dozens of messages left on my home phone due the power outages and I apologize to those individuals that I was unable to speak with.
Throughout this crisis, there was one positive note. It was the complete display, by our residents, of human kindness. There were no serious injuries or loss of life within the Township. However there was a loss of life by two Township residents as they drove through Mendham during the storm. It is my understanding that there is a fund set up for their four children. I would ask each of you to consider making a donation.