April 3rd Meeting Summary
On Monday night we had a Council meeting. Here are the highlights of what we discussed.
We made a significant announcement at our meeting that we plan on entering into a shared service agreement with North Caldwell and Essex Fells for municipal court services. Currently, North Caldwell and Essex Feels have a joint court. We announced that we will be joining their arrangement. Verona will represent about 50% of the new court volume. The court would be managed by North Caldwell, meaning the employees (judge, prosecutor, clerk, and other positions) would be employees of North Caldwell and it will be located in North Caldwell. Verona will pay $165K per year to join the arrangement. That compares to current court costs of $276K, meaning we will save $112K a year. We will continue to bring in revenue from fines and fees from the court, which are estimated to be $125K for this year.
After the pandemic, the municipal courts were fundamentally changed. Most of the trials now happen on zoom and have become more efficient. Court consolidation is actually a huge opportunity for towns throughout NJ, and so this is a perfect opportunity for Verona. Verona cannot be the host of this Court because we have insufficient space in our municipal building to do so.
We will be voting on this shared service agreement at our next meeting. I actually made a motion to delay the vote until the next meeting as I felt the public needed to be made aware of this shared service plan and have the chance to ask questions or provide comments for the Council prior to the vote. If you do, I suggest you send feedback to the entire Council here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilcontactform.
Another significant thing that happened at our meeting was that we officially appointed Jennifer Muscara as the Chief Financial Officer of the Township of Verona. Ms. Muscara has served in the role of acting CFO for the last year and a half since our former CFO left. She has been doing a great job, and recently passed all of her exams for the position. We are so excited to make this official! As Councilwoman Holland pointed out, there are not many female municipal CFO's in New Jersey - so this is quite the accomplishment. We are so happy that Ms. Muscara rose through the ranks of our finance office and made this important step in her career. I look forward to continue to work with her.
We have a lot of projects happening in the municipality, and we spent a good portion of the meeting going through them. One item that is an issue involved the municipal ramp construction at town hall. Apparently that project had cost overages, and the cost to add an EV charging station was never included in the initial project scope. We had a substantial conversation with the Administration on this because their was an ordinance for introduction to increase the amount to be charged to the capital improvement fund to cover the overages and EV station. We ended up voting to introduce this ordinance with a 3-2 vote (I voted in the affirmative). Before final vote we asked for additional information from our Administration and improvements to the project management process going forward.
Under resolutions, we entered into agreements and contracts for architecture services (Solutions Architecture), organic waste disposal (Nature's Choice Corporation), health broker services (Fairview Insurance Agency), pool construction (Tsivicos Enterprises), and township forester services (Rich View Consulting and Shade Tree Department LLC). We also accepted a 2020 recycling tonnage grant of $14,908.08, which will be used to offset recycling costs and put towards the development of new recycling programs.
In new business, we had a conversation to officially recognize 11 Cole Road as a landmark in Verona. At our last meeting, the Verona Historic Preservation Committee had a presentation on this home and its historical significance. This will be introduced as an ordinance at our next meeting.
We also discussed our EV charging fees. The Administration is recommending that we change them for several reasons. One is that, after charging, cars are not being moved to allow for someone else to be able to use the charging station. The Administration is recommending that we put in a fee structure that will make it financial advantageous for EV car owners to move their cars after charging is complete. In addition, it will be recommended to the Council that we remove the "first hour free" as part of the current fee structure. More on this in new business at our next meeting.
Those are the highlights from the meeting. Should you have any questions or comments for the Council, please send it to all of us here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilcontactform.