Last night we had a Council meeting - here are the highlights.
We passed a redeveloper's agreement with Verona Sunset Urban Renewal, LLC for the 200 unit project at 1 Sunset Avenue. This agreement stipulates a project timeline, which states that all approvals for the project need to be received by January 2023, and that construction will start by either March 2023 or March 2025, depending if the school vacates immediately. The construction will be complete by either June 2025 or 2027 accordingly. Additionally, one thing I made sure was in the agreement was that we, the Township, would control the selection of the Administrative Agent for the COHA (e.g. affordable housing) units, of which there will be 15 in this building. Our intent is to have one Administrative Agent for all of our COHA units across the entire Township. Now that the agreement is approved, the Council will next need to sign off on the overall design of the building, and then it will go to the Planning Board for review.
We had several substantial conversations last night. In the Manager's report, we discussed that the our engineering consultants have now developed a comprehensive project plan for the PFAS remediation and that we hope to have the first piece of the analysis done by March. As the public can tell, the timeline for the remediation is getting extended. While I am happy we have this extensive project plan now, I do wish we had received this earlier from our administration. In addition, we will be sending another required notice to the DEP with a cover letter, that reiterates that our water is safe to drink. We discussed some changes to the letter, and residents should expect to receive it early in January.
Stormwater management was also an extensive topic. We all spoke during our Council reports regarding the success of the visit from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and and Army Corp of Engineers that was arranged by Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. I want to thank the Congresswoman one more time for arranging that visit. In New Business (1 hr 20 ish minutes into the meeting) we then talked further regarding what we heard from these officials. For the Army Corp, we do believe that they recognized that the Peckman flooding impacts both a critical route for emergency vehicles and our water sewer treatment plan. The DEP also discussed with us possible changes to the Blue Acres program which could allow for the buy-out of homes that are flood prone. For residents and business owners along the Peckman, I think you should listen to our conversation (both Council reports and this new business conversation) and do not hesitate to reach out to the Council with any questions.
In New Business we also had a conversation about salary ordinances for certain Township Employees (1 hr 30 min into the meeting) for 2021 and 2022. I insisted that we have as much of this conversation in public as a matter of transparency with the public and with the employees. Whenever we discuss pay, I bring up the need to benchmark our salaries vs. other communities and annual performance reviews, which are not occurring. I think this is an area where the Township can do better. We did give all employees proper notice and the conversation regarding specific proposed salary increases was continued in our closed session. I expect that the salary ordinances will be introduced at our next meeting on January 3rd.
We passed all of our resolutions including agreements to reimburse municipal services for our qualified communities, including two of the three associations with the Claridges. The third agreement should be on the agenda for the next meeitng. We settled a claim with a retiree for $29K for retiree medical costs. We made some budget transfers to ensure we had enough monies to cover overtime expenses through the end of the year, and we approved the VMAC grant submission.
Our closed session meeting went until 11:30 pm for the second meeting in a row. We spent substantial time reviewing the applications we received for the Township Manager position, and we will be interviewing several candidates in January. I am very excited to talk with the candidates.
As always, comments to the Council should be sent to us here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilmeetings.