December 5th Council Meeting Summary
Last night we had an efficient meeting. Here is a summary of what we discussed.
We passed a bond ordinance to renovate the playground at the Community Center into an ADA children's playground and an adult exercise area for a total cost not to exceed $550K. The cost of this project will be offset by a $150K grant we received from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. The adult exercise equipment was already purchased with a grant received from Partners for Health. When built, this playground will be really special as all Verona children and adults will be able to use it. I am excited!
We passed an ordinance to make some minor fixes to the wireless communications ordinance. We pulled from 2nd reading the ordinance on EV charging stations as we need to make some minor changes and send it to the Planning Board for review. We plan to reintroduce in January.
We passed a few resolutions, mainly to certify our submission to the 2022 best practices survey, a contract with Impact 360 for recreation soccer instruction, a contract with Hillcrest Farms for services to the Township, and some minor budget transfers. The Council pulled a resolution to select a vendor for leak detection until more information is obtained.
In new and unfinished business, we discussed further our part time salary ordinance, which we need to update to ensure compliance with minimum wage and to ensure we have competitive part time salaries for key positions. A question was raised on salaries for certain part time positions in the police department which require further clarification.
Finally we had a very productive conversation on amending our Tree Ordinance (about 1 hr and 5 min into the meeting). There are a couple of issues with how the current ordinance is working. First, the entire process is too cumbersome for the residents. In addition, our Zoning Official does not have the expertise in this area to verify if a tree is dead or not. Third, there could be a conflict of interest when residents get a certification letter that a tree is dead from the same company that is doing the tree removal work. Finally, the Township is lacking an enforcement mechanism with the tree removal companies when our ordinance is violated.
We agreed that we want to change the process for residents to apply for a tree removal permit. The Council would like to simplify the application and no longer require the resident to get a certification from a licensed tree expert as to the condition of the tree (alive or dead). Instead, for a higher permit fee, the Township will contract with a licensed professional to do the evaluation. The Administration will be calculating what an appropriate fee will be to cover these costs, but we are hopeful that it will be less than what residents are paying now to get their certification letter. Based on my suggestion, the Council would like to require a visible permit to be shown in residents' windows when they receive their permit to remove a tree. This will help with enforcement and will help with communication between neighbors that tree removal will occur. Finally we all agreed we wanted to require a business license for all tree removal companies who operate within the Township.
The Administration will be making revisions to our current ordinance and we will discuss specific changes again in the future. It is important that residents keep sending us feedback! To do so, please send it to the entire Council here: https://www.veronanj.org/council.
The Council ended the meeting with Executive Session. Our next meeting is Monday, December 19th.