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  • Writer's pictureChristine McGrath

Meeting Summaries - March 25th and April 8th

The following are meeting summaries for our meetings on both March 25th and April 7th. My computer met an untimely death the day after our March meeting and it took a while to get re-set up!

At our March 25th meeting we had a comprehensive conversation on the upgrades needed to the sewer treatment plan. Unfortunately, past Councils really did not manage the sewer treatment facility well, and they moved too slowly on necessary upgrades. Now we are faced with a lot of projects. I am happy to say that, primarily due to Councilwoman Holland's leadership, we are getting all of our utilities on track with solid plans.

Our engineers presented to us a list of $22 million dollars of work that needs to be poured into the plant over the next 10 years. This includes $7 million in immediate need projects that will happen in the next three years. These project costs were built into our recent rate study model, so with the rate increases that we passed (and that we will start to see in our next sewer bills) we will be able to pay for immediate projects.

In addition to that discussion, we talked about different models of managing the plant. Recently a key staff member left, and so we either need to hire his replacement or outsource to an Operations and Management provider for services. There are a lot of staffing challenges with these positions state-wide, as there is not a sufficient workforce with the right experience to manage all of the treatment plants in the state. We also discussed the radical idea that we abandon the "treatment" part of the plant and just pump our waste to another facility. Turns out that idea is way to costly and is a regulatory nightmare. We decided to hire an Operations and Management provider as our path forward.

Finally one of the key problems to fix with the sewer treatment plant is to prevent I&I - or inflow and infiltration. Simply put, when it rains, stormwater is entering into our sewer system, which then overwhelms the plant, causing a lot of issues. The I&I could be due to pipes that are cracked or have root intrusions, or it could be due to illegal sump pump and storm drain hookups (which some homeowners may not even be aware of). At our meeting we discussed that we will start doing "smoke testing" to find these issues and make the necessary repairs (or require the homeowner to do so). More on this when the work starts, but the quicker we find out the causes of our I&I issues, the better it will be for us as a community.

At the March 25th meeting we also discussed adding new fees for zoning permits, and increasing our fees for businesses that serve alcohol. Both of these changes were introduced as ordinances at our meeting on April 8th. On the 25th we also passed an ordinance to invest $42K in a rescue squad vehicle. We also had a conversation regarding accepting a military hardware piece to display in town center. I expressed a desire to look at the town center design comprehensively if we do decide to display anything new.

At the April 8th meeting we passed our annual budget, which is always a big deal. Our tax increase is once again less than 2%. As I stated last night, we have an extremely transparent budget process, and I am proud of that. I continue to push for increases in revenue generation - and I think we can and should do more there. One way to do that is to pass the necessary zoning changes on Bloomfield Avenue and Pompton to generate new redevelopment projects that fit in with our community and generate more ratables. At our meeting in May we will start talking about our new affordable housing obligations, so the zoning and development of Bloomfield Avenue and Pompton is going to be a comprehensive discussion item over the next year.

In the budget that we passed we have a 6 year capital plan. At the end of our meeting the Mayor asked for another discussion in public on the specific projects that will be up for a vote in 2024, even though we just passed the plan. As part of my preparation for passing the budget, I already met with our Administration to express my opinions on the capital plan, and would have assumed my peers did that already. While I don't love every single item in the capital plan, I think it is a balanced approach to all of our competing needs. Residents should tune into this conversation in May to make sure they hear exactly what Council members are advocating for - and against.

Last night Deputy Mayor McEvoy voiced opposition to the introduction of a capital ordinance on a procedural matter that related to Everett Field. The ordinance that was introduced is to pay for the $50K in planning expenses for the project. We expect to have a further conversation on this when we vote at our next meeting.

Under resolutions - we pulled a contract setting the fee for the Cougar Aquatic Swim team, as the Council wants more information on how the fee was calculated, and how it compares to fees we charge non-profits for swim parties. We appointed a Registrar of Vital Statistics and a Deputy for that position. We awarded a contract for Douglas Place (which came in much lower than expected, which is good news), and accepted two grants. As an addendum, we approved a contract with a company that will help us do some analysis on nitrate levels for the sewer treatment plan.

We went into closed session to discuss a legal matter.

I encourage all residents to send their questions or comments to the entire Council, using the attached form:

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