November 21st Meeting Summary
We had a meeting on Monday night! Here are the highlights.
The Council took a small but meaningful step forward last night as we approved both the funding ($70K) and the engineering firm to do some bank stabilization on property the Township owns along the Peckman River. This will help us address some flooding issues with that body of water and help us to trial out what a larger bank stabilization project would look like.
We also approved funding ($25K) for the development for a water system risk and resilience plan, which is legally required. This is part of our ongoing effort to bring our water system into regulatory compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. I look forward to reviewing this plan and getting closer to being in full compliance with the law.
The Council approved several new stop signs on White Rock road, which was a collaboration with North Caldwell to improve safety in the area. Drivers, please take great care when driving on White Rock now that new stop signs are in place. It will take a while for drivers to adapt to the new driving patterns.
We introduced several ordinances. The first was to bond for $550K for a new playground at the Community Center which will be ADA complaint, to be offset with a $150K grant from the County of Essex. As you may recall, plans for this playground have been in the works for a long time, and the current playground had to be abruptly removed when it was deemed to be unsafe. It is hopeful that the costs of the playground will come in less than $550K once we go out for a competitive bid. The public hearing on this ordinance will be at the next meeting.
We also introduced ordinances to make some minor changes on our wireless communications ordinance that was passed earlier in the fall and a standard and state-mandated electric vehicle ordinance which mandates the installation of EV charging stations in new developments. Both ordinances will be have a public hearing and second vote at the next meeting.
Under resolutions, we extended and expanded the Multicultural Accessibility and Advisory Committee. The committee will run until June 30, 2023 and will be expanded to include 9 public members (up from 6). To apply, you can go here. We declared November Safe Homes Month, accepted funds from the National Opioid Settlement, and finalized some other standard business.
Under our addendum we approved the fees associated with a planner, DMR, to conduct a zoning analysis for cannabis, we approved a vendor, Lawsoft, to provide a much needed technology upgrade for the police's computer systems, we appointed new police officers, and approved the vendors to conduct the bank stabilization and water system work mentioned above.
Under new business, I reviewed in depth work that Mayor Roman and I have conducted to analyze health and wellness in our community and for our employees. We conduced inventories of health and wellness programming throughout the community and gaps in what we are currently offering. We also looked at Verona-specific data from the Essex County Health Assessment, 2022 Healthy Community Planning Report, and aggregate employee health data. What we came up with were gaps and opportunities for the Township, and a plan on addressing those gaps over the short and long term. Recommendations including expanding programing for adults and teens, developing consistent protocol for addressing residents in crisis, development of an employee wellness plan, and better promotion. You can read through the entire presentation here.
Finally, we had a brief conversation on making amendments to the tree ordinance. There seemed to be a desire from some of my peers to quickly amend this ordinance to add in a licensing requirement for tree contractors and to require that all tree permits be reviewed by an official forester that the Township would hire. In a previous meeting, our Zoning Officer explained that the overwhelming majority of tree permits taken out to remove trees are because the tree is dead. Residents are required to get certification from a licensed tree expert that the tree is dead upon submitting the permit application. The Township Forester, as it is proposed, would be hired to conduct a second verification that the tree is indeed dead. I asked that we have a cost estimate for the forester before we move forward and to not quickly push this through in December, as residents won't have time to review and provide feedback before we introduce. I encourage residents to review he draft ordinance here and send your comments to the entire Council by going to https://www.veronanj.org/councilcontactform. I think the Council needs feedback on this before we move forward with these changes.
Please send any other comments on what we discussed to the entire Council at the link above.