October 16th Meeting Recap
Last night we had a great Council meeting. Here are the highlights of what we discussed.
We started the evening with a finance presentation, where we reviewed our 2022 Audit Results and at a very high level discussed some number for 2024. Our audit revealed two corrective action pieces that our CFO will work on implementing. We passed resolutions to certify the audit and our corrective actions.
We reviewed a draft pool finances, and while they are better in the last year due to necessary fee increases, we still need to develop a strategy to improve those pool finances going forward. I explicitly asked the Administration to work with all departments to pull together a comprehensive recommendation that includes the new interim director of Community Services, pool staff, Finance, and the volunteers with the Recreation Advisory Committee to make sure that all creative ideas for generating revenue and streamlining costs are being considered. In addition, the results of the pool survey need to be considered, and I want to thank the residents who filled it out. We received over 1,000 comments, and I am personally reading through them all.
The presentation also touched on our plans to use the balance of the AARP funds, as well as a six year capital plan. We have a lot of capital needs for our recreation department, first responders, building maintence, and road work. We anticipate a tremendous additional expense to build the new police, fire, and rescue squad building. The challenge will be to prioritize and make some tough decisions on what we need to fund and the sequencing of projects. You can see the entire presentation here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilmeetings.
Last night was also the first time we saw plans for a re-designed Everett Field, and several members of the public where there to hear the plans first hand. The plan was presented by an engineering firm, which detailed out changes to the field slope, size, batting cages, seating, snack bar, ADA accessibility, and other features. It was proposed that a playground be added to the site, and changes be made to the parking lot configuration. The initial plan did show the field using synthetic turf. You can see a draft of the plans here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilmeetings. The cost of this project would be around $4 million.
As I stated last night, I think the main decisions for us to make will be turf vs natural grass and whether or not this field should be designed for other sports to use it. On the first point, we asked the engineer to come back to us on how the plans would change if we stuck with natural grass. On field design - I have asked for a field usage study of all of the fields in the Township, including Board of Education fields, so that we can understand better how field usage is today and where it is heading. Before making such a significant investment it is important for the Council to understand how fields are used today and by what sports.
The Council needs a lot of feedback from the public on the design of this field. One great place to do that is at the Recreation Advisory Committee, which is meeting tonight at 7:30 in the conference room at the Verona Community Center. In addition, you can send feedback to the entire Council here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilcontactform. On this project in particular, it is really important to send comments directly to the Council and not just express them on social media, where they won't be seen by the entire governing body.
Moving on, last night we approved $9 million in bond ordinances to remediate our water wells to remove PFAS. These bonds will be put through the "infrastructure bank" of NJ are are eligible for loan forgiveness (of which we hope to receive at least $2 million) and low or no interest. Future federal government money is expected, and we are also looking to offset these costs with a settlement from the companies that made the PFAS chemicals. Hopefully we will get the net costs of this remediation project as low as possible after all of the offsets are applied.
Last night we had a split vote on the hiring of a township planner, with Councilwoman Holland and myself voting against the resolution to hire H2M. All the firms who bid on our work are very talented, but I stand by my opinion that the Council had a more strategic opportunity based on the presentations that we saw to go with a different firm.
We talked briefly about lead remediation and our approach to be in compliance with new regulations regarding monitoring lead based paint in multi-dwelling units. Expect a new ordinance on this to be introduced at our next meeting, and we will be hiring a firm to manage this law, which goes into effect July of 2024.
We also discussed plans to restructure the Community Services, change the Recreational Advisory Committee, and set the salary for the new interim director of Community Services (which was proposed at $97 to $99K). The latter was introduced as an ordinance and will have a public hearing and vote at the next meeting.
Finally we passed resolutions to approve a contract with EG Technology and Cumulus Global, which helps us purchase our Google Workplace account. We also passed an anti-idling resolution.
As always, we appreciate the public's participation, and we want to hear from you. Please send us your comments at https://www.veronanj.org/councilcontactform.