A BUDGET WORK SESSION OF THE VILLAGE COUNCIL OF THE VILLAGE OF RIDGEWOOD HELD IN THE SYDNEY V. STOLDT, JR. COURT ROOM OF THE RIDGEWOOD VILLAGE HALL, 131 NORTH MAPLE AVENUE, RIDGEWOD, NEW JERSEY ON MARCH 1, 2019 AT 5:00 P.M.
1. CALL TO ORDER – OPEN PUBLIC MEETINGS ACT – ROLL CALL – FLAG SALUTE
Mayor Hache called the meeting to order at 5:00 P.M. and read the Statement of Compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act. At roll call the following were present: Councilmembers Knudsen, Sedon, Voigt, and Mayor Hache. Also present were Heather Mailander, Village Manager/Village Clerk; and Donna Jackson, Deputy Village Clerk. Councilwoman Walsh arrived at 5:06 P.M.
Mayor Hache led those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag as well as in a Moment of Silence to honor the brave men and women serving in our armed forces and all our first responders.
A. COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC
There were no comments from the public.
B. DISCUSSION ITEMS
a. Review of Departmental Budgets and Capital Budgets
1. Ridgewood Water Utility
Rich Calbi introduced Jill Fasano, Senior Engineer; and Dan Timmeny, Business Manager. He stated that the full slide show will be made available on their website on Monday, along with additional reports that are referenced in the document.
Mr. Calbi mentioned there was a listing of the Village Council and from the Ridgewood Water Management team, skilled laborers, repairers, operators, and technicians that run the utility day to day. Even more important is the Village support staff that stand behind the utility.
Mr. Calbi stated that 2018 was a very big year for the utility. Their biggest effort was when they educated all four municipalities in Ridgewood Water about the PFAS contaminant, by going to each town, holding open forums, and sending a full public notice to every consumer. Those forums were very important and they received some very important feedback and helped them make decisions on how to move forward with the contaminant. The Ridgewood Water Utility has been dealing with the lead and copper situation since 2012, and 2018 yielded the lowest numbers ever recorded in the system, an 83% reduction in lead results as low as 3.5 parts per billion where the action level is 15.
Mr. Calbi stated that goals for this year are to stick to the PFAS action plan; and the Carr Treatment Plant construction has been awarded with three job meetings to date and breaking ground in a couple of weeks. Ridgewood Water has filed a complaint in Bergen County Superior Court against plaintiffs, several named and up to 50 unnamed seeking to get full reimbursement for the Carr Plant Treatment Facility and the cleanup of PFAS in all of their wells. Every day they are dealing with public and consumers, so for 2019 they are looking to restructuring their customer service with a new website, public relations, and the front line of the utility as well as new means for the public to access their information. Last year, at the end of the summer season, there were numerous high bill complaints and they need to get that information in their hands on a monthly basis so that consumers know what is happening on their property.
Mr. Calbi stated that every year they are asked why they are on water restrictions and what they are doing to prevent water restrictions in the future. This year, they will probably see up to 2.3 million gallons per day gained in yield from the well system, between the Carr Well Field returning to production, a new well which has been drilled at the Cedar Hill Well Field in Wyckoff, and a new well to replace the Linwood Well in Ridgewood, as well as the rehabilitation on existing wells, to bring them back to production. He believes that number can be sustained, and he can see in the next two years where they will be as well. In 2020, with the addition of the Passaic Valley Water Commission Interconnection and in 2021, with The Ravine Well going back on-line thanks to the property that was bought adjacent to it, and several other improvements.
Mr. Calbi stated that they recalculated all of the indirect/direct expenses using the rate consultant’s allocation percentages which changed some things in the budget. They are maintaining their headcount of 40 employees, and see increases in the budget for a generator service contract now that they have installed permanent generators throughout the whole system. There are several well repairs and rehabilitations that they will perform. Lab fees for testing are very high, with testing for PFAS every quarter. Unregulated contaminant rules and the next phase has been issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), so there are several tests they have to do for that. Mr. Calbi stated that the next phase of the groundwater under direct influence of surface water testing will be done at wells that are possibly susceptible to influence by a nearby stream.
Mr. Calbi stated that additionally, a big number in the budget is paving and traffic protection. They have been doing a significant amount of work in the field, a lot of it aimed at improving water quality, replacing old mains, hydrants, and valves, and to meet the charges that DEP has put forward with the new Water Quality Accountability Act. Additionally, they have new charges for their operations of SCADA, replaced modems at locations where they don’t have direct fiber, which allows more bandwidth and the ability to add cameras where they need them for security purposes.
Mr. Calbi added that they have modified the request for WaterSmart software, which has taken the budget down significantly. The budget amount to purchase water from other water utilities has gone down because they anticipate all of those wells going back on-line this year, and they have reduced their operating capital to $750,000 which was a goal that was set last year, going forward to reduce the amount of surplus that will be used in the budget for that purpose.
Mr. Calbi displayed a snapshot of the different categories in the operating budget. Debt service is still around the $2 million range but will increase this year as they discuss last year’s part of the five-year projection and the current fund transfer of 5%. They are looking this year at a total revenue required of about $16.8 million, which is down from last year. He added that last year was one of the wettest years on record, and the Water Utility was able to stay within the budget, and not have huge increases for the customers.
Mr. Calbi laid out the budget against actual expenses for the last three years. 2016 is their benchmark year, which was one the driest years in the last 4 years. The budget in 2016 was upwards of $16 million, and by 2018 it really dropped. In 2019, it is a $16.8 million request. Mr. Calbi stated that the capital expense is a bit more than $5 million, which includes supply and transfer improvements, constructing the Passaic Valley Water Commission pipeline, well and treatment improvements, tablet chlorination system, start investing more money in distribution, equipment and vehicles to do that work, and pay as you go Capital. Mr. Calbi stated that pay as you go Capital is operating capital focused on smaller items, things that should be in debt capital they put in to the operating budget.
Mr. Calbi displayed an overview of the last 10 years, as their goal since 2016 has been to invest a lot of money in the system and they are starting to see the benefits. Mr. Calbi stated that in the 2018 adopted budget, they anticipated $12.8 million in water rents, and realized 12.3 million. He pointed out that they were very close to what was adopted compared to what was received. For 2019 they can only anticipate as much water rent as they received in 2018, no more than that, but they can recognize the increase that they are going to get from the facility charges and the increase they are going to charge on rents if they are approved.
Mr. Calbi stated that fixed charges should be a minimum of 20% of the budget every year, there is $3.1 million in fixed anticipated revenue, and another $2.3 million in surplus that they anticipate using and the variable revenue starts to shrink, which is how it has been in prior years. In 2018, ordinance #3637 was approved, adjusting those facility charges but they were not enacted until the first quarter billing this year. They are proposing a 3% rate increase on the volume rate for 2019. Mr. Calbi stated they are looking forward to the next three years, to possibly have that 6.5% rate increase come through based on debt and expenses. The 3% rate increase will be brought forward to the introduction of the budget and then final hearing in April at the Public Meeting.
Mr. Calbi displayed a visual of where the facilities charges are, and the volume rate will bring them from $4.69 per gallon to $4.83 per thousand gallons. On the majority of the ratepayers, 5/8th meter holders, in 2018 the average annual bill is $500, and in 2019 that would increase to $541, or about an 8% increase. He pointed out that this was a very reasonable rate increase compared to other utilities.
Ms. Mailander stated that Councilwoman Walsh had arrived at the meeting.
Mr. Calbi stated that this spring they would complete their final tank rehabilitation. They have touched every tank in the system, new venting, safety features, mixers in every tank, new paint, upgraded several booster systems, new variable frequency drive, new controls, upgraded the SCADA system, full upgrade of control system so they can control every bit of equipment via fiber or modem connection. That has taken them to where they are able to start building artificial intelligence into that control because they have the ability to take trends of how things operate over the years. The Water Utility just finished drilling a second replacement well, which hasn’t been done in the system for over 20 years. The Cedar Hill Well will produce about 400 gallons per minute and they will do a pump test on the Linwood Well. Backup power at 12 locations, and the purchase of the Elks Club is part of the money as well.
Councilman Sedon asked if work was going to start on the Elks Club. Mr. Calbi stated that they are doing due diligence and making sure that everything is fine, then they may be out to bid by end of next year or early next year to an architect.
Councilwoman Knudsen thanked Mr. Calbi and asked about the type of testing that can be done in-house versus having to have an outside company do it. Mr. Calbi stated that they try to do as much testing as they can in-house, right now, it is limited to bacteria samples and water quality parameters that are part of their lead and copper program. They can do pH, E. coli, alkalinity, but because of the size of the in-house lab, they can’t do PFAS or the actual test to see if lead is in the water and they have to send that out to an outside lab. Their hope is that when they move into the Elks Club, they will have a lab that is double or triple the size, which will reduce their need to use outside labs. They will also hopefully be able to share the in-house lab with other utilities or even with the Village’s Water Pollution Control Facility, which tests sewer effluent. Councilwoman Knudsen stated that the Ridgewood Water Utility has come such a long way since she was first elected in 2014.
Councilwoman Walsh stated that she missed the first couple of minutes, but they have been talking about the Water Department a lot lately. She asked what is the big half a million dollar jump in salaries attributed to. Mr. Calbi stated that it is a change in the indirect/direct allocation and there was one position which was budgeted for and not hired. Councilwoman Walsh stated that when they talked about purchasing the Elks Club they were going to sell off the other piece of property and asked if that had been done yet. Mr. Calbi stated that it hadn’t, but it would be looked into when the Elks Club pre-purchase inspections were completed.
Councilman Voigt asked about the 8% increase in water rates being lower than other water utilities, and asked for a reference point relative to what is happening in New Jersey. Mr. Calbi stated that he would provide a chart at the next meeting that they had last year from Howard Woods which outlines the 20 biggest utilities, and Ridgewood Water was right in the middle. At that time, they projected where they would be after changing the facilities charge and they were right in the middle. He added that SUEZ and New Jersey American Water put in for rate increases this year, and he would get the numbers. Councilman Voigt stated that some residents may have a concern about the 8% increase, so that may be helpful.
Councilman Voigt stated that he has as one of the items, “allocation”, which has gone up significantly. He added that the salary allocation is $170,000 higher than it was before. Mr. Calbi stated that was recalculated using the Woods Study, using new percentages he had calculated using the indirect/direct allocations. Councilman Voigt asked what the PAYGO was. Mr. Calbi stated that PAYGO is a term used by American Waterworks Association, and is capital that’s paid for in operating expense. An example would be a small piece of equipment, a compressor or pipe saw, new computer or security camera. They are capital items they have to buy, but they don’t want to put them in debt. Councilman Voigt asked if it related to the pumps or the pipes. Mr. Calbi stated that it could be a single pipe, but if they were doing an entire roadway that would go into debt. Councilman Voigt stated that he was surprised that number was down, considering the age of the Ridgewood Water Utility. Mr. Calbi stated that the goal last year was to try to stabilize the Water Utility budget to $17 million, and limit the reliance on surplus.
Councilman Voigt stated that maintenance of pumping equipment seems to be up considerably, and asked if that was due to age and wear and tear. Mr. Calbi stated that they have a contract with a well driller, and in the past, they split those costs between operating and capital. They felt it was important to move that into operating, because it’s maintenance, so that’s why that number is up. Councilman Voigt asked if the laboratory analysis doubling was due to PFOA and PFAS. Mr. Calbi stated that it was, as well as the Unregulated Contaminant Rule which they are now in the fourth round that started this year. They are required to test all of their points of entry for new unregulated contaminants that the USEPA has created. Councilman Voigt asked how much time this will take. Mr. Calbi stated that they were looking at about three more years of quarterly testing on about 20 contaminants that are largely surface water contaminants. Councilman Voigt asked why SUEZ doesn’t have to do that. Mr. Calbi stated that SUEZ has to do it as well, which is a good question to bring up, as Ridgewood Water has been trying to seek a waiver from the USEPA on the amount of tests they have to do. USEPA wants them to do it at every point of entry, and they have been trying to prove to them that it doesn’t change at every point of entry, but getting that decision is taking a long time.
Councilman Voigt stated that health insurance for the water utility is up by $300,000 and asked what was going on. Mr. Calbi stated that was an adjustment for the indirect/direct allocations, so it isn’t just related to the employees but the whole picture. Councilman Voigt asked if they anticipate that will change again the following year or if it would be fairly flat. Mr. Calbi stated that it would be fairly flat, and as Mr. Woods’ report stated, once they move into the Elks Club, they should recalculate.
Mayor Hache stated that looking at the overall revenue requirements and the increase from 2018 actual, he asked what the biggest increase is in the 43.6% jump in other expenses, from 2018 to 2019. Mr. Calbi stated that it was mainly services for wells, electrical contract and all of the work they have to do on the system, as well as outside police traffic control, permits, and paving. Mayor Hache stated that the budget increases are related to all of the other expenses. Mr. Calbi stated that was correct, and the lab fees are a big expense.
2. Recycling and Solid Waste
Ms. Mailander stated that in addition to Rich Calbi, they also have Sean Hamlin from the Sanitation/Recycling Division present.
Mr. Hamlin stated that the Recycling accomplishments for last year, they are finishing laying the underground wiring for the new cardboard compactor which is going to help with the emissions and noise around that area. Their goal is to have that up and running in the first few weeks of spring. They have also accomplished keeping up with the constant changes of what the recycling requirements are, to help them provide a better quality product for the vendors which is a lot of work. Overall, the safety and injuries that go into the everyday work that they do, 2018 was a lot better than 2017. One of their big goals at the recycling center is to promote the clothing bin. The average citizen throws away about 70 pounds of clothes every year, which equates to 840 tons of quality items, and they would like the recycling center to be a major hub in the community to getting some of the unwanted clothes and recycling them, instead of being discarded. He added that in solid waste, they dispose of a lot of bags of clothes, which could go to the clothing bin to be recycled.
Mr. Hamlin stated that they have a program dealing with the composting of food waste and they are looking forward to the inception of their pilot food waste program and promoting it strongly throughout the community. One of their other big goals is that with the new compactors, there will be a new traffic pattern, and they want to educate the residents on the best way to enter and exit the Recycling Center.
Mr. Hamlin stated that for sanitation, one of their big accomplishments has been the overall reduced sick time, work related injuries, and paid out sick time. This was in large part due to Ms. Mailander and Mr. Calbi, working with them to meet with the employees. They are getting a lot of younger employees, due to the retirement of long-time employees. This creates a unique opportunity to educate these new guys. The drivers are the foremen on two of the routes and there are four routes where there are no drivers. He added that by making the senior men drivers will encourage them to become better leaders. The titled drivers are in charge of maintenance on the truck, and they should pass that on to the laborers that work under them, as well as teaching professionalism and safety.
Mr. Hamlin stated that continuing to build the fleet is important because they have some older trucks that they can’t get parts for anymore, and it is hard to keep them running. Their big goal is to keep the flow of the Department going, without having to borrow trucks. The 2015 trucks are ready to sell, which will bring in income.
Mr. Hamlin added that better communication with the residents is also one of their goals. Mr. Hamlin added that in communicating with the residents, there are avenues that they haven’t explored yet, and a lot of the residents want to see information on their phones. He added that the Glen Rock Community Pages have links directly to the website from Burbio. Ms. Mailander added that Recycle Coach gives people alerts to remind them. Mr. Hamlin agreed that it was something he would like to see for sanitation as well. He added that if they have to alter their routes for icy conditions, he would like to be able to notify residents as well.
Ms. Mailander stated that in the Recycling and Sanitation budgets, they put in three permanent part time people to be assigned to these two departments so they can always have a full crew. This will assist them in getting the garbage and sanitation routes done in a timely manner. Councilman Voigt asked if they were talking about Recycling and Solid Waste. Ms. Mailander stated that was correct, and between these two divisions they would have the three permanent part timers available to be pulled to fill a crew.
Mr. Calbi stated that for Solid Waste, there was one request continuing with their fleet replacement, which is one truck per year. They have very few trucks that are newer than 2015, a new one was approved in 2018 that is on its way, and there will be another one for 2019, in the amount of $210,000. Mr. Calbi stated that Recycling is a dual steer truck for $300,000 which will allow them to get out of the truck, not on the traffic side, and pick up the recycling and put it into the truck. Additionally, they have to replace the newsprint container at the Recycling Center, as it is beyond repair.
Mr. Calbi added that regarding food waste, it is very important for them to explore this option because the tipping fees that they pay for solid waste is approximately $66.95/ton and they expect it to go upwards of $100 per ton in the next contract. They are exploring a co-op with the County as an option, but have already met with the recycling vendor and they are looking to renegotiate the rates for recyclables, which will reduce the revenue to the Village, and affect the budget drastically. Food waste composting will reduce the tonnage and will help reduce that impact.
Councilman Sedon asked about the 2015 trucks they were going to replace, asking if it was the style of truck that was 2015 or it was the year it was ordered. Mr. Hamlin stated that it was the style of truck and they can’t put them on the road very often because if they break down, they can’t get parts for them. He added that the last truck that broke down, it took almost three months to get a part. Councilman Sedon asked if they could be more specific about the challenges that they would see this year with recycling. Mr. Calbi stated that the past contracts have all had floor prices and minimum or maximums that they would have to pay. The contractors no longer want to have that exposure, so they are looking to go to a revenue share process where they will take the recyclables and then based on where the market is and what their actual cost is to process and dispose of it, they will create a formula each month and calculate a price that they will give the credit or the amount that the Village will have to pay. He added that there isn’t a recycling market for glass, but there is for paper and cardboard. Instead of having a floor price and a set price, they want to make it more variable, but they are exploring options.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked if it was the style of the truck or the year of the truck that was the issue. Mr. Hamlin stated that the make of the sanitation and recycling packer trucks are called Crane Carriers, which is a company that no longer exists. Replacing hoses are pretty easy, but when it is a manufacturer part, there are no parts available. Councilwoman Knudsen asked for the age of the trucks. Mr. Hamlin stated that they are about four years old right now. Mr. Calbi stated that they have very few trucks that are newer than 2015, and these were two bodies that were repurposed that were put onto 2015 chassis. They are not replacing 2015 trucks. Ms. Mailander stated that they could get the years of the trucks they are replacing; she believes they are around 2008 but they will get the Village Council the year. Mr. Hamlin stated that they haven’t been able to surplus them because the new trucks that are coming in, if something happens with them, they need backup trucks. Councilwoman Knudsen asked if they could also get the mileage of the trucks as it would be interesting to know. Ms. Mailander stated that it is a 2000 truck that they would be replacing. Mr. Calbi stated that they would get mileage and engine run time because a lot of them are just idling.
Councilwoman Knudsen stated that regarding the container collection box, at League of Municipalities there are vendors looking to place collection boxes throughout the municipality and asked if that was something that would be advantageous for the Village to do. Mr. Hamlin stated that he thinks it’s worth exploring and the main thing is starting to try and control the tipping cost from the sanitation department. When they do bulk collection, they throw away a lot of books and clothes and things they can reuse that adds to the tonnage for the pickup. Councilwoman Knudsen asked if it was an advantage to get the items picked up. Mr. Hamlin stated that the Village pays for tonnage, so anything that is out of the waste stream is advantageous. Ms. Mailander asked if the Village gets paid for textile recycling or pays for it. Mr. Hamlin stated that the Village pays for it.
Councilwoman Walsh stated that safety is always her biggest concern and she was happy to hear that it wasn’t much of an issue this year. She added that the Ridgewood Environmental Advisory Committee works on education for composting, and she has a compost in her backyard and she tries to recycle everything that she can. She separates things that can be donated, as opposed to being out into the waste stream. She suggested doing a cheat sheet so that residents understand the impact. Mr. Hamlin stated that he agrees, especially because of the new regulations on what they recycle, now that people are starting to throw away pizza boxes, as opposed to recycling them, and the deli containers that can no longer be recycled. The more they can educate residents and get them to compost, and anything else that they can take out of the garbage, would help their cause.
Councilwoman Walsh stated that as liaison for the Chamber of Commerce, they spoke about recycling and they were going to talk to the restaurants about what they can do to reduce the amount of takeout containers. She added that it would be good to let the residents know the financial impact of what is going on with solid waste and recycling. Mr. Hamlin stated that he agrees, and added that the new electronic signs could be used, as well as the recycling app. Councilwoman Walsh suggested a “Did You Know?” sheet that kids could go over with their parents.
Councilwoman Walsh stated that she sees people speeding at the Recycling Center, so she agrees that there can be a better plan for traffic there. She asked if they ever thought about ways to encourage people to bring everything to the Recycling Center and try to not have as much picked up at the curb. Some people don’t realize that they can put recycling in their car and bring it down to the Recycling Center at any time. Mr. Calbi stated that it was something they should put in that document and they have looked at doing a video for people. They get a premium of $10 on the newspaper print as opposed to just mixed paper, so they have containers just for newspapers at the Recycling Center, but when it’s at the curb, it gets mixed. Councilwoman Walsh suggested having this available for Earth Day. Councilman Sedon stated that it would be interesting if they get the grant for the food composting pilot program, and then extrapolate out what it would mean if the entire Village were composting food waste. Mr. Calbi stated that their idea it to set goals and then provide that document.
Councilman Voigt asked what a recycling magician was, as they had mentioned bringing him to the students who collected the most textiles for recycling. Mr. Calbi stated that he was at Earth Day and he does presentations about recycling. Councilman Voigt stated that he looked at the budget and the temporary and seasonal for solid waste was double what it was last year. Mr. Calbi stated that was because they were adding an additional permanent part time person to the budget.
Ms. Mailander stated that the Recycling and Solid Waste divisions are going to go through some transition as Michael White, a long time supervisor in Solid Waste, retired February 1st and then Ed Bethune, who has been the Superintendent of Solid Waste and Recycling, will be retiring in the latter part of this year. Councilwoman Knudsen stated that they then anticipate that there will be an adjustment to that salary number. Ms. Mailander agreed, but stated they would also be paying terminal leave, so they may not realize those savings until next year.
Mayor Hache stated that he felt it was important to find a way to add education into the budget because if they can start educating the youngest residents it is a great approach. Forming a behavior at an early age, and having the children educate their parents would pay for itself. Mr. Hamlin stated that was what he was saying earlier, that they can’t afford to lose this opportunity to educate the new guys. When they start to interview some of the guys, they only have two driver titles out of six trucks. When they get the other foremen the title of Truck Driver, is when they start to teach them to teach the younger guys professionalism and interaction with the residents. He would like to run the Department to teach the workers to teach the residents, as it’s a resource that they can use. It has to start now, because these guys are young, which is a benefit with keeping down the injuries.
Ms. Mailander stated that she had the pleasure of meeting with all of Sanitation and Recycling employees and she was very happy to do so and glad to hear that some attitudes have changed and that they have much better attendance. Crews being full is the toughest thing, and she said to each one of them that everything else in the Village can be going right, but if people don’t get their garbage picked up, everyone will hear about it. It is a vital service that they perform and she wanted to thank them for all of the work that they do, because it is an important part of this Village and the services they provide for the residents.
3. Yard Waste
Chris Rutishauser, Village Engineer and Director of Public Works, stated that Yard Waste is the collection of leaves, grass clippings, and small tree branches from residents and the processing thereof. Leaves go to the Lakeview Composting Facility. Whatever they collect in one year has to be fully broken down and composted, so that they can get rid of it by the end of September the following year. The Lakeview Compost Facility is very space constrained. They pick up grass clippings, but are not allowed to compost them because of NJDEP regulations, so they have to haul them to an NJDEP approved facility.
Mr. Rutishauser stated that they have bid out privatizing yard waste and collecting yard waste and received one bid. The numbers are quite high and he wants to compare it to what their actual cost is, to show what it would cost to outsource and whether in-house is a more efficient operation. He hopes to have that ready for the Work Session next Wednesday.
Councilwoman Walsh asked when bidding out for somebody to come in against their current process, are they also looking at the possibility of transitioning yard waste to requiring that it be brought to the Village’s Recycling Center? Mr. Rutishauser stated that the bid was structured on a weekly basis, from April to October 16th collection of curbside containerized yard waste, which would include leaves raked out from a spring cleanup, grass from cutting the lawn, or brush which is less than two to three inches in diameter. The second part of the collection bid had the vendor picking up containerized yard waste curbside during leaf season from after October 16th to December 31st, that would be either leaves in biodegradable bags that they give to residents or leaves in a garbage can. Those leaves without grass clippings, would be transported to Lakeview to be put into the composting. It would be a difficult challenge to convince residents to bring yard waste to Lakeview, as many have a landscaper or would need to buy a pickup truck. They would also have to open Lakeview on the weekend, when it currently is not open. However, they do have a packer truck at the Recycling Yard.
Councilwoman Walsh stated that if they were to bid it out, would there be an option where the resident would have an additional cost if the yard waste is picked up curbside or residents can bring yard waste down to the Recycling Center for free. Mr. Rutishauser stated that he did not fine tune the bid document to that degree. They had the second portion with just leaves, because a lot of residents are bagging their leaves, as they find that is more convenient and if they read the schedule incorrectly, they run the risk of enforcement action. Montclair abolished the collection of leaves but he doesn’t not believe they have as large a tree canopy as the Village does. Councilwoman Walsh stated that a lot of those properties have landscapers who blow them into a pile and they could have them taken away to the Village’s compost facility. Mr. Rutishauser stated that a lot of them do, and there are revisions to the landscaper ordinance and the permit process for registering. They have that process available but have not gotten to making that a requirement. Councilwoman Walsh stated that she knows that those communities have been successful. Mr. Rutishauser stated that it can be done, but the Village produces a phenomenal volume of leaves.
Ms. Mailander stated that currently, there is the opportunity for residents to take leaves to the Recycling Center during leaf pickup time. Councilwoman Walsh stated that there are municipalities in New York where you can opt in or opt out, and either bring them to the Recycling Center or pay for the service. Mr. Rutishauser stated that their collection efforts with the Street Division, they run loaders down the street and push it into a pile, but if they have to look at a map and say this house number has declined our services then they have to swerve around. Councilwoman Walsh stated that if they were to bid out leaf collection to an outside service, the successful bidder would have to figure that out, as they collect the leaves. Mr. Rutishauser stated that they bid out curbside containerized collection, since they are currently collecting the bulk leaf piles with the heavy equipment, loaders, and trucks.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked about disposal fees. Mr. Rutishauser stated that they haul out grass clippings, as well as vegetative waste from storms, and debris that will not compost satisfactorily within less than one year. They have a relationship with a vendor that is NJDEP permitted. Councilwoman Knudsen stated that was a significant increase in that cost. Mr. Rutishauser stated that they will also deal with the tree log problem. The Village Council declared the tree log pile as surplus, and they tried to sell it on GovDeals, and no one would take them. They have someone who will take them at no cost, just fuel and labor, but if no one wants the tree logs, then the Village has to use containers to dispose of them, which costs about $500 to $700 per container.
Councilman Sedon stated that he had a question about logs, as last year what was spent out of the appropriation was significantly less and asked if that cost could go lower or higher. Mr. Rutishauser stated that last year, a vendor gave a very attractive price on the yard waste collection that could not be composted, and they hope to continue to do business with them, but they have to be prepared that this vendor may not want to bid this year.
Mr. Rutishauser stated that Streets Division had a management change over the past year with a new Supervisor, Mike Junta. Morale appears to be up, and they are now resting because they are anticipating snow tonight and most likely another snow event Sunday night. These storm events are burning through the salt piles at a furious pace.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked about the increase on salaries. Ms. Mailander stated that the longtime Administrative Assistant in the Streets Division is going to retire so they are going to bring in a Keyboarding Clerk 2 to replace her, and there is terminal leave in there as well. Mr. Rutishauser stated that the Keyboarding Clerk 2 is a lower salary range.
Councilman Voigt asked about the temporary and seasonal as a new line item from the prior year, which he was assuming was leaf collection. Mr. Rutishauser stated that it was leaf and yard waste collection, and the seasonal temporary hires they use as filler employees to cover for people on vacation or are out sick. Sanitation is first and foremost, the truck has to run and do the route so they will staff it with whatever employees they can. It is a very important resident service that they must do correctly.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked which current vehicle the new tri-axel roll off chassis was replacing. Mr. Rutishauser stated that they currently have four salters, and there was one that was involved in a motor vehicle accident and slid down a hill, and a car parked on the side prevented the truck from landing in the brook. He added that it would be multi-purpose, because it would be used as a salter and as a haul truck for leaves. Councilwoman Knudsen asked what the cross connection for the central garage was. Mr. Rutishauser stated that they have an open notice of violation from the Bergen County Health Department that they have to address and replace the piping in the floor drains of the garage, so that they do not go into the storm water collection system. They currently have sealed covers, but that is not quite satisfactory and they have to replace them.
5. Fleet Services
Mr. Rutishauser stated that Fleet Services had a slight shrinkage in staff over the past year as they have now 3.5 mechanics. Anthony has worked with Emergency Services and Walter and Dennis work on the heavy diesel equipment, and a retiree handles some small projects. This past year they had to do some upgrades to their underground storage tanks and to address a notice from the NJDEP. Going forward, the Village is going to have to look at replacing those tanks in the next couple of years, as they are pushing their life expectancy.
Mr. Rutishauser stated that they were requesting capital to replace their maintenance truck, which is a truck that travels to a vehicle that breaks down, to try to get it up and running to avoid having it towed. They bring tires to the garbage trucks and heavy equipment. The heavy truck tires are too heavy to lift, so they use a truck with a lift gate. That brings the tire to the vehicle so they can change the tire where the vehicle breaks down. Councilwoman Knudsen clarified that was a fleet maintenance truck and asked if they were replacing one that they have. Mr. Rutishauser stated that they have an older one and would like to replace it. Councilwoman Knudsen asked for the year and mileage on the vehicle being replaced, and also asked for an inventory of all Village vehicles.
Mr. Rutishauser stated that the Engineering Department is the design engineering department for the Village and assists other Departments with their engineering questions and problems. As a Licensed Professional he signs drawings and plans for submittal, and they have a couple applications right now before the NJDEP. If they need to do a footing drawing for something for the Building Department they just do it and he signs and seals it. In 2018 they collected about $14,410 in permit fees. Their staff billings for 2018 were approximately $25,800. Projects such as the multi-family housing projects all provided escrow funds, so if there are any questions that come up, they track the time and the developers get billed for it.
Mr. Rutishauser stated that they assist other departments with Code Enforcement. The Division issued over 500 summonses last year. The Public Works Inspector is comfortable going out at 2:00 A.M. to catch water violators. They are currently providing design services for the Water Department for some of their upgrade projects. They are doing the plans for the Jefferson Street water main replacement and some other projects. They are tracking their time for their effort to justify the allocations that are granted to them from the Water Department.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked about salaries. Mr. Rutishauser stated that they are looking to add another Engineer. He starts interviews next week, and Ms. Mailander would like to review anyone that they recommend. Ms. Mailander stated that the Engineering Department does many more things than just Engineering, and having Mr. Rutishauser as the only Licensed Engineer is a lot of work for one person. She stated that in looking at the projects that they have and his ability to do it by himself, it has become very difficult, so they thought this was the best way to give him some assistance with the Engineering. Mr. Rutishauser stated that they are seeking someone who is licensed as the only other Licensed Engineers are Rich Calbi and Jill Fasano in the Water Utility. Ms. Mailander stated that Mr. Rutishauser will be involved in the Hudson Street Parking Garage project as well.
Councilman Voigt asked if Mr. Rutishauser liked to do the bids. Mr. Rutishauser stated that in his career with the Village, he has moved towards doing the bid documents and ordinances for many departments.
Councilwoman Knudsen stated that in terms of space allocation, they are crammed in that office already so how are they going to fit more employees. Mr. Rutishauser stated that they have taken a look at their layout and gotten a preliminary quote for some new furniture and rearranging some desks. They have a drawing board that can be replaced by a desk because everything is done by computer now.
Mr. Rutishauser stated that in terms of capital, they had a request to replace a pickup truck for the Public Works Inspector that would be a plow truck. The Assistant Engineer is an excellent plow driver, as are the Streets and Signal Supervisor who are all resting for tonight’s forecasted snow event. Ms. Mailander stated that paving was also included, plus all of the different capital improvements. Schedler Phase 3, Franklin Avenue Streetscape, and the West Glen Avenue Sidewalks are all recommended in the capital funding this year.
7. Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustment
Mr. Rutishauser stated that the Planning and Zoning Board has a new hybrid position with Jane Wondergem, who is covering secretarial duties for both Boards, and it is working out well. There is some cost savings to the Village.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked why the salaries and wages for Planning Board were anticipating such an increase. Mr. Rutishauser stated that Ms. Wondergem’s salaries and wages are split 50/50 Zoning Board and Planning Board. They have Brigette Bogart as the Planner and there are also Attorneys for both Boards.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked Mr. Rooney what happens to the money for the Master Plan. Mr. Rooney stated that the whole amount was put into reserve and everything is waiting, ready to be spent. Mr. Rutishauser added that they currently have the firm NV5 working for the Planning Board under contract, for the revision to the Master Plan, and Mr. Rutishauser administers their payments for the work that they have done.
8. Traffic & Signal
Mr. Rutishauser stated that in the Traffic and Signal Division, the supervisor Jim O’Connell is anticipating plowing this evening so he cannot be in attendance tonight. Signal was looking to put on an additional employee, as their workload keeps getting more extensive. They share employees during leaf season, as a couple of Signal Division employees help the Street Division drive trucks and operate equipment, as have other divisions. Most of the employees in Signal will plow this evening, if there is a heavy enough snowstorm, and all trucks in the Signal Division are plow capable.
Ms. Mailander stated that they were replacing the Ford F-250 for capital improvements. Councilwoman Knudsen asked what the upgrade to traffic and signals with the pedestrian countdown at $15,000 gets. Mr. Rutishauser stated that it gets them a number of lights for various signalized intersections, which has been a project of theirs over the last few years. As they get funding for traffic signals that the Village controls, they will upgrade them with pedestrian countdowns. Councilwoman Knudsen asked how many intersections the $15,000 would cover. Mr. Rutishauser stated that he wasn’t sure, but hopefully two intersections. He added that was just the material purchase, and the labor or installation work is all done by staff in-house and the Electrician gets the permits with the Building Department.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked about the trash cans. Ms. Mailander stated that they haven’t replaced all of the older style cans, but this should complete the installation of cans with the clear bags, as requested by the Police Department for safety reasons. Mr. Rutishauser added that the clear trash receptacles are a little more fragile than the concrete ones, and the locks froze in the cold weather. In the recent windstorm, there were several blowing across streets, so he anticipates a higher attrition for those receptacles than the previous traditional cement ones. Councilwoman Knudsen asked if there were any alternatives to those, as at the League of Municipalities Conference they had some nice wrought iron ones that could be lined with a clear bag and were heavy. Ms. Mailander stated that she didn’t know if those types of cans would be acceptable to the Police Department. Councilwoman Knudsen suggested exploring different options before investing more in these clear garbage receptacles because they make so much of an effort to improve the visual aesthetics downtown and those trash cans with the clear bags do not look good.
Mr. Rutishauser stated that anything that is metal or a masonry product would be a generator of shrapnel for an IED. If anyone was to put an IED in the clear container there wouldn’t be any cement or metal shards, which is why the Police Department recommended the clear bags as they are also the same kind of containers that NJ Transit uses. Councilwoman Knudsen suggested looking at other options that are of similar safety levels but are a little more attractive and stable. Ms. Mailander stated that they would look.
9. Building Maintenance
Mr. Rutishauser stated that Building Maintenance is a separate budget line item, but is basically funds for the materials and supplies they need to maintain the structures. The work is done predominantly by the Traffic and Signal Division. Signal has a licensed electrician, welders, carpenters, and a very good heavy equipment operator. The budget is to maintain the buildings.
10. Water Pollution Control Facility
Mr. Rutishauser stated that the Water Pollution is in a transition period with some staffing issues that would be addressed shortly. In 2018, their net revenue on the liquid waste acceptance was in excess of $100,000. They are continuing to fix the machinery and equipment. He will be presenting to the Village Council a bid to line the inflow pipes of a pump station, so they can fix the pumps that are currently on a by-pass pipe.
Mr. Rutishauser stated that for the Capital budget, fiber optic funding is there which will hopefully be the conclusion of the fiber optic network that is being done in-house by the Signal Division to connect their pump stations’ alarm system to the sewer plant. They lost the alarm system a couple of years ago, because Verizon decided to eliminate their copper lines. A recent NJDEP inspection cited the pump station alarm issue and they hope to get that fixed this year.
11. Village Manager
Ms. Mailander stated that the Village Manager’s budget was flat or less than what was budgeted previously. The one item that is increased is the conferences and meetings line. They put money in there because the Department Directors would greatly benefit from educational opportunities at National Conferences and it would be limited to $2,500 maximum per Department Director, and the Department Director would pay for anything above and beyond that dollar amount. Personally, she has been to National Conferences and they have a high level of education and greater opportunities for networking. It is exciting because there are other states that are doing things differently than what is done in New Jersey and it is a great opportunity to see what else is being done in your profession in a different way. The Village hasn’t allowed travel to National Conferences for about ten years, and she thinks it would be beneficial. Ms. Mailander added that the Village’s greatest asset is their employees and education is important, so she would like the Village Council to consider funding that for those that may want to go to their National Conference.
12. Village Council
Mr. Rooney stated that in the Village Council budget, there is $25,000 for any projects that the Village Council wanted to identify and it could also cover the 125th Anniversary Celebration, if funding is needed. Ms. Mailander stated that during the year, there may be projects that the Village Council would like to fund. Mr. Rooney added that he thought it was a good idea to put this money in the budget so if projects come up, they have funding available. Councilwoman Walsh mentioned recycle bags.
Ms. Mailander stated that the NV5 postcards were an example of something that would fall under this. Councilwoman Knudsen stated that was why she was mentioning NV5 and asked if that should be applied to the Planning Board funding. Ms. Mailander stated that it wasn’t budgeted there right now. Mr. Rooney stated that it could be moved. Councilwoman Knudsen stated that she felt that it belongs in the Planning Board budget. Ms. Mailander stated that there are times that the Village Council wants to do a traffic study and they scramble looking for a place to fund it, and this gives them a place to find the funding, so it was something that would be beneficial and helpful for them.
13. Village Clerk
Ms. Mailander stated that the Village Clerk’s budget was fairly even or less than it has been in the past. In the part time salaries and wages, they put in the possibility of another person to help with OPRA requests.
Donna Jackson, Deputy Village Clerk, stated that the Village Council was familiar with the number of OPRA requests, which seems to increase every year. In 2018 the number of OPRA requests were slightly down but there seems to be a tendency for them to become more complicated and voluminous. In 2019, they are 50% over the number they had last year at this time. They are more complicated and they involve more Departments. Councilman Voigt asked how many there were in 2018. Ms. Jackson stated that last year at this time they had 76, and this year they have 111. Councilman Voigt asked for the total number for 2018. Ms. Jackson stated she didn’t have that number but would get it for them, but it was in the area of 600.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked if that was a job for just one person. Ms. Jackson stated that there are currently five Village employees handling various aspects of OPRA requests. Councilwoman Knudsen stated that they were also juggling other things, and asked if that was something one person could be assigned to do. Ms. Mailander stated that they could employ one person full time doing OPRA requests and they would be busy every single day with sending it out, following up with the Departments, and getting back to the requestor if they need an extension and dealing with the Department Directors. Sometimes they are so voluminous, and various in terms of commercial requests or even salaries and titles for every single employee. This comes from newspapers, unions, and various types of people. Ms. Jackson added that sometimes they involve property records or Building Department records where there could be half a dozen files that need to be photocopied and half of that needs to be redacted, which takes hours and then they need to photocopy it again. She added that it is very time consuming.
Ms. Mailander added that lately, there have been a lot of requests for emails, which involves redacting of any other topics that were discussed, because they are only given the information requested. Mayor Hache asked if there was any charge for the OPRA requests. Ms. Jackson stated that if they are over 3 hours or 200 pages, then they are allowed to charge the person an hourly fee or five cents a page. Mayor Hache asked what the total was for those last year. Ms. Jackson stated that she would get that information, but there weren’t many. Mayor Hache stated that just thinking of hiring another person to cover this, as an offset. Ms. Mailander stated that it wouldn’t cover the cost of hiring someone. Mr. Rooney added that the charge has to be the lowest pay of the person in that Department, so if he spends three hours on an OPRA request, he can’t charge his rate, he has to charge his lowest paid clerical employee’s rate.
Councilman Voigt asked if Ms. Jackson kept track of the amount of time that is being spent on all of the OPRA requests. Ms. Jackson stated that they have been keeping a log since the middle of last year and she would get that information for him. Councilman Voigt stated that information would be helpful. Mr. Rooney stated that doesn’t include the time that is spent outside on the Village Clerk’s office, such as if a request were to come to him. Matthew Rogers, Village Attorney, and Dylan Hansen, Director of I.T., spend an enormous amount of time on OPRA requests for emails. Councilman Voigt asked Mr. Hansen if he had an idea of the number of hours spent. Mr. Hansen stated that it was many hours.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked Mr. Rooney to his point about having to charge the lowest hourly rate, if they were to hire someone for that specific task would that then be the rate that they were charging. Ms. Mailander stated that if that person were hired as a new part time person, then it would be their salary, but eventually it may not be, as someone else in the office may have a lower hourly rate in the future. It has to be the lowest paid hourly rate of the person in the Department. Councilwoman Knudsen asked if they had someone physically assigned to that, the time is valuable and is taking them away from other things so assigning someone to that the long term effort would be a savings. Ms. Mailander stated that the other staff members in the Village Clerk’s Office would absolutely be more productive, because they would not be focusing so much on OPRA. She added that initially, she could handle OPRA requests on her own, because people were asking for documents as the law intended. However, over the years it has become commercialized and is being used for other purposes. There is a bill before the Legislature, but it doesn’t look like it is moving during this session. She added that they could definitely use a part time person just for fulfilling OPRA requests.
Councilwoman Walsh asked if a majority of the OPRA requests were by residents of Ridgewood. Ms. Jackson stated that it is quite a mix, and there are persons that are purchasing homes that are looking for permits that might have been filed in the past. She added that they may be appraisal companies looking for records, environmental records, they could be companies looking for employee salaries. Ms. Mailander stated that it could be companies selling dog food looking for the names of all dog owners. Ms. Jackson stated that it could be companies selling products looking for building permits or permit logs. Ms. Mailander added that pool maintenance companies may ask for those with a pool. Ms. Jackson added that they may be companies looking for engineer records. Ms. Mailander stated that the Village does Phase I environmental work for Engineering firms, which charge their clients a lot of money and the Village can only charge five cents per page for regular sized paper or seven cents per page for legal sized paper. If it is a plan, they can charge the actual cost, however, if the requestor asks for it electronically, the Village can charge nothing. Ms. Jackson stated that attorneys are sending requests instead of doing discovery. Councilwoman Knudsen suggested weighing in on the bill. Ms. Mailander stated that is a whole other conversation.
Ms. Mailander stated that since there isn’t a Municipal Election this year, the election budget is reduced compared to last year’s budget. Next year, it will increase, but this year, it is a lot less than it was last year. The biggest spend for elections are the charges for the Primary Election which is charged by the County and runs from $22,000 to $26,000.
b. Wrap-up and Next Steps
Ms. Mailander stated that their next Budget Meeting is March 4, 2019 with the Police, Fire, and Municipal Court budgets, beginning at 7:30 P.M.
C. COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC
There were no comments from the public.
There being no further business to come before the Village Council, on a motion by Councilman Sedon, seconded by Councilwoman Knudsen, and carried unanimously by voice vote, the Village Council’s Special Public Budget Meeting was adjourned at 7:14 P.M.
Ramon M. Hache, Sr.
Heather A. Mailander
Village Manager/Village Clerk
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