A SPECIAL PUBLIC BUDGET MEETING 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 8, 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 5:06 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 5:15 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
Janet Dennison, 462 Racetrack Road, stated that she was there on behalf of Ridgewood Parks and Recreation, specifically HILT. Since she joined HILT in 2015, she has enjoyed every aspect of it and made cherished friendships. It has given her a new appreciation for the Village and she encouraged everyone to join.
Louise Lewis, 812 Parsons Road, stated she was a member of the Kasschau Memorial Shell Committee, and she wanted to especially mention Jo Delaney, because she does so much of the work. They organize the concerts that are held at the Kasschau Memorial Shell located on Veterans Field. There are 18 of them every summer, but it is through the support of the Village they are able to do this. She thanked the Village Council for continuing to fulfill their budget.
Andrew Lowry, 441 Hawthorne Place, stated that he was speaking for the Shade Tree Commission, and their role is to advise and make recommendations. They view trees as infrastructure which requires maintenance and investment. He thanked the Village Council for continuing to support replacement tree planting. He added that global warming is here, and the Central Business District trees and tree wells need attention. In 2018, they cut down 230 trees and planted 122, which is a major improvement. He encouraged them to keep the net loss in consideration for the future. Global warming is affecting the climate in various ways which will stress the tree population, so the Village needs to invest and maintain. He added that the Shade Tree Commission supports the recommendation for a new bucket truck. The Shade Tree Commission has been working on the Central Business District for a couple of years, and they have a plan. He thinks it would be a good year to start making some progress in that area.
There were no additional comments from the public.
a.Review of Departmental Budgets and Capital Budgets
1.Parks and Recreation, Graydon Pool, Project Pride, and Community Center
Nancy Bigos, Director of Parks and Recreation, stated that this has been a transition year for them, a year of new beginnings, challenges, obtaining best practices, testing the waters, and claiming ownership. They have come together as a team and rededicated themselves to the services that they provide to the residents of the Village. She added that she was grateful to the Village Council for their time and effort, especially to those that serve as liaisons to Boards under their direction.
Ms. Bigos stated that some of their successes last year were the new turf field at Maple Park as they performed due diligence and research and chose the most qualified vendor for this substantial investment. She added that the Village of Ridgewood recently installed three water bottle refilling stations which were purchased with Village of Ridgewood capital funds and were installed in Maple Park, Habernickel Park, and Veterans Field. They also have the financing to purchase three more and they will be installed once the weather warms up. They will be installed in Memorial Park at Van Neste Square, Citizens Park, and Graydon Pool. She gave special appreciation to Girl Scout Celeste Walsh for her Gold Award and the fact that she spearheaded some of this work and helped to fundraise for one of those water bottle filling stations. Ms. Bigos stated that most recently, she met with members of REAC and they were looking to work with the League of Women Voters to propose an educational tool for children to get them to utilize water bottle filling stations and stop with the plastic bottles.
Ms. Bigos stated that she was most pleasantly surprised when she received a phone call from NJRPA and the awards committee that the Village of Ridgewood Parks and Recreation Department won their award for Excellence in the Wellness Category. This is always prestigious and a great honor to be recognized by your peers. The program that won was the seasonal celebrations program that they run in partnership with Healthbarn. They have seen many new possibilities and programs for all ages with their partnership. The revenue produced through their partnership with Healthbarn was $50,323 in 2018.
Graydon Pool saw a banner year as the water quality, clarity, and cleanliness was never better. They offered residents a full scope of programs and a new means of communication regarding closures through emails. Through the efforts of resident Frank Mortimer, the Village became the first Bee City USA in New Jersey. Ms. Bigos stated that there are 18 beekeepers within the Village, and they put together the first National Pollinators Weeks last year where the community came together and educated the community at large about the importance of pollinators and their value to agriculture.
Ms. Bigos stated that the Parks and Recreation Department has a positive relationship with the Bergen County Superior Court. Through the Bergen County Probation Office, they were able to schedule four workdays which included painting the interior of the Kasschau Memorial Shell, weeding the front and side properties at Habernickel, weeding the back of Village Hall, and the entrance to Maple Park East. Through their generosity it was 160 man hours that were accumulated, which equates to $2,400 of free manpower.
Ms. Bigos stated that they were most successful in their grant writing last year. The Village received money from Bergen County Open Space for Kings Pond Park Phase 2, they also received National recognition through the National Recreation and Parks Association for a grant that is an instructor training program, which is the first National recognition in a 12-week strength training program for senior residents.
Ms. Bigos added that she is quite proud of the relationship that they have been working on with the Ridgewood Shade Tree Commission. They have worked very hard in focusing on the tree removals, being able to assess the shade tree canopy within the Village, and reforming their Adopt a Tree and memorial tree program. They have planted more than 140 trees in the Village this year, which doesn’t come close to the deficit, but they are definitely a work in progress. She thanked Councilman Sedon for his dedication in helping to move this program forward.
Age Friendly Ridgewood is a positive partnership that they have established for a few years now, and they have opened the Village’s eyes to the needs of the aging population in so many ways, such as transportation, housing and healthcare. Ms. Bigos added that she is grateful to have the opportunity to work with them and added she is so grateful for their service on the Community Center Advisory Board.
Ms. Bigos stated that some of the challenges the Village’s Parks and Recreation Department faces include: the aging tree population is declining in health; the fees for crane rentals for tree removals are excessive, varying from $1,200 to $1,800 per day; dumping fees for the trees removed are high, and Mr. Rutishauser has managed to find some ways that they have been able to share the better woods, otherwise the dumping fees are something that they need to consider.
Ms. Bigos indicated that the seasonal salaries, in the Recreation, Graydon Pool, and Parks budgets, have increased. This is due to the minimum wage rising, and they have completely revised their salary ordinance which should bring them into the next eight to ten years. She added that communication with residents is a significant challenge for them. Many years ago, Parks and Recreation benefitted when students took home Tuesday backpacks, because it was a positive way to get the message out about opportunities for programs, fundraising, and community service. They have increased the information in their quarterly brochures, including one just for summer programs. They will continue to work on the Wi-Fi throughout the parks as well. Ms. Bigos added that a concern that she wrestles with are permanent restrooms in the municipal parks. She added that the porta john in Maple Park is insufficient and public restrooms need to be something they start to think about at a later date. The restrooms at The Stable are open year round, and there are also restrooms on Veterans Field.
Ms. Mailander noted for the record that Councilwoman Walsh had arrived at the meeting.
Councilman Sedon asked about a big jump in the purchase of other equipment in the Graydon Pool budget. Ms. Bigos stated that those funds were taken out of that line item and put into her capital request. Those are the lockers that they are looking to install at Graydon Pool, as they have had a request for stainless steel lockers that would be able to house beach bags and beach chairs. It also encompasses the shelving that she had a requested, and new lap lanes as well. Councilman Sedon asked about the bathrooms at Graydon Pool, as he didn’t notice that in capital, Ms. Mailander stated that it was already in there, as they had appropriated for that a couple of years ago and are working with Connolly and Hickey, the historic architects, who are putting together a proposal.
Councilman Sedon asked about Shade Tree and the fact that he didn’t see money in the budget for the tree replacement program. He asked if that was a decision between replacement trees or a new truck. Ms. Bigos stated that she spoke with Mr. Rutishauser and the tree replacement is in his paving budget as they did the streetscape planting and paving together, so she was assured that tree replacement is in that capital budget. Councilman Sedon added that it was great that the streetscape is now looking at trees, but added that they are still taking down far more trees than they are putting up. Ms. Bigos added that in the capital budget they requested the resistograph and the bucket truck. Councilman Sedon added that there was also about $10,500 for trees at $175 per tree which is about 60 trees, and asked if they were just going to purchase the trees and then have the employees plant the trees. Ms. Bigos stated that could be.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked about the Graydon Pool bathrooms and if the $300,000 was going to cover that. Ms. Mailander stated that it would cover the work for this year, and then they would possibly need a separate bond ordinance for the actual construction and renovation.
Councilwoman Walsh agreed that they used to get all of the information through their kids’ backpacks, adding that there has to be another way, because there are such great programs, but she feels like everybody finds out after the fact. Ms. Bigos added that the Recreation Department has a Facebook page, so they are going to work on that together. Councilwoman Walsh added that they evolve and now it seems that they have to reintroduce the teens into the things that are going on. Ms. Bigos added that she has seen a resurgence of teens playing volleyball at Graydon Pool, to which Councilwoman Walsh agreed. Councilwoman Walsh added that Graydon has never looked better and that she knows it has taken a lot of work, but it looks wonderful and they are doing a great job.
Councilman Voigt asked about Parks and Recreation’s ability to communicate with Village Hall as there had been a problem with the phone system. Ms. Bigos stated that they are working on it and she was positive that things would be resolved. Councilman Voigt asked about Graydon Pool and the Certified Pool Operator/Manager which was $178,000 and its now $193,000. Ms. Bigos stated that this is not just the Graydon Pool Manager, but her entire staff of lifeguards, three pool managers, four shift leaders, a part time manager, and all of her badge and security staff. Councilman Voigt asked if the increase in minimum wage was included in this. Ms. Bigos stated that it is included.
Councilman Voigt asked about the aquatic examiner service. Ms. Bigos stated that it was an interesting concept that came from her colleague in Wayne, where they also have a bathing beach. The Recreation Director in Wayne shared that Kate Wexler is the new American Red Cross Aquatics Professional and she came to visit the Village and shared that she has an aquatic manager assessment tool where they will come in on an arbitrary day and assess the aquatic facility. This is done through the Health Department preseason, on opening day, and once a month, but their level of expertise is on lifesaving, so they will conduct a drill that her staff are unaware of and then assess it. This will happen on two different occasions, as an assessment and instructional opportunity.
Councilman Voigt asked Deanna Schablik if everything has been fixed in the Community Center in regard to the heat and air conditioning. Ms. Schablik stated that it would be controlled through a computer that she can have access to and it would give her the ability to ask someone else to change it. Councilman Voigt asked if it had been either too hot or too cold recently. Ms. Schablik stated that those situations were lessening, adding that she checks the temperature about four times a day.
Mayor Hache asked what the estimated cost would be to expand the water bottle refilling stations to the proposed parks. Ms. Bigos stated that they had already been purchased as that was part of the capital budget two years ago, so it is just a matter of waiting for the weather to warm up. She added that the Signal Division did the other three installations and found the water sources. Mayor Hache added that he was happy to hear that they were leveraging the relationship with Healthbarn more, adding that the revenues kicked up, and asked what the monthly run rate would be going forward. Ms. Bigos stated that she thinks that the community is finally understanding that the nutrition component is important and they are very fortunate to have this aspect in the community. She added that the Nutrition 101 program is for people who want to change their eating patterns and are working on that every day.
Mayor Hache asked about pickleball and what was happening with it. Ms. Bigos stated that next Wednesday morning, she is sitting with Mr. Rutishauser and they are putting together the bid for resurfacing the tennis courts which were installed in the late 1950s or early 1960s and have been resurfaced several times. It has gotten to the point where they need a substantial absorbent material, adding that she has visited the Midland Park courts, so that is the material that they are looking for. She added that she is looking at North Monroe and Bellair for resurfacing, and that hopefully one of those tennis courts can be made into two pickleball courts. Ms. Bigos added that the demand for pickleball is greater than what they have right now, so they are looking to maximize the space as they move forward in park development. Mayor Hache asked if there was any chance of partnering with the Upper Ridgewood Tennis Club. Ms. Bigos stated that they have a partnership with the Upper Ridgewood Tennis Club and did paddle instruction, but they have their own very successful program and that the competition is a little tough.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked about the tennis courts at the Glen School, and when the last time was that they were inspected. Ms. Bigos stated that those are the courts that are used for the pickleball program and they are in average shape. The most neglected courts are North Monroe, Bellair, Somerville, and then Glen which is actually the best of all of the courts.
Ms. Mailander stated that in the capital budget they have $50,000 for the Maple Park turf replacement sinking fund. The Kings Pond Park grant is $117,190, they have cameras for Graydon Park at $23,000, and new roofing for the outbuildings at Graydon Park. She added that for the Parks Department, there is the 75 foot bucket truck, the resistograph arborist, and the irrigation watering system in the capital budget.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked if the camera system was in or out of the capital budget. Ms. Mailander stated that it was in, under recommended. Councilwoman Knudsen asked for an understanding of what those cameras are. Ms. Bigos stated that this is an item she has wanted for several years and has worked with the Police Department to collaborate on this. They have a great deal of vandalism at Graydon Pool, especially in the evening hours, as it seems to be a place where some like to hang out and socialize and often times the rear gate is broken into. She added that the badge office has been broken into and they have computer equipment in there. They have reached a point where they need to be able to see what goes on over there. There is a call box by the Pool Manager’s Office that covers the beachfront, but this is the asphalt area by the garage.
Councilman Sedon asked what areas the irrigation systems would cover. Ms. Bigos stated this was a suggestion from Rich Calbi as the Board of Education has the smart irrigation water control system, and unfortunately the Village does not have the smart controllers and the sprinklers go on occasionally when they shouldn’t, which causes a violation. This would be a system that would monitor all of the Village systems and prevent them from watering when it is raining, so it is advantageous.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked what the $50,000 in revenue from Healthbarn included. Ms. Bigos stated that it included the rent Healthbarn pays for the Gatehouse, and it is the percentage that they make in the partnership, including the two sponsorships for the Health Fair and Earth Day Fair. Councilwoman Knudsen asked for the total rental amount. Ms. Bigos stated that it was close to $44,000. Councilwoman Knudsen stated that it makes the profits seem negligible, and asked for a breakdown of all of that.
Chief Tony Lillo, Emergency Services, stated that they did a total of 1,627 EMS calls and 374 Special Operations calls for a total of 2,001 calls for service in 2018. That generated about 21,500 hours of volunteer time that was donated back to the Village. That doesn’t include the time that they put in when prepping for Fourth of July, Memorial Day Run, and all of the other special events that go on in town in which they participate. He added that in the latter part of 2017, the Village Council voted rate increases for the calls that they took, which started in November of 2017. Chief Lillo stated that they had a $416,000 revenue stream for all of 2018 which he thought was amazing as it is the highest that they have ever had. He added that they had a $310,000 approved budget, of which they came in at $283,000 as of the writing of his report. Between the increase in revenue and the lower expenses, they had about $132,000 that went back to the Village’s General Fund.
Chief Lillo stated that one of the challenges that they had in 2018 was in the beginning of the summer they were having difficulty getting a second ambulance on the road during their paid EMT program. During the summer, a lot of college kids are back and volunteer during the day, but last year that was not as great of a return. In the October time frame, he went to Bob Rooney and Heather Mailander to start a pilot program in which they put a second paid EMT on the schedule for November, December, and January. That turned out well, and they generated for that second EMT an additional $20,750 worth of income. The Fire Department continued to respond to EMT calls, so it worked out very well. He decided to continue the second paid EMT through February and March. They continue to cover those concurrent calls. Chief Lillo added that he received a call from Mr. Rooney and Ms. Mailander that they are going to have to stop the program in March, so they will go back to one paid EMT on the schedule. He asked if it could possibly be reconsidered, because what they are talking about here is life and death. He added that if they can’t have a second paid EMT, they go to their mutual aid town of Glen Rock and then to Valley Hospital if there are multiple calls. This is to avoid residents having to wait up to 40 minutes for an ambulance, as they do in some other towns.
Chief Lillo stated that with the second paid EMT, they are turning their calls around in less than an hour if they are being transferred to Valley Hospital. Out of 195 calls for that three month period there were 25 concurrent calls, and that generated additional revenue. Any other paid service that comes in would have taken that revenue. He figured into his budget the continuation of the program, adding that it is a little bit more than dollars and cents when you are dealing with someone having to wait 25 minutes for an ambulance.
Chief Lillo stated that as far as other goals and accomplishments in 2018, they took the delivery of a new ambulance in 2018, and were approved for a new utility truck which they will be taking delivery on in the spring of next year. His goals and challenges for next year are that he has handed in his resignation to Ms. Mailander and would be leaving once they go through the budget process. He added that he would like someone new hired for the position so that he can train them and bring them up to speed on the financials and paperwork end of running the Department.
Chief Lillo stated that he always keeps an eye on the budget and an eye on supplies, but unfortunately he is a victim of expiration dates. He has to buy large quantities of D-Fib pads, and if they don’t use them, they expire in two years. They have all kinds of medications on the ambulance now, and all of these things have expiration dates and have to be replaced frequently, which is costly. He is looking at talking to whoever does take the position to make sure that they have the same priorities he does, by keeping an eye on the budget and making sure that it doesn’t go sky high with bills and equipment.
Chief Lillo stated that for capital, one of the items is a new all-terrain vehicle called an ASAP. This is a small, enclosed ambulance for $86,000 that can get into very tight areas, especially when there are crowds of people. He added that they could easily transport someone to Valley Hospital in that vehicle. He stated that the new vehicle that they are taking delivery on in the spring is a diesel vehicle, which requires the garage to have a venting system, which is already in place, but they have to add additional tubing to vent out the fumes for this new vehicle. One of the items that they desperately needed was $70,000 for a new heating and air conditioning system at 33 Douglas Place.
Councilman Sedon thanked Chief Lillo for his service, adding that he supported the second EMT in terms of health and safety and it seemed that they had funds to support that position. Chief Lillo stated that one call per day covers the salaries of both paid EMTs for the day, and they still have some profit for the Village. Councilwoman Knudsen thanked Chief Lillo for his service, and asked if the second EMT was full time or part time. Chief Lillo stated that they were both per diem. Councilwoman Knudsen asked if she understood correctly that the program had to end. Chief Lillo stated that if the budget goes through as it is, it will end the program. Ms. Mailander added that they had a million dollars to cut out of the overall Village budget, and that was one of the cuts. She added that they do have a backup plan, which is that the Fire Department may be able to cover that second ambulance. If that doesn’t work out, then they would need to take $75,000 out of some other area. It looks like the Fire Department would be able to cover that second ambulance. Councilwoman Knudsen asked if the Fire Department has covered in the past. Ms. Mailander stated that once there was a call and they had to go and take the second ambulance because no one was responding to the call in another town and Ridgewood’s first ambulance was out already.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked if all of the Firefighters are paid EMTs. Ms. Mailander stated that was correct. Chief Lillo added that unfortunately, you are taking two Firefighters now out of the minimum crew of nine or ten Firefighters. Ms. Mailander added that the Chief was going to work that out, but if it couldn’t be worked out, they would need to find $75,000 from somewhere else to fund a second paid EMT. Councilwoman Knudsen asked if presumably, Chief Van Goor comes up with a plan and that plan is in place, then there is no one in harm’s way and they are responding in an immediate situation. She asked when they anticipated hearing from Chief Van Goor. Ms. Mailander stated that she would expect by next week, because they have to introduce the budget.
Councilwoman Walsh thanked Chief Lillo for his service, and asked about the $416,000 in revenue and if the additional was $234,000. Chief Lillo stated that they had a budget approved of $310,000 and they came in as of January at $283,000. The surplus was $26,000. Councilwoman Walsh asked what the additional EMT cost. Chief Lillo stated that for the couple of months that they were running it was a wash, as the expense was $21,004, and the total income was $20,750. Councilwoman Walsh stated that to her it seemed like they were on a positive trajectory, adding that it would continue to be a wash so she was trying to figure out why they wouldn’t put the additional EMT. Mr. Rooney stated that the way that the ambulance billing works, you have to bifurcate everything to get to where you want to be. He added that he hasn’t come to the same conclusion that Chief Lillo has, and he hasn’t seen the numbers that will support the second paid EMT, based upon the ambulance runs. Mr. Rooney asked Chief Lillo what he had for February. Chief Lillo stated that for February and the first week in March it looked like they had an additional seven calls that they took which was an additional $5,000 in revenue. Mr. Rooney added that they didn’t know what type of adjustments were going to be made to the billing and those numbers may not have hit his financial records yet so he couldn’t confirm the numbers. Chief Lillo added that the way that the insurance companies pay, they may not see the revenues until March or April.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked about the determination by Chief Van Goor and if it would take into consideration all of this information. Mr. Rooney stated that it would still be billed. Ms. Mailander added that the revenues would still come in and it would still be billed in the same way, it’s just that they are using paid personnel who are on duty and not paying for a second EMT.
Councilman Voigt thanked Chief Lillo for his service and asked if the Fire Department had an ambulance. Ms. Mailander stated that they do not have an ambulance. Councilman Voigt asked how they would take the second ambulance calls. Chief Lillo stated that they would have to access the EMS building to retrieve the second ambulance. Ms. Mailander added that they could also have the ambulance stationed at the Fire Department during the day and then during the night when the volunteers are available it could go back to the EMS building. Councilman Voigt asked how it worked with the Fire Department. Chief Lillo stated that every call they would dispatch a rig through the Fire Department, and then with EMS having the second ambulance on the road they have a crew and can transport. Councilman Voigt suggested having a look at the rates again this year that they are charging the insurance companies, because especially on the hospital side, the increase is fairly significant compared to hospital increases. He suggested that they adjust those rates that they charge and perhaps they could get some additional revenues.
Councilman Voigt asked Chief Lillo how many calls EMS misses per year that Valley Hospital gets. Chief Lillo stated that if the second paid EMT had not been hired, probably all of those 25 calls would have gone to Valley. He added that Glen Rock is also having an issue getting EMS crews during the day. The way they dispatch is through the GPS. Councilman Voigt asked if it would then be about 100 calls per year. Chief Lillo agreed that could be possible. Councilman Voigt stated that was lost revenue, and asked if that washed or not towards running a second shift. Mr. Rooney stated that any of the costs that are associated with running the operations does not include overhead or any insurance allocations that may be associated with it, so the cost isn’t exactly what you see here and there are other costs that would have to be added.
Councilman Voigt asked what the 2017 total revenue was. Chief Lillo stated that in 2017 they were closer to $300,000, so there was a large increase in 2018. He added that going into 2019, they needed to keep the call numbers up to keep the revenue coming in.
Mayor Hache asked since they are talking about the Fire Department possibly stepping in, would they then be able to assume that revenue. Chief Lillo stated that it would still go to the billing company, which will then go out and do their normal billing and it will come into the General Fund for the Village. Mayor Hache thanked Chief Lillo for so many years of service, adding that his shoes can never be filled and asked that he train whoever is stepping in. Ms. Mailander thanked Chief Lillo as well as all of his volunteers and all of their volunteer hours, adding that she appreciated everything that Chief Lillo has done.
Jeremy Kleiman, Emergency Management Coordinator, stated that they have been having some issues with the nursing homes in town, and he thinks that finally this past year, they have worked something out that has resolved it. He added that nursing homes are under increasing burdens from the State Department of Health and the Federal Government, and there is a new requirement that Health and Human Services is imposing where in order for nursing homes to keep their Medicare reimbursement, they have to do additional disaster drills and training and account for that. They tried to shift that requirement onto the Village and asked for the Village to run and plan their disaster drills. He added that there is a cost for that, so they cut a deal where they would hire an external consultant to plan a disaster scenario for them and the Village would then attend, observe, and sign off on the requirement that they actually did it. Mr. Kleiman added that they are helping the nursing homes without incurring costs.
Mr. Kleiman stated that there had been a disconnect with Public Safety, and working with the schools, training independently and not always talking to each other. Mr. Kleiman stated that they have made tremendous strides, and over the last couple of weeks, they have conducted a series of full scale exercises where they combined the Police Department training on an active shooter scenario at the schools and the Fire Department training on rescue task force, and they included Emergency Management, so they all trained together. He gave Sergeant Chuck a lot of credit, adding that they got Bergen County OEM involved very early to help and they came in and did a tabletop exercise where they planned the scenario. He added that they did three, four-hour exercises, and had plans to do one more, combining law enforcement, fire, EMS, and OEM under a unified command structure. Mr. Kleiman added that it was the first time, aside from a real life incident, where they all worked together and talked to each other.
Mr. Kleiman stated that Fire and EMS are all trained in rescue task force, and they did several evolutions each night operating a unified command. They had three tactical SWAT teams from the Police department, 39 volunteer victims, and then four rescue task force teams that worked together. He added that they learned a lot and were able to correct things through the second evolution. Those are the kinds of things that he was proud to say they are starting to do. They learned a couple of things that they have to fix. Working in a command structure, they were able to step back and manage things at a high level.
Mr. Kleiman stated that goals for 2019 include the OEM website which has been non-existent for three years. He added that upgrades to the Emergency Operations Center was something that he met with the Police Chief about. There is capital that has been allocated for OEM for new equipment and furniture and he had hesitation about deploying those funds for the current Emergency Operations Center, which is the Conference Room in the Police Department, as it isn’t configured properly and the access to it, is not good. There were a number of reasons, but they are working up some numbers on what it is going to cost and they will make a decision on whether that is the best place to put that capital. He added that conference room is overused and he had some concerns, but he is open to working with the Police Department to find a solution.
Mr. Kleiman added that he had no capital requests for 2019, and his operating budget is less than it was last year.
Councilman Sedon suggested that maybe it was a good idea to hold onto the capital unless Mr. Kleiman came up with a better plan because the Water Department is going to move out of Village Hall. Mr. Kleiman stated that unless it is going to change, the last concept drawing that he saw for that space did have a small OEM office and a shared conference room with the Village Clerk, which would be ideal as it has a larger footprint and is a more secure room with less foot traffic.
Councilwoman Knudsen stated that she wondered if moving forward, Mr. Kleiman would look at whatever he was purchasing with that in mind. She stated that it must have been an incredible learning opportunity working with the other departments under the unified command exercise.
Councilwoman Walsh echoed Councilwoman Knudsen’s statements, adding that in Ridgewood, they are prepared and always thinking about what could happen and she was glad that the training was going on.
Councilman Voigt asked about the exercise that they did and how often they needed to repeat it. Mr. Kleiman stated that they have to do two exercises a year to maintain their eligibility for FEMA reimbursement, but those can be tabletop exercises, functional exercises, full scale exercises, or if they have a real life event they can get credit for it even if it is a pre-planned event. He added that for the Fourth of July, they get exercise credit for it and fulfill their obligations. Councilman Voigt asked what Mr. Kleiman would recommend that they complete each year. Mr. Kleiman stated that they should do two full scale exercises a year, but they are tricky to pull off, as they need a school that is vacant and it has to be scheduled at a time that they don’t bring people in on overtime from a budgetary perspective. They had close to 100 people involved and it is easier said than done, to do something of that scale twice a year.
Councilman Voigt asked if the website was a requirement from a FEMA standpoint. Mr. Kleiman stated that it wasn’t, but it was just that they had it for a number of years but when they transitioned last year it wasn’t compliant. Ms. Mailander added that it is being worked on. Mr. Kleiman stated that they still have the data that was on the website, but it just needs to be reformatted and put on the site. Councilman Voigt added that was a connection to the community. Mr. Kleiman stated that there was a ton of preparedness information that was up there and was always updated. He had widgets embedded as well, and the twitter feed was built in as well. Councilwoman Knudsen stated that she couldn’t even access the link to the OEM website at this time.
Nancy Greene, Director of the Ridgewood Public Library, stated that she was there with Dan Cummings, a member of the Library Board of Trustees, Gail Campbell, President of the Board of Trustees, and Tony Mathes, the Library’s Business Manager were all in attendance. Ms. Greene added that she spoke to Chief Luthcke today about doing emergency training at the Library, because their doors are open to the public 12 hours a day and they haven’t done active shooter training in a few years.
Ms. Greene stated that within the County Library System, Ridgewood maintains their traditional role as number one in circulation of children’s and teen books, and also are number one in lending e-books and e-magazines. She added that those things could easily be found on Amazon, but they try to find nurturing ways of bringing the community together. They are number one in the entire State of New Jersey for educational programming, and that includes their ESL community. Ms. Greene stated that they are now working with adult students from 34 countries, and most of them are from Ridgewood. They also work with a lot of adult students that need help with computer skills and things that people can use to get a job. There are also programs on smart homes, “cutting the cord,” and local history. Last year, through a private donation, they were able to redo the ten foot panorama of Ridgewood in 1847 and with a drone, take a picture of that same area today.
Ms. Greene stated that they just got a grant from Bergen County to restore Sanborn Fire Atlas Maps. This year they got 1911, 1916, and 1928 which they didn’t have before from a collector. Mr. Cummings added that it is an invaluable resource and surprisingly sophisticated. Ms. Greene stated that the Atlas’s have every structure that was in the town, as well as every street and the purpose of it.
Ms. Greene stated that she wanted to update the Village Council on where they are on the project to Reimagine Ridgewood Library. They have been waiting for the State to move on releasing the grant funds. The voters in NJ approved $125 million in grants and it is just sitting in Committee, and they are hoping for movement on that soon. It has been 20 years since the Library was renovated, and since that time, they have had 6.5 million visitors. In addition, they have had an enormous amount of change in the way that people use libraries. More people are coming to the Library for cultural and educational programming. People come to discussion groups, book groups, and film groups. She added that they could do more programs, but they don’t have enough meeting space and a nice space for teens, is lacking.
Ms. Greene stated that they were looking to find a way to unify the building so that when people come in, they have a sense of everything that the Library has to offer. They are starting a Capital Campaign with wonderful chairs, and they are having two events on Tuesday April 9th at 7:00 P.M. and Saturday, May 14th at 1:00 P.M. They are inviting everyone in town to come and give input on the renovation concept.
Mr. Cummings added that one of the things that he wanted to assure the Village Council is that there is not an answer that works for the Library, but there are a lot of things that they are considering. They are trying to be responsive and reflect what they are hearing in the cost. If they are fortunate enough to get a grant from the State, they would gladly take that, but there are a lot of other libraries around the State that need that money as well. He added that they have to do things simultaneously and are trying to balance the two objectives.
Mr. Cummings stated that the Library’s fiscal situation is quite positive. There has been no increase in appropriation from the Village from 2014 to 2019, and the quality of the service has remained steady. Their fees have continued, adding that they are hard-pressed to generate revenues. It is difficult to raise rates in the Library. They are requesting a flat budget to last year. He added that their challenge is to provide the same information and repository of detail that they had five years ago, with the same amount of money from the Village.
Mr. Cummings stated that expenses have gone down $75,000 over the past five years, mostly due to not replacing employees as they leave the Library. One issue is that they are at the crossroads of potentially doing a capital project and maintaining the current facility. He added that they have money in the budget to replace the carpet on the floors, but they won’t do that if they are approaching a point where they are breaking ground or are in a position that it would be a year of useful purpose. They don’t have a dramatic capital expenditure need, as this year one of the HVAC units stopped working and the Village provided funding for that.
Mr. Cummings stated that they would be contacting the Village Councilmembers to update them on what was happening with the Library. He added that the Library is a crown jewel of the Village. From a budgetary standpoint, their request is exactly what it was last year and they will work with Ms. Mailander about the potential future carpet replacement. He welcomed the Village Council to their Board meetings. They are not oblivious to the fact that the Village has more needs than resources. Ms. Mailander added that the one capital request is $90,000 for flooring. Ms. Greene added that was for carpet and tile for the entire building. She asked that the Village set the funds aside for the project, whenever they decide to complete it. Mr. Cummings added that there are many programs at the Library, including Lynda, an on-line educational site, which has incredible videos. There are a lot of programs available on-line.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked about the BCCLS line item and why that went up. Ms. Greene stated that the BCCLS deliveries stopped a year ago, and at this point, the State is funding it through June 2019. Bergen County absorbs an inordinate amount of delivery and they won’t have that support from the State any longer. BCCLS decided that delivery is such a key component and they would create their own delivery service. The cost is $9,000 per library towards that cost. The database fee also increased, as they are now using a formula that looks at the valuation, population of the town, and usage of digital resources. BCCLS will be starting their own delivery system in June.
Councilman Sedon added that the Ridgewood Library is the best in the State, adding that his only question was about that flooring but that was answered appropriately. Mr. Cummings added that they would be very fiscally prudent as they approach this. Councilwoman Walsh stated that she was appreciating her time on the Library Board. She added that there has been an evolution in how people use the Library as the years have passed. Mr. Cummings added that safety in the Library is something that he thinks they should be concerned about, and he highlights that because it is a sanctuary.
Councilman Voigt stated that the Library is one of the crown jewels of the Village and he understands what they are trying to do to evolve the Library to where it has to be. He applauded their efforts to move the Library forward as it relates to a community center.
5.Current Fund Revenues
Bob Rooney, Village CFO, stated that he provided a document to the Village Council that is the basis for the revenue streams that they bring in. They are allowed to anticipate recurring revenues up to what they realized in 2018. They have pulled back on a couple of these things, but for the rest, they have been as aggressive as they can be. The State Aid hasn’t changed, and the Shared Service Agreement with the Board of Education vehicles and Washington Township support for their vehicles. Federal and State grants are a wash, as the same amount goes in appropriations so there will be no increase in the tax rate. He also showed a decline of approximately $300,000 from the Capital Fund balance, the Recycling Trust Fund, and the Reserve for Debt Service Fund which have been diminished or eliminated for this year.
Mr. Rooney stated that there was a subtotal under the projected 2019 revenues of $15,031,287 to support the Village’s Budget.
Mr. Rooney looked at the surplus sheet which showed the surplus available in the various funds that were used in this year’s or the last five year’s budgets. In the General Operating Fund, they are down slightly to $4.8 million as a result of the prepaid taxes, which created some issues with how the revenue is recognized.
Right now, the budget is approximately $51,700,000 appropriations. If they leave that amount intact, there would be a substantial tax increase. They went back and looked at each Department, the wish lists, additional personnel, and moved it down to a 1.5% increase. He went through some of the items that each Department gave back to them, adding that there are some reductions to get to where they wanted to be. Ms. Mailander added that they had to cut the budget by about $1.1 million. Mr. Rooney added that he looked at two other scenarios and detailed the cuts that were done to achieve those rates of 1.25% increase or .99%. Ms. Mailander encouraged the Village Council to discuss which of the scenarios they would prefer, the 1.5%, 1.25% or .99%. The Village Council were also provided with the budgets of other nearby towns that average around 2%. For the 1.5% increase, that is an additional $61 for the average assessed home in the Village, 1.25% is $50 additional, and .99% is $41 for the entire year. She added that total property tax is made up of municipal tax, County, and Board of Education tax (which makes up about 67% of the tax rate).
Mayor Hache added that this year in particular, ideally they would have no increase, but he supported going with the lowest .99% increase. Councilwoman Knudsen added that she was comfortable with the 1.25% because if they cut too much, they might be sacrificing in the long run as it’s a reality of life that costs go up. The only difference from the 1.25% to the .99% is the difference in terminal leave and the Library. She asked if they went to 1.25% and shifted the $10,000 to the Library and left the terminal leave as it was. Mr. Rooney stated that would be about 1.15%. Councilwoman Knudsen added that she was favorable in doing that.
Councilman Voigt asked if they were to have a zero increase what else would they have to cut. He added that he agreed with Mayor Hache that there was pain relating to taxes. Ms. Mailander stated that they would probably have to reduce personnel. Mr. Rooney added that there are contractual obligations related to salaries so if they were going to reduce it below those factors they would be taking out other services. Councilman Voigt stated that there were services where there was less pain. Councilwoman Knudsen stated that in the past when the 0% happened, there were more complaints from residents than not, because once you start cutting back people notice almost immediately. She added that it was not unreasonable to assume that there is going to be a slight increase. Ms. Mailander added that there were two years of 0% and they are still making up for that today. Councilman Voigt agreed that he was in line with what Mayor Hache suggested at .99%.
Councilman Sedon added that he would like to have no increase or reduce taxes, but he was on the landscaping committee with the 0% increase and they were getting complaints left and right. He added that he was alright with the 1.25% or .99%. He asked how much they were using in surplus. Mr. Rooney stated that they were using $3.7 million with $4.8 million left over. Councilman Sedon asked if they could keep the Library money in there. Mr. Rooney stated that was the balance, if you take the money out it was $1.06 million. Mayor Hache added that Columbia Bank has offered to give the Village money, but it has to go through the 501(c) (3) organizations in the town and that could be the Library.
Councilwoman Walsh added that in recent months, the Village Council has talked about the services that are getting another look, and that they are on the right path but she was concerned about what could possibly happen next year. They have budgeted for tax appeals and have not been as successful as those challenging the Village. The fact that they are budgeting for approximately 150 tax appeals and feel that they are not going to be as successful as they would hope, the money to pay the tax appeals is going to come out this year, and she asked how the .99% tax increase was going to affect this.
Changing the subject, Councilwoman Walsh explained that Paramus has a vehicle that picks up and dumps the trash with one man in the vehicle, so she thinks that there are other things that the Village could do to change around the way that certain operations are done, and she asked how they would start that. Councilwoman Walsh added that the Board of Education budget and the new multi-family housing developments are going to create challenges and she asked how they bridge this budget, as she is more concerned about next year and the year after.
Mayor Hache stated that they think about all of the challenges that are coming. He added that they need to look about how they are going to get some of that money back. Ms. Mailander stated that the Borough of Fair Lawn sent out a survey to residents to see what was important to them. For example, Councilwoman Walsh was suggesting they might have to give up rear yard garbage collection, which may not be something that is very important to residents now. She added that it is a big capital outlay to change the trucks and the barrels for the one-man garbage truck, but once you have done so, then it is very efficient. It has also been predicted that they could reduce personnel, as the new garbage trucks require one man on a garbage truck, as opposed to the current three men on a garbage truck.
Councilwoman Knudsen added that seniors would be affected if they removed rear yard pickup, as garbage can be heavy and seniors prefer the rear yard pickup. In addition, a lot of residents think it is aesthetically nicer to have rear yard pickup. Councilwoman Walsh added that she thinks there has been a shift in terms of what people are valuing in terms of services and the Village Council need to know what is important to them. Ms. Mailander added that she would share the Fair Lawn survey with the Village Council to see what people value, and was something that they need to determine what is important to residents now.
Councilman Sedon added that this is a very good discussion but it is work that is going to take time, and he was inclined to go with a 1% budget increase now, but encouraged them to push and put in the work this coming year to see what they can do to make everything more sustainable. Ms. Mailander added that the yard waste bid included containerized yard waste that people would have to bag on their own which would be more efficient for the Village, which was something that she thinks should be included in the survey.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked if there was any risk to the reduction in terminal leave. Mr. Rooney stated that yes, there was, but they had built it up so much over the past years so they feel comfortable that they are okay with that number. Ms. Mailander stated that she heard a .99% municipal tax increase for 2019 and the Village Council was in agreement. Ms. Mailander stated that they would put the budget together and have it ready for introduction next week. She thanked the Village Council for being cognizant of their timeframe, because they are a month ahead of where they were last year, and she appreciated their hard work.
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 Walsh, and carried unanimously by voice vote, the Village Council’s Special Public Budget Meeting was adjourned at 7:45 P.M.
Ramon M. Hache, Sr.
Ramon M. Hache, Sr.
Heather A. Mailander
Village Manager/Village Clerk
Heather A. Mailander
Village Manager/Village Clerk
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