A REGULAR WORK SESSION OF THE VILLAGE COUNCIL OF THE VILLAGEOF RIDGEWOOD HELD IN THE SYDNEY V. STOLDT, JR., COURTROOM OF THE RIDGEWOOD VILLAGE HALL, 131 NORTH MAPLE AVENUE, RIDGEWOOD, NEW JERSEY, ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 1, 2013 AT 7:30 P.M.
1. CALL TO ORDER – OPEN PUBLIC MEETINGS ACT – ROLL CALL – FLAG SALUTE – MOMENT OF SILENCE
Mayor Aronsohn called the meeting to order at 7:31 P.M., and read the Statement of Compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act. At roll call, the following were present: Councilmembers Pucciarelli, Riche, Walsh, and Mayor Aronsohn. Also present were Dr. Kenneth Gabbert, Village Manager; Heather Mailander, Village Clerk; and Matthew Rogers, Village Attorney. Councilwoman Hauck was absent.
Mayor Aronsohn led those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and asked for a moment of silence in honor of the American men and women serving in our Armed Forces, as well as those serving as first responders.
2. COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC
Mayor Aronsohn asked if anyone from the public wished to speak regarding any of the agenda items.
Phyllis Goodman, 667 Newcomb Road, made a comment on the tree and sidewalk policy that is in the process of being reviewed by the Councilmembers. Ms. Goodman stated that presently, there is a Village-owned tree near her property that is more than 10 years old, and when it was planted, there were also two new sidewalk slabs installed. That tree is now lifting the sidewalk, and Ms. Goodman said she paid the Village for the installation of the sidewalk slabs. The current Village Code states that the responsibility for the repair or replacement of the sidewalk falls on the homeowner. Will Ms. Goodman agrees with Mayor Aronson that it is rather unfair that all of that responsibility falls on the property owners, especially when many property owners have already paid for installation of sidewalks in the past. She added that when the tree and sidewalk were installed, other repair work was done on the street, including resurfacing the street, and putting in new curbs and sidewalks. Other trees were planted by the Village along the street, and these trees seem to be weak. Over the past three years, during heavy, wet snowstorms or the October 2011 snowstorm or Hurricane Sandy, the branches snapped off and the wires were dragged down. Nevertheless, the roots of these trees appear to be strong enough to lift the sidewalks as they spread. Ms. Goodman said that the Councilmembers should agree that the responsibility of replacing sidewalks uprooted by Village trees should not fall to the homeowners. She added that many years ago, such expenses were not borne by the homeowners. Village staff was able to maintain the trees back then, and Ms. Goodman added that it has been more than a year since any pruning was done to the trees. At that time, PSE&G sent contractors around to trim the trees, and those contractors wondered why so many municipalities insisted on planting trees near the wires, because it creates problems. Mayor Aronsohn said that as the Councilmembers review the Shade Tree Policy, one of the recommendations made by the Ridgewood Environmental Advisory Committee (REAC) is that none of those trees should be replanted, which is good for the long term. However, in the short-term, the issue will be explored further when it is discussed later on at this meeting. Mayor Aronsohn said that it is a complicated issue, as he has learned. Councilwoman Walsh explained that, in deference to the fact that Councilwoman Hauck would not be at this meeting, the discussion is not on the agenda for tonight. It will be on the agenda for the May 22, 2013 Work Session. In addition, Councilwoman Walsh said that REAC would be having another meeting, and suggested that Ms. Goodman should try to attend.
Ron Forenza, 681 Ellington Road, commented on a budget matter. He said that he is aware that the Councilmembers intend to use some of the reserve in the budget so that Village residents would not have a municipal tax increase this year. Mr. Forenza said he does not support taking the money out of the surplus funds to reduce the budget. He explained that he has been a businessman for a long time, and that without a reserve, it is difficult to operate any business entity like the Village. He asked if it was true that, under the guidelines established by the State of New Jersey, municipalities should never spend more than half of their surplus funds. Mr. Forenza pointed out that recently, the Village suffered through two major storms, as did the rest of New Jersey, and it was necessary for the Village to use some of its surplus funds to cover damages caused by those storms. He said that Dr. Gabbert had stated that the Village might have $500,000 in its surplus funds if the State reimburses the Village for repairs that were necessary as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Mr. Forenza noted that in the recent Board of Education elections, approximately 12% of the electorate came out to vote, and this school budget was passed, which means an increase of $274 in taxes. He said that indicates to him that 88% of the people do not care about the budget; they do not care how much money the Board of Education spends; and they do not care what the Village spends. However, Mr. Forenza noted that he, like so many others, complains that he does not want to pay more in taxes. Mr. Forenza said that he would rather pay $40 or $50 more every year and know that there is money being held in reserve in the event of a major storm, or if some other emergency should occur. He believes that most of the residents in the Village feel the same way.
Mayor Aronsohn said that he wanted to clarify a few points made by Mr. Forenza. In the first place, Mayor Aronsohn said that in 2012, there were no reserve funds. This year, the plan is to leave approximately $500,000 in reserve, which is not money that the Village is expecting as reimbursement; the funds that are expected from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are in addition to the $500,000. Second, regarding the comments made by Mr. Forenza about Governor Christie’s guidelines for municipalities, Mayor Aronsohn believes that Governor Christie’s proposed budget actually leaves less than 1% in his reserve funds, which means that the Village would be leaving more funds in reserve than the State. Mayor Aronsohn said that a more in-depth discussion about this will be held later on during this meeting.
Councilman Pucciarelli added that if he believed that the amount being held in reserve left a razor-thin margin of funds for Village operations, there is no way he would vote for such a budget. However, Councilman Pucciarelli sees this as a responsible reserve, and he does not regard this practice as “taking” the reserve. According to Councilman Pucciarelli, money is fungible, and it is all a question of how the funds are allocated. Councilman Pucciarelli thinks that $500,000 is a very responsible amount to keep in reserve, particularly when measured against the amount in the reserve over the past four years. Mr. Forenza asked how much was expended in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Dr. Gabbert responded that no reserve funds were used for that purpose, but that in 2011 and 2012, attempts were made to use as much as possible from the operating budget. The Village Council also authorized emergency appropriations for additional amounts. Dr. Gabbert estimated that approximately $1.4 million was appropriated in 2011, and approximately $469,000 was spent in 2012 for emergency cleanup, while another $613,000 was appropriated for construction costs associated with the storm. The difference between 2012 and 2011 was the adoption of a capital ordinance, which shifted some of those costs to the capital fund, which meant they did not have to be appropriated in the 2013 budget.
Anne Loving, 342 South Irving Street, asked for clarification regarding where the funds come from when there is an emergency appropriation. Dr. Gabbert explained that once the budget is approved, if an emergency should arise necessitating additional expenditures of funds, the Village Council would pass an emergency appropriation, which adds to the amount of money that can be spent for that year. That emergency appropriation authorizes the Chief Financial Officer to borrow the funds, and it also becomes the first item that is immediately reimbursed in the following year’s budget. In that sense, Dr. Gabbert said it is a kind of “advance” funding for the next year. Ms. Loving said that the procedure could be followed, instead of having funds in reserve, although reserve funds could be spent, which would not require any borrowing of funds. Dr. Gabbert said that is not how State budgeting works, and he explained that once the Village Council commits an amount from the fund balance to the budget, the process is finished. The surplus, or fund balance, for that year has been affected, and cannot be touched again. Therefore, if the rare occasion arises when an emergency appropriation is necessary, which is very limited and absolutely cannot be used in the event of bad budgeting, the only solution is to either use funds from the operating budget, which takes away from current operations, or to authorize an emergency appropriation.
Nancy Greene, Director of the Ridgewood Public Library, wanted to let all Ridgewood residents know that the Public Library newsletter would be in their mailboxes within a few days. She brought some copies over for the Councilmembers. Ms. Greene pointed out that the Friends of the Library paid all the expenses associated with the newsletter, and they ensure that it is mailed to every home in the Village, because they believe that the Public Library is for everyone. They are always striving to improve their outreach efforts, and there are many people who do not look at the website, or use social networking. Many people still rely on paper notifications, so the Friends of the Library feel that the newsletter is a worthy endeavor.
Ms. Greene mentioned that tomorrow, the monthly senior citizen luncheon will be held, and the Public Library will be doing a presentation on computers for seniors. It is assumed that many of the senior citizens have not yet started using computers, so Ms. Greene thought she would show them sites such as Facebook, Twitter, the Public Library website, eBay, and match.com, just to name a few. If anyone has any other suggestions of websites that might be interesting for the senior citizens, Ms. Greene asked for recommendations.
There were no other comments from the public at this time, and Mayor Aronsohn closed the time for public comment.
a.) Proposed Eagle Scout Project – Beautification of the Grove Street Traffic Calming Island
Sam Chen, a resident of Ridgewood, is a candidate for Eagle Scout. He said that his project concerns the concrete island near the intersection of Grove Street and Paramus Road. Approximately seven trees were recently planted on the island by the Village, but it is covered with rocks and weeds. Mr. Chen proposes to beautify that area as his Eagle Scout project. He plans to plant flowers there, which will make it look more welcoming when people enter Ridgewood from Paramus. Mr. Chen’s idea is to plant approximately eight flowers around each tree, using the yarrow flower, which is a very hardy plant, as well as being drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, and relatively salt-tolerant. Therefore, it should require little management while being able to thrive in that location. Ideally, Mr. Chen said that it would also be able to spread and fill up the island.
Mr. Chen said that the steps included in his project are cleaning up the island, which involves removing the weeds and branches to make the island good for growing the trees and flowers; treating the soil to adjust the pH level, as well as applying fertilizer and other soil nutrients; planting the flowers; and following up with regular observations to ensure that the plants are established and thriving, until the plants are able to survive on their own. The estimated cost is approximately $940, and Mr. Chen asked if the Village would be able to contribute anything toward that cost. Councilwoman Walsh said that REAC raised some money from the Earth Day activities, so she thought that they might be able to contribute something toward his expenses out of those monies. Mr. Chen said he would also contact organizations like Project Pride, and other similar groups, to help sponsor the cleanup of that area and help manage it after the project is completed.
In addition, Mr. Chen mentioned that he is aware that safety is a concern, because the island is in the middle of Grove Street. He spoke to Sergeant Pullman of the Ridgewood Police Department, who said that he would be there while Mr. Chen is working on the project to oversee things, as well as providing fluorescent jackets for Mr. Chen and his helpers to wear while they are working. Sergeant Pullman also said that he would place traffic cones to redirect traffic while the work is going on. Mr. Chen said that the work will most likely be done on a Sunday, which is less busy in terms of traffic, and would also maximize safety.
Councilman Riche congratulated Mr. Chen on his efforts, and said that he always likes to point out when a potential Eagle Scout comes before the Village Council that less than 4% of all Boy Scouts become Eagle Scouts.
Councilman Pucciarelli noted that Mr. Chen had mentioned that the area being discussed is an entry point into Ridgewood, and Councilman Pucciarelli noticed that on Monroe Street, there is a “Welcome to Ridgewood” sign, but he does not believe there is one on Grove Street. Mr. Chen said he believes there is such a sign, but he thinks it is obscured, being placed in a rather out-of-the-way position. He mentioned that discussions have been held about potentially moving the sign to the island, which he thinks would be a good idea. Councilman Pucciarelli agreed with that suggestion, and noted that beautifying the island would make it look more like a gateway into Ridgewood. Councilman Pucciarelli also added that if Mr. Chen should decide that he wanted to place a sign there, Councilman Pucciarelli thought that the Village Council might be able to contribute to that cost. Mr. Chen said that if the Village could provide those resources, it would not be too much trouble for him to put it there.
Councilwoman Walsh praised Mr. Chen for his idea. She said that she drives past that island going to and from work, and noticed how bleak it looked the other day, and thought that someone should start weeding in that area. Councilwoman Walsh also reiterated that she would speak to the members of REAC to help with his fundraising efforts.
Mayor Aronsohn said that this would be voted on by the Councilmembers at the May 8, 2013 Public Meeting.
1.) Ridgewood Water – Professional Work Performed – $45,000
Frank Moritz, Director of Ridgewood Water, explained that this is a somewhat unique situation that needs to be addressed. It started several years ago, in approximately 2004, when Ridgewood Water was under and administrative consent order to do several things. When the switch was made to a sodium hypochlorite treatment, the piping was changed at all 32 points of entry. Therefore, it was necessary to design pipelines with different sizes to enable the retention of chlorine before the water gets to the first residents, which is one of the first things the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) inspects. In 2006 and 2007, Mr. Moritz said that Ridgewood Water put out an RFP, and Malcolm Pirnie was chosen to come up with a design for the United Water interconnection on the west side of the Ridgewood Water system. During that time, the Chief Engineer for Ridgewood Water realized that some of the pipelines for the Ames well field in Wyckoff, which is a large parcel of property with three or four active wells, needed to be addressed. The way in which the proposal was drafted would not allow the pipelines to meet the standards of the NJDEP. Malcolm Pirnie was asked to review the design, make recommendations, perform the evaluation, and get any necessary permits for the job. Malcolm Pirnie was able to do all of that, but the situation was not brought to the attention of the Village Council at that time. In addition, there was some other administrative work that needed to be done in conjunction with the work on the pipeline, such as dealing with permits, reviewing valves, and reviewing GIS. In the end, the grand total for the work performed by Malcolm Pirnie, which is now called Arcadis, was $45,000. According to Mr. Moritz, this does not necessitate a change order, because this was more in the nature of professional services rendered, not arising out of a contract or a bid. Mr. Moritz said he came before the Village Council at this time because it has been two or three years since he reached an agreement with Arcadis, in which he said he would pay them after the NJDEP accepted and approved their work, including the construction. The NJDEP gave their approval several months ago, so Mr. Moritz wants to complete this process. He said that the work performed by Arcadis was very professional, and the outcome was successful. The funds are available in the capital budget. Mr. Moritz said that because the issue was not brought to the Village Council prior to any work being done, and no RFPs were involved, it might fall under the category of an “unfair” award. However, Mr. Moritz pointed out that such awards can be made under municipal constraints.
Councilman Pucciarelli asked if the $45,000 matches up to the amount that Malcolm Pirnie originally bid for the job. Mr. Moritz responded that the prime purpose for which they were originally selected did not have any major relationship to the work that was actually performed after that time. The administrative consent order was different than the interconnection, but Malcolm Pirnie had the expertise, and the work needed to be done in a timely fashion to comply with the administrative consent order. Councilman Pucciarelli clarified that Malcolm Pirnie did not actually bid for the job, but they did the job, at a cost of $45,000. Mr. Moritz confirmed Councilman Pucciarelli’s statement. He explained that normally, RFPs would be accepted, after which time a recommendation would be made to the Village Council for approval. That was not done in this case, and that is why Mr. Moritz had to come before the Councilmembers this evening.
Councilwoman Walsh asked when the initial bid or contract was made, whether it was 2007 or 2008. Mr. Moritz estimated that the initial proposal was in 2006 for the design of the interconnection with United Water along the Wyckoff-Franklin Lakes border. Councilwoman Walsh asked if it was the NJDEP that was holding up matters for these past several years. Mr. Moritz explained that several years ago, when this was brought to his attention, he met with representatives from Malcolm Pirnie to try to ascertain exactly what had occurred, and it was decided that it would be best for Mr. Moritz to bring it to the Village Council for payment. He pointed out that this is a completed project that has been accepted and approved by the NJDEP, so that all of the work done by Malcolm Pirnie was successful. Mr. Moritz added that he appreciated that Malcolm Pirnie has been willing to wait all of this time for payment, because he does not believe that anyone from that company thought it would take this long for everything to be resolved. Councilwoman Walsh asked if any other payments have been made to Malcolm Pirnie, and Mr. Moritz responded that only payments for their initial contract had been made.
2.) 2013 Budget Discussion, Timeline
Dr. Gabbert said that he would walk the Councilmembers through the information provided regarding the 2013 budget. The first page is a summary of the amount to be raised by taxation for 2012-2013. Dr. Gabbert said that the major changes from when the original draft was presented at the end of January include a reduction of the total Village budget of $677,509 from last year, or 1.47%. In addition, the average assessed value of property for the average taxpayer has been reduced by 13.41% since 2012, but that taxpayer will still pay the same amount of tax on the municipal part of the budget as was paid in 2012.
The next page gives details on changes in revenues, some of which were increased, the largest of which is the increase in the fund balance, which went from $2.5 million in the original draft to the amount shown in the current draft, which is $2.95 million. Other changes include the FEMA grant monies, which have been included in the budget. This authorization was not available in January, as well as some trust funds in the budget which were also not available at that time. Dr. Gabbert noted that there is a change in the receipts from delinquent taxes, because there is more information available now than there was in January. This figure has been reduced by the anticipated amount to be received from delinquent taxes by $162,000. Reductions in operating expenses are also listed on this page, totaling approximately $1.46 million. There is an offset to that of $875,000 in increased expenditures that had to be put back into the budget. Dr. Gabbert explained that taking the net of the revenue modifications against the total expenditure increases and decreases, the net adjustment to the budget is approximately $1.7 million.
For the third page, Dr. Gabbert mentioned that there had been some discussion regarding the fund balance issue, so he prepared an analysis, which goes back to 2010, and shows the fund balance for every year from that time to the present. He said that there are a couple of pages at the back of the Manager’s Report that correlate to this information, which states that according to the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), their recommendation on fund balance is two months of the budget year, which would be approximately $7.5 million for the Village. Standard & Poor’s, which recently gave the Village an AAA credit rating, recommends 5% of the budget as the standard, or approximately $2.25 million for the Village. The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Division of Local Government Services, leaves it up to the municipality to make that determination. Dr. Gabbert pointed out that the Village has obviously utilized fund balance every year, and in most years, there is some fund balance left over. The fund balance is regenerated, which is accomplished by maintaining a very good tax rate; by “beating the budget,” which means spending less than whatever amount is approved for the budget; or by having more revenue coming in than was anticipated. Any of those methods regenerates the fund balance surplus that can be utilized in the future. Dr. Gabbert noted that the current unaudited surplus for 2013 is $4.3 million, with a restricted amount of surplus of $800,000, due to some outstanding loans. That leaves an available surplus of $3.5 million, of which $3 million is used in the current year’s budget. Dr. Gabbert stated that the actual amount of surplus is $2.95 million, or an extra $50,000 that can be added back in. The final balance is $500,000, or $550,000 after tweaking, which Mayor Aronsohn had referred to earlier. The estimate of the amount to be regenerated is extremely conservative. Dr. Gabbert said that it is known that the Village will get $175,000 from FEMA, representing the other half of what has already been approved, and there is currently $1.6 million in reserve for uncollected taxes. The Village’s tax collection rate is approximately 98.7%-98.8%, so that virtually all of that will drop to fund balance, according to Dr. Gabbert.
Pages four through nine are a recap of salaries and other expenses by department, and shows exactly where the Village stands today regarding the modifications to the budget from 2012 to 2013.
Page 10 is an estimated timeline, based on the assumption that the budget will be approved on May 8, 2013, and that the Councilmembers wish to go with the same type of budget newsletter format that is been used in the past. All of the items listed in the timeline lead up to a final budget hearing and budget adoption on June 12, 2013. Following that page is a sample of the budget newsletter from 2012.
The last page, a copy of which is also attached to the Manager’s Report, is a simple summary of the budgets of 2012 and 2013. The proposed 2013 budget is $45,343,000, which is a decrease from 2012 of $677,000, or 1.47%. It also shows that the average taxpayer will not pay more in taxes than last year.
Mayor Aronsohn commended Dr. Gabbert and Stephen Sanzari, Chief Financial Officer, for all of their efforts on the 2013 budget. In particular, they were able to identify more than $1 million in additional decreases in expenditures, which pleased Mayor Aronsohn. He suggested that, since there is a lot of information contained in this report, perhaps any discussion could be postponed until the May 8, 2013 Public Meeting. Dr. Gabbert said that he was hoping to get some kind of approval at this meeting, so that the budget document can be prepared for introduction at the next meeting.
Councilman Pucciarelli asked in terms of anticipated revenues that have not yet been received, when such items could be counted on or inserted as part of the budget, and if any of the FEMA money included in the budget is a definite revenue source. Dr. Gabbert responded that so far, the Village has received approximately $350,000. Mayor Aronsohn also noted that, in addition to FEMA funds, there are items such as the recently discussed increased administrative costs for Police Department personnel side jobs, which cannot be included in the 2013 budget, but those funds would replenish the capital funds. Dr. Gabbert confirmed this, saying that it would be considered miscellaneous unexpected revenue. He explained that the way the State statute is worded, the Village cannot anticipate more revenue for a line item than what was received in the prior year, with few exceptions. Dr. Gabbert said that such unanticipated revenue is a good thing, and it would go toward fund balance for the next year.
Mr. Sanzari explained that, regarding the FEMA funds, the Village received $35,000 this year, which is in the budget. In addition, the Division of Local Government Services made an exception this year, because so many municipalities experienced extensive damage, and FEMA payments were late, so that they are allowing municipalities who have had their project worksheets approved by FEMA to anticipate up to one half of the 75% Federal award amount. Mr. Sanzari said he put $175,000 into the current budget, which is a conservative estimate. Therefore, FEMA funds are listed as $210,000, and there is an additional $175,000 to be received by the Village at a later time, which will go back to fund balance. If additional funds should be received between now and when the budget is adopted, Mr. Sanzari said that the budget could be amended and reduce fund balance, or allow those funds to lapse into fund balance. Councilman Pucciarelli said that this is very educational for those who are not in government, and it is one of the good practices of government budgeting. In private industry, revenues which have never been seen before can be anticipated, but that cannot be done in municipal governments. Mr. Sanzari confirmed that the only revenue that can be anticipated in a municipal budget is what has been received in the prior year. Therefore, this new exception by the Division of Local Government Services is a surprising development. Councilman Pucciarelli said that in reviewing the revenue side of the budget, and considering the restrictions placed on the Village by the State, there is a firm basis to fully expect that the projected revenue will be realized.
The Councilmembers gave Dr. Gabbert the authorization to move forward with preparation of the budget document to be introduced at the May 8, 2013 Public Meeting.
3.) Recommendation of Award of Work – 2013 Northwest Bergen Cooperative Pricing Program – Street Resurfacing Program
Dr. Gabbert explained that the Village is part of the Northwest Bergen Cooperative Shared Services Program, and that there are approximately eight municipalities in Northwest Bergen County participating in street repaving projects. The Village’s share of the cost of this project is $418,234 for paving that will be done in 2013. This is a part of the total paving effort, and Dr. Gabbert said that the other part would be presented to the Councilmembers at a later date as part of a capital program for 2013. This part is strictly milling and paving, and these streets do not require curb work, drainage work, or major subsurface work.
Mayor Aronsohn asked about the priorities of the streets to be done, saying that he and Dr. Gabbert had discussed Maxwell Place and Monte Vista Avenue. He wondered if there is an actual list of streets to be resurfaced, in order of priority. Dr. Gabbert responded that the list is not broken down at the current time, but it is known that the three hottest streets are Kemah Road, Maxwell Place, and Wastena Terrace. He added that this past winter caused great deterioration in the roads, and the priorities had to be adjusted. However, Dr. Gabbert said he would furnish Mayor Aronsohn with a list of the top 10 streets on the list. The payment of this $418,000 will remove some of the roads from the list. The request for the capital funding will be made later on, and then the rest of the high-priority roads can be done, with alternate roads also able to be proposed, depending on how favorable the prices are once the bids have been received. Mayor Aronsohn asked what the timing is for the roads under this project versus the timing of the roads that would be done under the capital project. Dr. Gabbert answered that this is supposed to be awarded in the first week of June, and the contractor will begin work in July. Therefore, the work will probably be done from July through August, and Dr. Gabbert does not know where Ridgewood falls in the list of priorities. That information will probably not be available until the beginning of July. Dr. Gabbert hopes that the capital budget can be presented to the Councilmembers by the first Village Council meeting in June, and it can be finalized by the last meeting in June, with introduction of the ordinance in July and approval in August. Therefore, the work could be done by October. Councilman Riche asked how this agreement could be approved without a capital budget in place. Dr. Gabbert explained that a budget was in place, because this project is funded out of 2012 capital.
Councilwoman Walsh asked a question regarding one of the streets mentioned by Mayor Aronsohn. She said that she is aware that there has been a lot of construction done to homes in that area, and she wondered if the Village has any recourse for the large trucks that have come in and out of that street, which has caused damage to the roads. Dr. Gabbert said that contractors are required to clean up streets when they cause damage, and they are required to bring a street back to its former condition if it is torn up, but such repairs do not usually last.
4.) 2013 Temporary Capital Budget Resolution and Capital Ordinance – Ridgewood Train Station
Dr. Gabbert said that this was an agreement between the Village and New Jersey Transit (NJT). The Village was not pleased with the work done by NJT in relation to the major renovations at the train station, and a list was prepared for NJT to make the necessary changes. A settlement of $185,000 was negotiated, and NJT requires that those funds are used in or around the train station. Dr. Gabbert said that it was thought that this money could be tied to other capital that had been approved for the project, but it seems that the best way to get this money flowing is to introduce a capital ordinance for the $185,000. This is a simple grant to the Village of $185,000, with no additional cost to or matching funds from the Village, and this is the mechanism which will allow the work to be charged against that ordinance.
1.) Resolution for One Year Lease Renewal for 1057 Hillcrest Road Property
Dr. Gabbert explained that this lease was approved by the Village Council last year, and the tenant would like to stay for second year, so approval is being sought for the one-year extension of the current lease agreement. The tenant has been very cooperative with the Village while structural work, gutter work, and roof work are being done.
Councilman Riche asked about the insurance requirements of the lease. He wondered if the tenant is required to have any kind of homeowner’s or tenant’s insurance or any type of liability insurance. Mr. Rogers said that he would have to check the lease to be sure, but he believes there is some type of insurance requirement related to the property, and that a security deposit has been taken against any damage caused by the tenant. He said that he could get that information for Councilman Riche. Councilman Riche said he is concerned that, with all of the activity going on at the property, the Village should not be held liable for anything that might occur. He said that he only wants to know that Mr. Rogers is comfortable with the insurance requirements.
Councilman Pucciarelli asked if this is the property that is located in Habernickel Park, which Dr. Gabbert confirmed. Councilman Pucciarelli then said that he noticed that the roof is in disrepair, and asked if that is the Village’s responsibility or is that something that the tenant would have to repair. Dr. Gabbert said that it is the Village’s responsibility, and that the roof is actually the better part of the structure, because supporting beams have been removed and repaired. Councilman Pucciarelli asked if the stable on the Habernickel Park property is part of the lease, which Dr. Gabbert said is not the case.
1.) PSE&G Street Lighting Upgrade Proposal
Dr. Gabbert said that the Councilmembers had been discussing some issues with the streetlights in recent meetings, and PSE&G made an offer approximately a year ago for an upgrade to the streetlights, which would have cost approximately $40,000-$45,000. The Councilmembers were not in favor of the upgrade at that time, and PSE&G revised the proposal, which included wording that they will no longer be supporting the type of lights that are currently in the Village. The new proposal requires the Village to pay an additional $9,084 per year, and it would allow the Village to upgrade approximately 839 lights in the Village. Dr. Gabbert recommends proceeding with this program. Mayor Aronsohn and Councilman Riche said that they were confused by the language in the information packet, because according to that information, it would cost approximately $24,000 per year. Councilman Riche pointed out that the paragraph notes that there are 839 incandescent streetlight fixtures, and the cost of each one will increase by $2.46 per month, which totals $24,767. Dr. Gabbert said he would check the figures again, but he based his figures on the price of $9.81 per light, multiplied by 839 lights, which he said totals $10,717. Councilman Riche said that his objection is based on the fact that he is not sure if PSE&G has approval from the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to force the Village to accept this agreement, as well as the fact that PSE&G will realize significant energy savings by changing to the new lights, yet they are proposing increasing the charge to the Village. He believes that the Village needs to stand up to them on this issue, as they did on the issue of solar panels. In addition, Councilman Riche said that everyone seems to prefer the incandescent lights, because most people do not want the lights to be too bright in the residential neighborhoods.
Mayor Aronsohn noted that, according to the letter, PSE&G is saying that the incandescent light bulbs will be outlawed as of January 2014. He was under the impression that one deadline had already passed, and that the law had changed. Dr. Gabbert said he is not sure exactly what the law states, but that production of the lights has ceased. Mayor Aronsohn said that his question is if it is even possible to do as Councilman Riche has suggested, which is to continue using the incandescent lights. Councilman Pucciarelli asked if this is part of the PSE&G monopoly, or is the Village free to go elsewhere for maintenance of the lights. Dr. Gabbert said that the lights are structures belonging to PSE&G, so that the Village cannot shop around. He said that he would get more information, as well as clarification on the law regarding the lights, and double check the numbers.
Councilman Pucciarelli asked what the question for the Village would be, and Dr. Gabbert answered that it would basically be whether to go with white lights or amber lights. The amber lights were tried in the past, and no one seemed to like them. He also noted that the new white lights will be much brighter than the current ones, because they are very bright lights. Councilman Pucciarelli asked if the price is out of the control of the Village, and Dr. Gabbert said that rejecting the previous proposal has led to the current one.
Councilman Riche asked if there is an option to refuse all lights from PSE&G. Dr. Gabbert said that could be done, but the problem would be having streetlights with bulbs that would stop working. Councilman Riche asked if a counter proposal could be made in which the Village would offer to have its own Signal Department maintain the incandescent bulbs. Dr. Gabbert said he would present that to PSE&G.
2.) Continued Discussion of Traffic Ordinance Section 265-17 – Clinton Avenue
Mayor Aronsohn noted that a resident had spoken at the previous Village Council meeting, saying that residents of Clinton Avenue should have complete access to their homes, including visitors to their homes; people working in their homes; and people delivering items to their homes. Therefore, he believes that placing signs saying “No Through Traffic” would be a better way to handle the situation.
Councilwoman Walsh said that this was discussed at a recent Citizens Safety Advisory Committee (CSAC) meeting, and many concerns were addressed. One specific concern continues to be pedestrian safety, and that is not only pertinent to the area around Ridge School, but also to areas in and around the Central Business District (CBD). The Ridge School area is likewise not limited to Clinton Avenue, but streets such as South Murray Avenue are now being affected by the redirection of traffic in the school area. The traffic study provided by the CSAC showed that 4,800 cars per week are going down South Murray Avenue. Information was solicited from people at Ridge School, who came up with some new figures, many of which were based on asking the children how they got to school. The original figures had shown that out of 518 children at the school, approximately 50 of them were walking to school. After asking the children how they got school, out of the 518 children at the school, 70 of them said they walk to school. This indicates that the area around Ridge School is a driving community. The CSAC is trying to figure out solutions to what will be happening on the streets if it is a driving community, including debating the possibility of whether Clinton Avenue should remain closed to traffic during school hours. If there are only 70 children who walk to school in that area, the question is whether Clinton Avenue should be open so that volume can be decreased on South Murray Avenue. It is an on-going discussion.
Councilwoman Walsh said that the CSAC went back to the Board of Education for information, because the parents of students at Ridge School said that they believe there should be more parking provided by the Board of Education on site. The Board of Education said they are planning on adding 15 parking spaces, but the parents believe the situation could be rectified by adding even more parking spaces. Therefore, the issue will be going back to the Board of Education and the Ridge School community for further discussion.
When the topic of Clinton Avenue arose at the CSAC meeting, Councilwoman Walsh said that there was agreement that the residents of that street should be allowed to come and go freely, and that they know their street. However, because there are children walking in the middle of the street, it would be an added risk for the children during those hours to have contractors or other individuals entering that street. Clinton Avenue is closed so that the children can walk to and from school freely, and there are no sidewalks on that street for them to use. The CSAC agreed that they would like the street to be accessible to the residents living on it, but they are concerned about opening it up to all traffic, including unverifiable sources, such as contractors, delivery trucks, and the like. Mayor Aronsohn noted that past practice has been that there was no through traffic allowed on that street. Residents have been able to access their homes; visitors have been allowed to visit those homes; and contractors and delivery trucks have been allowed access. Mayor Aronsohn wondered what happened to effect such a change. Councilwoman Walsh said she believes that people realized what the past practice had been, but that the ordinance says something different. Mayor Aronsohn asked if there has been an accident or a problem on that street. Councilwoman Walsh said she did not have that information. Mayor Aronsohn said that common sense would seem to dictate that these people should have complete access to their homes, and visitors and workers should also have access. He wondered why this could not move forward so that the ordinance would reflect the past practice. Councilwoman Walsh said she thinks the difference is that the other streets are not closed off specifically so that children can walk on those streets freely. Mayor Aronsohn asked if there is any other street in the Village to which access is denied during specific hours, and Councilwoman Walsh that she could not think of any other streets that are closed off specifically to allow children to walk on them. Mayor Aronsohn said it seems to him that there was a mistake written into an ordinance which needs to be rectified, and then address all the other ancillary traffic issues. Councilman Walsh said she believes the bigger problem would be the presence of any traffic on Clinton Avenue, because it is closed for children. She suggested that perhaps the street should be closed off for an hour and a half in the morning as well as in the afternoon, when the children are walking to and from school, and access could be allowed in between those times for those having business on that street.
Councilman Riche pointed out that there are many streets in the Village that do not have sidewalks. He proposed educating the parents and the children to stop walking down the middle of the street, and to stop denying the property owners the rights to their properties. Children walk to school every day on many streets in Ridgewood without sidewalks, so this will require some re-education. Councilwoman Walsh said she believes that goes back to the argument of why Clinton Avenue is closed. It should remain as a street with no through traffic allowed, so that residents, visitors, and workers have access to the homes on that street. Councilman Riche cannot understand why people are denied the rights to their property on one street in the Village.
Councilman Pucciarelli said he believes there are competing interests, but they have co-existed without problems in the past. He emphasized that the status quo should be preserved, which is that there is no through traffic allowed on Clinton Avenue, but residents, visitors, and workers who have business on that street have access to the homes there. He thinks that the wording of the ordinance should meet the actual practice on that street.
Councilman Riche also pointed out another conflicting ordinance, which states that if any outside contractor will be operating power tools, that must be done prior to 1:00 P.M. on Saturday. If access is denied on Clinton Avenue, that means that those residents who want to have anyone work on their houses with power tools must get that worked on in the space of several hours on a Saturday morning, which is extremely restrictive.
Councilwoman Walsh said that she believes it all goes back to the reasoning behind closing the street in the first place, and it was her understanding that it was done to allow children to walk to and from school. However, the population no longer seems to be walking, so she does not understand why the street is still closed.
5. REVIEW OF MAY 8, 2013 AGENDA
Ms. Mailander announced that the Public Meeting would include the following Proclamations: Declare “National Cancer Survivors Day” and “Emergency Medical Services Week”. Also scheduled is the swearing-in of Police Sergeant John Chuck. The 2013 Budget Resolution will be introduced, and the hearing date will be set for June 12, 2013.
Ordinances to be introduced include: Amend Chapter 265 – Vehicles and Traffic – Clinton Avenue; Capital Ordinance – Ridgewood Train Station.
The Public Hearings on ordinances include: Amend Chapter 145 – Fees – Police Services Fees; Non-Union Salary Ordinance; Management Salary Ordinance; Amend Chapter 269 – Ridgewood Water Restrictions; Amend Chapter 265 – Vehicles and Traffic – No Left Turn – Ridge School/West Ridgewood Avenue; Amend Chapter 112 – Bicycles – Parking and Securing of Bicycles within the Public Right-of-Way; Amend Chapter 244 – Smoking – Smoke-Free Zones.
The Continued Public Hearing for an ordinance is: Amend Chapter 190 – Land Use and Development – Regulations for Houses of Worship, Schools, and Public Utilities.
Resolutions include: Title 59 Approval – School Bus Transportation Services – 2013 Summer Day Camp; Award Contract – School Bus Transportation Services – 2013 Summer Day Camp; Award Contract under Northwest Bergen Cooperative Pricing Program – Street Resurfacing; Award Professional Services Contract – Risk Management Services; Approve Eagle Scout Project; Declare Property Surplus – Water Meters; Authorize Mailing of Third-Quarter Estimated Tax Bills; Authorize Lease of 1057 Hillcrest Road; Award Professional Services Contract – Additional Work Performed for Ridgewood Water Utility; Approve Temporary Capital Budget – Various Improvements – Ridgewood Train Station.
Councilman Pucciarelli asked if it would be possible to address the RFPs for The Gap property on Ridgewood Avenue that is a proposed location for leased space to raise money to build at least one parking garage in the Village. Dr. Gabbert responded that the Councilmembers had approved a contract for Mr. Caleu to write the RFP, which was sent to him on April 19th and has not yet been sent back to the Village. Therefore, Dr. Gabbert does not believe it will be ready to be presented at the meeting next week.
6. MANAGER’S REPORT
Dr. Gabbert said that there was a question raised at the previous meeting about the summer day camp, specifically concerning background checks on employees of the bus company that provides transportation. The First Student Bus Company has affirmed that they use the FBI and local government agencies for background checks on their personnel, and such checks are performed each time someone is hired or renews a license.
Next, Dr. Gabbert mentioned the free rabies clinic being sponsored by the Health Department, which will be held on Wednesday, May 15th, from 6:00 P.M.-7:00 P.M., at the recycling center. In addition, the Responsible Pet Ownership Committee is sponsoring free microchips to the first 75 dog owners who bring their dogs to the free rabies clinic.
The Recreation Department announced that Graydon Pool will open on June 1st, and memberships are currently being accepted. Day camp starts on July 2nd, and that program information is available on the Village website.
7. COUNCIL REPORTS
Ridgewood Environmental Advisory Committee (REAC) – Councilwoman Walsh said that she, Councilwoman Hauck, and Mayor Aronsohn, along with members of REAC, scooped ice cream at Maggie Moo’s last night to raise money for REAC, and to purchase trees for the Village. REAC will be meeting to discuss the final aspects of the Shade Tree Policy.
Bergen League of Municipalities – Councilwoman Walsh said that the Bergen League of Municipalities will be meeting in another week.
Citizens Safety Advisory Committee – Councilwoman Walsh said it seems like more and more people are attending the Citizens Safety Advisory Committee meetings, which is a good thing. However, each time a new group comes in, it adds another element to the discussion. There is an on-going discussion about the Ridge School area, as well as a discussion about North Walnut Street, with dialogue about what residents can do and what the Engineering Department can do, specifically regarding the street lights. PSE&G has made a pledge to the Village regarding how quickly lights will be fixed after outages are reported, so the question now is who will verify when the lights are fixed.
Many residents have mentioned the pylons that have usually been placed by very busy crosswalks, and it was suggested that the Village should invest in some more of these pylons to be placed at additional crosswalks around the Village. They seem to effectively slow down traffic and keep it moving in smooth patterns.
Councilwoman Walsh noted that May is “Walk to School” month, so it is hoped that more people will be walking through the Village. Residents are also encouraged to get out and walk for exercise, which cuts down on traffic in the Village.
Planning Board – Councilman Pucciarelli said that there is nothing going on at the Planning Board at the moment, except for the hearings about the Valley Hospital. He is looking forward to attending more Planning Board meetings in the near future, since he has recused himself from the Valley Hospital hearings
Mayor Aronsohn said that the Planning Board has met the past two nights, and both meetings dealt with the Valley Hospital proposal. The focus of the first meeting was the number of beds, which is an important issue, and a very thorough discussion was held about how many hospital beds are needed in Bergen County. The second meeting focused on traffic, with a traffic consultant present at the meeting to participate in extensive conversation about some of the traffic changes as well as ways to mitigate the traffic problems around the hospital. The Court recommended that the Valley Hospital hearings be concluded by the end of June. Last night it was mentioned that they might not make that deadline.
Mayor Aronsohn also mentioned that on Sunday, May 5th, there is to be a Spring Festival Street Fair on East Ridgewood Avenue, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
8. COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC
Mayor Aronsohn stated that they would again have comments from the public and asked anyone wishing to address the Village Council to come forward.
Leonard Eisen, 762 Upper Boulevard, asked a question about an item to be discussed during the Closed Session. The item is about PSE&G property, and a consent to transfer, and he wondered what this was about. Dr. Gabbert explained that it concerns the property that is just west of the Ridgewood High School field, and the back tax situation on that property. Mr. Eisen asked who owes the taxes. Dr. Gabbert responded that the property owner owes the taxes, which is an LLC. Mr. Eisen thought the owner was PSE&G, and Dr. Gabbert explained that they have the right-of-way, but they are not the owners. Mr. Rogers confirmed that PSE&G has a right-of-way, and they also have an interest in the use of that property. Mr. Eisen asked what that means, and is a divided responsibility involved. Mr. Rogers said that access is divided between PSE&G and the owner of record. Mr. Eisen asked what is being settled in this situation. Mr. Rogers said that because of the nature of the parties, he must recuse himself, but it is a discussion about the back taxes that are owed.
Roger Wiegand, 216 South Irving Street, asked if there any plans for Van Dien Street to be paved from Grove Street to Glen Avenue. Dr. Gabbert said he would have to consult the list and get back to Mr. Wiegand. Mr. Wiegand said that the road is in pretty bad shape. Dr. Gabbert said that several months ago, the Department of Transportation had required the Village to break the grant application up into two parts, north and south, and Mayor Aronsohn received notice that the Village will be receiving $150,000 for one of those two parts. The funds are not expected to be received before the end of the year.
Next, Mr. Wiegand said that he plans to submit a list of streetlights that have not been working for approximately 10 years to PSE&G to see what they will do about them. Mayor Aronsohn asked if Mr. Wiegand would give a copy of that list to the Councilmembers. Mr. Wiegand said that he usually submits this list to the Engineering Department.
Ron Forenza, 681 Ellington Road, said that he presumes that due to the fact the back taxes are owed on the PSE&G property, Dr. Gabbert will explore the option of taking back the property. If the property is taken back, Mr. Forenza thinks it would solve the problem of the parking issue on Heermance Place. This would mean that the current parking situation could stay as it is, and the Board of Education could purchase the PSE&G property to be used as faculty and staff parking. Dr. Gabbert pointed out that the item is on the agenda for a Closed Session meeting, and the appropriate thing to do is for him to first discuss it with the Village Council in Closed Session, and then move forward with their decision.
Brian Fowler, 57 Clinton Avenue, said that he has lived at that address for 15 years, and that he worked on the west side of Ridgewood for 10 years prior to that, with many business acquaintances and friends who lived on Clinton Avenue. He agreed with Mayor Aronsohn’s statement that the perception of the residents of that street has always been that they, their friends and acquaintances, and business invitees were permitted on Clinton Avenue during the day when the street was closed. Therefore, by adopting the proposed amendment to the ordinance, it would codify and approve the status quo. Mr. Fowler said that in all of the years that he has lived on Clinton Avenue and known people on Clinton Avenue, he has never heard of any child being injured by a car, nor has he heard of any accident occurring on that street. The irony, according to Mr. Fowler, is that if a new ordinance is adopted, it will create a new status quo, one in which people would be violating the law just by going to their own homes during the specified hours. Mr. Fowler noted that West Ridgewood Avenue has no parking, and Godwin Avenue has no parking. There are elderly people living on Clinton Avenue, as well as people with babies and toddlers, so that a new ordinance would actually be creating an unsafe situation by forcing people to park blocks away just to get to their own homes during the day. Moreover, they would be forced to cross Godwin Avenue, which is difficult when there are no crossing guards present. Mr. Fowler pointed out that the residents of Clinton Avenue are very aware that during the day, the street is used by children traveling to and from school, and he has witnessed the fact that any resident who sees children coming down the street will pull over and wait for the children to pass.
There were no other comments from the public at this time, and Mayor Aronsohn closed the time for public comments.
9. RESOLUTION TO GO INTO CLOSED SESSION
The following resolution, numbered 13-90, to go into Closed Session, was read in full by the Village Clerk, as follows:
There being no further business to come before the Village Council, on a motion by Councilman Riche, seconded by Councilwoman Walsh, and carried unanimously by voice vote, the meeting was adjourned at 9:06 P.M.
Paul S. Aronsohn
Heather A. Mailander