provided at the April 15 Township Committee Regular Meeting
There were two power outages this past week. On April 10th, 1,551 residents in Washington Township, Califon and Chester were without power for over 2 hours due to a lightning strike. A repeater on Furnace Road was manually reset by JCP&L and power restored. On April 13th, 503 customers of the Chester substation were without power for 102 minutes due to a tree that came down on power lines.
Washington Township will be providing the services of its CFO and Tax Collector to Califon beginning May 1. The shared service will generate $30,000 in revenue. The total shared service revenue in this year’s budget is $500,000.
provided at the March 18 Township Committee Regular Meeting
A town hall meeting with Congressman Leonard Lance will be held in the Washington Township Municipal Building meeting room on Monday, May 25 from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m.
I will be meeting with the freeholders this Wednesday to discuss local concerns including: Schooley's Mountain Road safety issues (Long Valley Bypass), the condition of Schooley's Mountain Road (need of repaving), parking for Columbia Trail (fence and markings of crosswalk), construction of a shoulder on Bartley Road for walking(between Palmer Park and H.S.), trees/debris on the shoulders of County Roads that has not been removed, reopening of Schooley's Mountain Park for swimming, skating and boating, communication issues (County dispatch), potential for continuous "green arrow turn signal" at the intersection in the center of town, and weight limitations on Schooley's Mountain Road.
On Thursday, I will be meeting with JCP&L Area Manager Stan Prater to discuss staging areas for their work crews during emergencies, and additional information for circuit maps. He will be presenting a $1,000 donation form JCP&L for the township's 275th anniversary celebrations.
We have reached an agreement in principle with Califon Borough to provide them Chief Financial Officer and Tax Collector services.
provided at the February 18 Township Committee Regular Meeting
I have had three meetings with JCP&L since Superstorm Sandy, the latest last Thursday. I have also met with the Board of Public Utilities. The Office of Emergency Management has also met three times. We have met with neighboring communities to discuss regional shelters. We have also met with residents as well as emergency responders to discuss communication improvements.
Intense tree trimming by JCP&L contractors is continuing. Trimming by helicopter along high tension wires from the Hastings area to that of the West Morris Regional High School was scheduled to begin on the 18th and continue through April 1. Discussions with JCP&L on improving communications are ongoing. Circuit grid maps have been provided to the Township.
Letters were sent to electricians and plumbers asking them if they had an interest in being placed on a list to be used in the event of emergencies. Letters were also sent to area gyms and health clubs asking them to open their shower facilities during emergencies. Another round of CERT (civilian Emergency Response Team) training will begin in March. Shelter management with other municipalities is also being discussed.
The cell tower at 1 East Springtown Road is now operational and has a 210 galloon diesel tank for a backup generation of power. Equipment at the tower on West Springtown Road near Zellars Road will be updated and a 210 gallon diesel tank has also been installed.
Radios have been installed in vehicles to improve communications between DPW and Police. Sandwich style boards, for emergency updates when electronic communications are outare in the process of being constructed. These boards will be placed at key locations throughout the Township in event of electronic communication failure. A critical location list provided to JCP&L. A letter supporting legislative remedies has been sent to our representatives in Trenton.
The township is applying for generators at the municipal building and senior center. We are also working with the local Board of Education and MUA to make Old Farmer’s Road School a shelter.
JCP&L has been notified of damaged poles and will be returning to repair spliced lines.
In other news, the new fire truck and ambulance have been delivered and are being painted and equipped. We’ve been meeting with the local board of education about a land swap which will enable them to implement solar power at the middle school. A budget meeting will be held Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Senior Center. To get under the 2% levy cap, $160,000 will have to be cut form the budget requests. All budget meetings are open to the public and we encourage all residents to attend.
provided at Jan. 21 Township Committee Meeting
Recently, I have met with members of the Board of Public Utilities and have had a couple of meetings with JCP&L management. I will be meeting next week with their Area Director to express some additional concerns. So far, they have responded to our suggestions and requests for maps and information. However, this process will have to be continous and extend over a period of time.
We will begin holding budget meeting shortly. Over the last four years the municipal budget has decreased by over $900,000 but there has been a greater decrease in revenues.
Growth is at a near stand-still with only 11 Certificates of Occupancy and 1 building permit for new homes issued in 2012.
There will be a mayors' meeting in Chester Borough on Jan. 31. The mayors of the Chesters and Mendhams and I will discuss shared services and emergency management coordination. We will be meeting every two months and the meetings will be open to the public.
The township is working with the DEP, EPA, MUA and the K-8 District on obtaining a generator so Old Farmers School can serve as a shelter.
There will be a Flu Clinic Saturday, January 26 from 9 am to noon. Vaccines will be available for 5 and older for $20; there is no charge under Medicare Part D.
joint message from West Morris Regional School District Mayors
To: Residents of the West Morris Regional District
Due to Super Storm Sandy, we continue to deal with the massive impact this natural disaster has had on our towns. As a result, our next Mayors’ Advisory Meeting will be held in January.
Our goal in June of 2011 was to work together to inform and engage our residents in a thoughtful and honest conversation regarding the configuration, funding and quality of our Regional High School. We met with the Department of Education and apprised them of our situation, and in February of 2012, the DOE journeyed to our district to give us an objective view of our schools. Those of you who attended the meeting or saw the presentation on any of the town or school websites, know that the DOE believes we have an excellent school with a diverse curriculum that offers not only scholastic excellence, but the sports, arts, activities and support to enrich our children and prepare them for the future.
The Mayors worked diligently to reach consensus on a study but, due to strong positions taken by all involved, all five towns unfortunately could not arrive at a consensus. We all agree that a comprehensive study addressing all possibilities and funding combinations could have been explored. This opinion was also supported by the County and by educational law specialists. Funds were budgeted by the communities to pay for a study, but now the monies set aside by each municipality in 2012 for the study will not be re-budgeted for 2013. We will continue to pursue the legislative solution regarding regional school funding that would provide local flexibility to adjust funding scenarios in the future.
This issue has created animosity between our towns that is neither productive nor is it reflective of our communities as a whole. It is time for all us to move on and proactively work together on issues we can accomplish as a collective community that will benefit all of us.
The five mayors agree our meetings have provided the opportunity for some much needed dialogue between our towns and have opened doors for us to work together on issues beyond education. For this reason, we will focus our January meeting on the lessons learned during the Sandy Storm including ways to address JCPL’s performance and explore any shared services that could help us during such critical times.
We encourage all of our residents to attend this meeting and participate in our efforts to make our entire community a wonderful place to work and live. We want to extend a special thanks to the Boards of Education representatives who have donated their time and energies to work with us these last several months.
We look forward to seeing you on January 31, 2013 at 7:30PM the Chester Borough town hall.
MAYORS 2013 MESSAGE provided at the Jan. 1, 2013 Township Committee Reorganization Meeting
First, I would like to thank the Township Committee for the confidence you have placed in me to be Mayor in 2013. As Mayor, I will continue to accept the praises as well as the complaints from our constituents. However, I want to remind the public that all five Committee members have an equal vote and share equal responsibility in making all municipal decisions. We volunteer for the love of the community.
2012 proved to be another challenging year. During the budget process, it was necessary for this Committee to make difficult, but necessary decisions to keep our municipal budget under the 2% mandated cap. I am proud to say that the increase was a mere 1.39%. This also included all debt and pension payments which could be excluded. I do want to remind the public that only 15% of the taxes you pay go to the municipal government. Despite an extremely tight budget process, several improvements were made throughout this past year. In 2012, we paved approximately 5 miles of roads, purchased a new ambulance (to be delivered in 2013), purchased a new fire truck (to be delivered in 2013), purchased additional radio communications equipment to comply with the mandated January 2013 narrow banding requirement, purchased two police cars, will soon close on seven acres (open space fund) to provide for the connection of two large preserved parcels, expanded our conservation easement monitoring program, and purchased a new senior bus. In addition, the Township Committee also budgeted for a "fire review study" to analyze the three volunteer fire departments as to their equipment, training, and personnel. The study should be completed this month. We also worked jointly with the K-8 BOE as to the construction of a bus maintenance facility to be located at the DPW location on Rock Road. Construction should be completed by June of 2013. This facility is projected to save the taxpayers approximately $125,000 per year in maintenance costs that are currently being outsourced. This savings along with a decrease in our K-8 student population hopefully will show a decrease in our local school budget.
This budget year (2013) will prove, once again, to be challenging. The effects of the Highlands Act, the stagnated economy and recent loss of revenue due to commercial tax appeals will once again require some sacrifices. Increased health insurance costs and pension payments will also be a detriment to the 2013 budget. We have, once again, asked all the municipal departments to submit flat budgets for 2013. The municipal budget has decreased by over $900,000 over past four years. However, revenues have decreased at a much greater pace. I can assure you that this Committee will do everything possible to keep the municipal budget flat or at a minimal increase in 2013. I also want to invite all of our residents to attend our budget meetings as well as the BOE budget meetings. The meetings are open to the public, very informal, and your concerns are valued.
Washington Township was recently selected, by New Jersey, to be a model community for shared services. Currently our shared services arrangements bring in approximately $500,000 annually in revenue to the municipality. We will continue to work smarter and more efficiently with the surrounding communities to consolidate operations to save our residents money. A meeting has already been scheduled for this month. There will be some major personnel changes in 2013. Administrator Debbie Burd and Police Chief Michael Bailey have announced their intentions to retire this year. Contemplating these retirements, this Township Committee took positive actions in 2012 to provide for continuous and efficient operations. We will be very diligent in selecting replacement personnel for these positions. Some goals for 2013 will be for continuous paving of roadways in the Township, purchase of generators for the municipal building and other municipal facilities, purchase of digital sign boards, upgrade of communication systems, create public access and trails to our municipal open space/recreation parcels, complete the downtown commercial sidewalks, and look into the possible relocation of the Long Valley Fire Department. The year of 2013 also marks the 275th anniversary of Washington Township. Monthly events have been scheduled throughout the year. In addition, plans are currently being worked on for a festival, parade, and fireworks display in September.
Hurricane Sandy reminded us how humble we are to nature's forces. The continued interruption of power and prolonged power outages will not be tolerated. I will be giving testimony at a Board of Public Utilities meeting tomorrow. I will also be meeting with JCP&L representatives on January 10th to discuss power issues and how these may be mitigated in the future. I have received valuable input from the public, DPW, police, emergency services, and our OEM and will relate these ideas to get positive results. We will also concentrate heavily on communication issues as well as expanding our CERT team (civilian emergency response team).
I am proud of how our community came together during the power outages that followed Hurricane Sandy. Our OEM, DPW, Police, Fire Companies, and First Aid Squad performed brilliantly as did our CERT team and volunteers. But most of all, I am most proud of our residents. They opened their homes to neighbors, family, and complete strangers in a time of need. Food was offered as well as sanitary facilities and showers. Volunteers stepped up, churches opened their doors, neighbors removed downed trees from homes and to allow for access, meals were served by community groups and generators were shared with others. The community came together and we all survived. Despite all the preparation, we must be more prepared in the future. We must all take more personal responsibility. Many residents also became aware of the local radio station (WRNJ) which provided updated communications over the 14 days of power outages. It is not a matter of will we have prolonged outages in the future, but rather when. My commitment is that this Township Committee will take the necessary positive steps for better communication and preparedness in the future.
I want to thank all the volunteers that dedicate their personal time for the benefit of the community. These individuals are not the complainers, but rather the folks that leave their own families to help others in the time of need. On behalf of the elected officials of Washington Township I want to wish all the residents of Washington Township a healthy, happy and prosperous 2013.
provided at the Dec. 17, 2012 Township Committee Regular Meeting
Several post-Sandy evaluation meetings have now been held. A meeting was held last Tuesday on improving the well-check program last week with the Health, Senior and Police departments. On Wednesday I hosted a public meeting on improving emergency communications. There will be a BPU meeting in Morristown on January 3. A meeting is also schedule with the mayors of the Chesters and Mendhams to discuss emergency management cooperation on the 10th. I've also scheudle a meeting with Mark Jones a Vice-President at JCP&L been completed. The new cell tower behind the police station is almost completed. The 4G and 500 gallon diesel storage tank for the tower's generator should help ensure cellular communications during future emergencies. The township is working with the EPA and DEP as well as the school district to get a generator at Old Farmer's School so it can be used as a shelter or warming center in the future.
In other news, Washington Township has been chosen as a model municipality for its shared service agreements. The necessary paperwork for the bus maintenance facility has been completed and the facility should be ready for the 2013-14 school year. Residents are encourage to sponsor awreath through ICOWTA, donations will benefit the Interfaith Food Pantry at Long Valley Presbyterian.
Measures have been taken by the Police Department and Board of Education to heighten security. Though all the details cannot be shared, there will be a police presence and increased patrols at the local schools.
provided at the Nov. 19, 2012 Township Committee Regular Meeting
Zion Lutheran church will be holding a non-denominational service Wednesday night. They will hold their annual tree lighting Dec. 2.
There will be a post-Sandy debriefing with the Office of Emergency Management, CERT, Police, DPW and other municipal departments.
The past three weeks have been a real challenge to residents of the North East, New Jersey, and Washington Township. It is humbling that despite all the proactive measures that were taken; the wrath of Mother Nature still has her way. This is the third storm that has struck Washington Township in the past four years. All have been devastating, but Super Storm Sandy was, by far, the most devastating and powerful. My statement on Patch on October 27th stated that this Hurricane may be catastrophic.
The hurricane was predicted well in advance. Residents were cautioned to prepare for a long lasting devastating event. In order to avoid some issues with last year’s October storm, I communicated with JCP&L requesting that out of state crews be staged in the area and lodging be secured. This was acknowledged by JCP&L area manager, Stan Prater. I was advised that it had been taken care of. Nixle messages were sent to Township residents as well as communication on Patch and the Township web-site. I called for an OEM meeting on Friday, October 26th. The meeting was attended by our OEM team, CERT (civilian emergency response team), police, fire, first aid, DPW, Health Dept., administration as well as several of the elected Township officials. This was the first of numerous meeting that took place over the next couple of weeks. Jimmy Smith, Bruce Clark and others continued in preparation which was to be the worst storm to ever hit NJ. Morris County OEM became heavily involved and requests were made for digital message boards, generators, water supplies, sleeping cots, ice, as well as priority contact numbers. Residents were again cautioned as to the potential severity through our communication channels.
The full impact of the storm hit Monday. Scott Frech, DPW Superintendent, had half his crew stays the evening for tree removal and other potential issues. I received a call that evening at 11:45 from Scott stating that he had to take his crews off the road as trees were coming down all over and this was life threatening to the workers. One actually hit a DPW truck. The workers were to sleep at the Senior Center; however like 96% of our residents the Senior Center also lost power and heat. Some slept in their cars, others at police headquarters, DPW facilities, and the First Aid Squad Building. Police Headquarters was on generation power, no land lines for communication, no internet and cell phones were “dead” due to generation failures at cellular towers.
I arrived at OEM/Police Headquarters at 7:15 AM to find several police officers, Jimmy Smith and Bruce Clark. Immediate decisions had to be made that could potentially affect every resident in the Township. Virtually every street in the Township was impassable. The second half of the DPW crew reported for work. Several had to be picked up as trees blocked their passage. We were in a complete state of emergency. The DPW crews, as well as our three fire departments and numerous residents all came together and began to clear our streets and driveways. We had to have an open access to every resident that may need emergency assistance. At the end of the day, every resident could be reached, if necessary, by emergency vehicles.
I can’t give enough gratitude to all those who pitched in as a community helping neighbors, friends, and unknown acquaintances. The dilemma was that we couldn’t remove trees that had “live wires”. High priority call numbers were used to contact JCP&L officials. It took over 36 hours to receive a response! I participated in a conference call with the Governor’s Office as did other mayors, pleading our case for assistance. Unable to contact the radio station, I drove to Hackettstown and recorded my first of over 25 messages to the residents of Washington Township. That is in addition to four live interviews.
The CERT team reported for duty. Another OEM meeting was called. Warming shelters were set up at Fairmount Fire Stations as well as Schooleys Mountain Fire Dept. A gentleman by the name of Elmer Dey, a longtime resident attended. He was a licensed Red Cross Shelter Manager. Elmer worked endlessly throughout the event at both fire houses. CERT members worked at the shelters as did other resident volunteers. Arrangements were made with Morris County OEM for additional water and ice supplies additional cots and the request for generators. Internet was not available and the Township was on generators. Charlie Davidson and I spent four hours driving around town accessing damages and answering residents question in preparation of FEMA. FEMA arrived the next morning as arranged and Neil Ruggiero (Construction Official) toured the Township for an official declaration. The OEM hotline number rang continually. It was manned for days by volunteers. These were individuals that left their homes, took personal time from their jobs to handle requests of their neighbors in town. I made contact several times a day with Senator Bucco, Assemblyman Bucco, Congressman Frelinghuysen, and Congressman Lance. These elected individuals worked extremely hard for their constituents. I also reached out to Senator Menendez office. They relayed information, problems, street closures, immediate needs, etc. directly to JCP&L. My messages and concerns to JCP&L were unanswered or proved to be a public relations campaign. Most of the provided information was false. Their promises were simply their hopes.
I felt it necessary to put pressure on JCP&L. I did over 25 segments with WRNJ Radio (a real savior to our residents); I was on National Public Radio, NJ 101.5 radio, municipal handouts, digital signboards, The Star Ledger, Daily Record, as well as an interview with Associated Press. I received calls from residents in Virginia and Ohio wanting to know what they could do to help. Finally, we started getting attention as to our needs. Numerous daily conference calls continued, hourly calls to our legislators as well as radio segments and updates on Nexle, Tweet, Township web-site, Observer Tribune and Patch.
The Senior VP of External Affairs from First Energy as well as the Regional Manager called me and said they didn’t like what I was saying. I told them I only began and was more disappointed by the minute. I told them that all I need from them was the truth. People can handle the truth but we can’t let our residents live in hope and despair. Tell me what really is happening.
Arrangements were made to have our police officers visit the homes of the elderly and special needs residents. Water supplies and food supplies were made available and delivered. The Salvation Army, Red Cross, Wheels on Meals brought in food and was distributed in our shelters and to others in need. The Township also arranged for the “Dog Pound” hot dog truck to supply hotdogs to our residents at Rock Spring Park. Arrangements were continually made for special need families and aid was given. Arrangements were made for drop-off locations for spoiled foods. Cris Cook-Gibbs inspected the commercial establishments for sanitary conditions and spoiled food supplies.
Myself, and other volunteers spent dozens of hours every day caring for our residents and using every means possible to get power restored. The truth is that JCP&L restores power to the highest population centers first. They try to hit the greatest restoration numbers. Sadly enough, with our 45 square miles and 18,500 residents, we will remain as a non-priority with the current JCP&L structure. JCP&L numbers were erroneous, their estimations were wrong and quite honestly I was lied to by JP&L numerous times. As they would relate information to me, I would release it to the public. Unfortunately, wrong information.
I had scheduled a family trip last year. I feel it needless to address this issue, but because there has been so much misinformation, I will address it briefly. I spoke with other Township Committee members and felt confident that, in my absence, they were well qualified and available to continue the recovery operations. Tracy Tobin, the most senior Committeeman, and I discussed the process of recovery and the actions that were being taken. Tracy has been on the Township Committee for almost 30 years and served, in the past, as Mayor and Vice-Mayor. Tracy and I probably spent 60 hours together the previous week addressing the issues and I felt confident that he would handle the crisis to a conclusion. All the elected official contact information was exchanged. We spoke together with representatives of JCP&L and new contact information was exchanged. I had all the confidence in Tracy and made the decision to continue with trip plans. If I had not had complete 100% confidence in Tracy and the other Township Committee members, as well as my ability to communicate while out of State, I would have not taken the trip. The Township Committee is made up of five elected individuals and we each have an equal voice and vote. The Mayor position is voted on in January of each year as the leader and sometimes that leadership role must be delegated. I stayed in contact, while away, and received updates and related information as needed.
Let me clear up a couple of rumors….
I. I was not on a trip with Bill Roehrich (my wife Sue and close friends)
II. I did not take a Township generator to my home. In fact, I purchased a generator, and when my power was restored, I loaned it to others (including gas).
III. I was in contact with the owners of the Sunoco Service Station as well as the US Dept. of Energy attempting to get them a generator to pump fuel.
IV. I did lose my power like everyone else and restoration took approx... 7-9 days. My power was not restored first.
V. Yes, I did have damage to my home
VI. I did not have internet access or land line telephone service.
VII. No, I do not own stock in First Energy Corp.
Where do we go from here? I think we have to recognize and acknowledge that power outages will continue to be a challenge in the future for residents of Washington Township and the surrounding municipalities. The steps that the Township took were to make things a little easier. It was like placing a band aid on an open wound. The wound, in this case was JCP&L and their lack of professionalism, care, and actions. I plan on taking the following actions: 1. I have scheduled a “de-briefing” meeting next Tuesday with OEM and key personnel as to what we did correctly and what steps we could have taken to make things more bearable. 2. Form a consortium of mayors and elected officials to address JCP&L and their lack of response. 3. Work closely with FEMA to help arrange for assistance where it is warranted. 4. Bring our municipal concerns directly to First Energy and the Board of Public Utilities. 5. Apply for Federal assistance to recover the money the Township spent during the days following the storm (FEMA). 6. Form a volunteer citizen group to work on solutions and suggestions to communication issues and other issues that could arise. 6. Ask our Assemblyman and State Senator to work on legislation for possible “regulation” of JCP&L which would include major monetary and accountable operation standards. 7. Apply for grants to have generators in our municipal offices and schools. 8. Arrange for “mass purchasing” of generators at a discount price for those residents interested. 9. Form a list of “volunteer electricians” who can assist our residents with generators and electrical issues. 10. Express our concerns to Verizon Wireless, Verizon, and Comcast and to back-up generation systems. 11. We will seek aid and assistance to residents on the availability of FEMA or other disaster aid. 12. I will have our attorney monitor all legal actions against JCP&L and advise us on our course of action to become involved.
I would ask all residents to remember that every volunteer left their home to help others. Some took time from work to volunteer to help others. We are expanding our CERT team and I would ask those in the audience with community concerns, not their personal concerns, to volunteer to be part of that group. This is not a political issue. This is about concerned citizens helping others in the time of need. Finally, I am extremely disappointed in JCP&L. I am tired of their promises and will do everything in my power to make sure our residents are not treated as a third world nation in the future. Throughout the storm and subsequent days, I spoke to and e-mailed hundreds of residents about their concerns. I was unable to retrieve dozens of messages left on my home phone due the power outages and I apologize to those individuals that I was unable to speak with.
Throughout this crisis, there was one positive note. It was the complete display, by our residents, of human kindness. There were no serious injuries or loss of life within the Township. However there was a loss of life by two Township residents as they drove through Mendham during the storm. It is my understanding that there is a fund set up for their four children. I would ask each of you to consider making a donation.