WE WILL BE FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE WHILE WE CONTINUE TO IMPROVE
First, I would like to wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!
I would also like to congratulate Council Members, Tina Gatti, Tracy Kallert and Vincent DeCesare on their re-election and wish them well in their new three-year terms.
I want to congratulate Councilman Spinelli on his selection as Council President this year, along with Board of Education Commissioners Chris Mania, Adam Chabbane and Maryann Perro, and of course, our Fire Chief Paul Salomone, Jr.
The Council and I remain committed to maintaining a fiscally conservative philosophy in 2019, while still working to ensure the infrastructure of our town continues to improve, that our residents are delivered quality services and that our town is an attractive place to live and raise a family.
2018 was a year of great progress here in Woodland Park:
• In June, our Police Department, under the leadership of Chief Tiernan earned its accreditation status. Not only has this process allowed all our policies and procedures to be updated, but the accreditation also protects us with insurance claims against the Department.
• We began to develop and are nearly ready to adopt an Affordable Housing Plan which we are required to submit to the Superior Court for approval. We have reduced the number of sites to two and will present a full plan, in early February, to the Council and the public. The plan makes sense under the requirements of the court and will allow us to satisfy our need.
• Last year, the Borough revised and re-adopted our Open Space Master Plan. The last update was over a decade ago, in 2007. With input from the public, the Planning Board, the Council and groups who extensively use our parks and athletic facilities, the Master Plan addresses our goals for improved parks and recreation areas in town.
• Through Community Development Block Grant funding, the Borough was able to disconnect multiple homes on Glover Ave. from the Paterson sewer system and are now connected to our Woodland Park system.
• We have broken ground on the Oak Ridge Road, Elizabeth Lane and Old Orchard sewer and water project. While I am somewhat disappointed with the contractor’s performance, schedule and attention to detail in protecting the homeowners in that neighborhood, we are making progress. I wish it did not take extensive oversight by our Borough Engineer and the Administration to get the job done right the first time, but I look forward to this work effort being completed in March and finally providing these services to residents who have been paying for them, but not actually receiving them for decades.
• In 2018, we completed the tail end of the 2017 Road Re-Surfacing Program which included Mt. Pleasant Ave., Briarwood Ct. and Van Winkle Ct. The paving of these streets concludes our 15-year road re-surfacing program, which is a testament to this Council and their commitment to keeping with such an aggressive plan and actually making it happen.
• Just last month, the Council awarded a contract through another Community Development Block Grant for a new water main on Haverhill Ave. The Borough has experienced multiple water breaks in that area over the last few seasons and replacement is absolutely necessary.
• The town was awarded an additional $250,000 by the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders for the Zaccaria Park Turf Field project. This award should provide the final installment of grant funding needed to begin the project in 2019.
• We have also nearly completed our McBride Avenue Streetscape project from Newby Ave. to Glover Ave. Again, this project was funded through an NJDOT Grant. In addition, one of the first bits of good news from Governor Murphy this past February was the award of an additional $575,000 for additional streetscape work which is currently being designed – that is the largest DOT grant ever received by the Borough.
• At our last Council meeting in December, the Council adopted a resolution purchasing a new piece of DPW equipment which will be shared with Little Falls for purposes of stream and river cleaning to help mitigate flooding. This was originally a DEP grant for a one-time Peckman River cleanup which was modified to be able to purchase a piece of heavy equipment in order to maintain the rivers and tributaries for years to come.
• This year, the Council also eliminated United Health Care as a plan option for our employees, saving nearly $50,000 in insurance costs. We also have preliminary numbers that include an overall reduction to health insurance costs which in the past have been one of the biggest challenges in our budget.
• And finally, we also worked in partnership with the Woodland Park Board of Education to add a second Special Police Officer in our schools. And, we’ve held preliminary discussions on adding a third officer this September so each school will be assigned their own officer.
As we begin 2019, we have much work still to be done, and we will be aggressive in pursuing advocating for the following issues, including those in which we must rely on other levels of government and outside public utilities to do the right thing.
• First, as mentioned above, we will continue our McBride Ave. streetscape improvements. We foresee two additional phases being started this year.
• We will stay on top of the Passaic Valley Water Commission and monitor their continued talk of capping our two reservoirs on Rifle Camp Road and replacing them with concrete storage tanks.
• We will also be in close communication with the NJDOT regarding the additional sound barriers needed on Interstate 80 here in Woodland Park. The barriers are preliminarily slated for a planned I-80 West improvement project from Polifly Rd. in Hackensack to Squirrelwood Rd. in Woodland Park. Although the project title is I-80 “West”, barriers on both sides of the highway would qualify to be funded and installed.
• My administration will also monitor the progress and performance of the contractor doing the State DOT work on Route 46 and Route 3. Again, another job that has had a very difficult impact on our residents.
• Woodland Park along with officials from Little Falls will continue to press the Army Corps. of Engineers to finalize their plans for the Peckman River. At our most recent meeting, myself and Mayor James Damiano of Little Falls suggested to the Army Corps. that they consider splitting the project to provide for the flood diversion culvert and bank stabilization as Phase 1 of the project and the additional upstream infrastructure in a separate phase. This would save on the cost and provide the most needed components of the project upfront. Our new Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, who we look forward to working with, had expressed her interest in attending a meeting with the Army Corps., especially in light of the Peckman River flood of August 11, 2018.
• The Council will continue to advocate for full Verizon Fios installation town- wide.
• We will also be working on plans for upgrades to Cavalleri Park on Bergen Blvd., Grimes Park on Mt. Pleasant Ave. and, of course, the start of the Zaccaria Park Turf Field. We will also be designing and installing an archway sign at Memorial Field this year.
• And finally, we will be working closely with the Library Board and our Director Linda Hoffman on the plans to expand and renovate the library building with funds matched by the Library Construction Act grant program, which was approved by voters Statewide in 2016.
I want to thank our Borough employees, volunteers and our business community who help ensure our citizens are properly served and are kept safe, that our children have recreational, social and educational opportunities and that we have a vibrant local economy which gives back to our town.
On a personal a note, 2018 was not an easy year for me personally or professionally. Over the last 7 years as Mayor, I’ve prided myself on using social media, especially Facebook as a tool to help govern and communicate with our residents. Over the past six weeks, I took a much needed “Facebook pause.” I thank all our residents who have become accustomed to my posts – which have often include daily updates, emergency notices and tidbits about our town – for their patience and understanding while I was off line. I also want to thank all those who checked in with me during that time. Your friendship and support is not forgotten.
The Council and I look forward to working with all our residents to make 2019 another great year for Woodland Park. Certainly, if you have any questions, concerns or ideas for our town, never hesitate to contact us!
I again wish you a happy and healthy New Year!