First, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy and Healthy New Year!
I would also like to congratulate Council Members, Joe Spinelli, Gary Holloway and Rita Pascrell on their re-election and wish them well in their new three-year terms. Councilman Spinelli and Councilwoman Pascrell are entering their 7th terms and will have finished with 21 years of service at the end of this term. Truly an accomplishment of service to their community.
I want to congratulate Councilwoman Kallert on her selection as Council President this year. Tracy’s leadership skills are second to none. She is smart, pragmatic and believes that common sense should prevail. She has a bright future in leading our Borough and I look forward to working with her and helping her moving forward.
I also want to congratulate new Board of Education Members Christine Tiseo, David Amanullah and Dr. Joe Giammarella on their election to the local school board and to Sam Yodice and Jaclyn Luker as they begin new terms at Passaic Valley. I also want to congratulate Assistant Fire Chief Anthony Ficarra on his election as Assistant Chief.
The Council and I remain committed to maintaining a fiscally conservative philosophy in 2020, while still working to ensure the infrastructure of our town continues to improve, that our residents are provided quality services and our town is an attractive place to live and raise a family.
2019 was another year of significant progress here in Woodland Park and 2020 will be equally important as we continue to get things done in our town.
• Last year, with the collective effort of this Council, both Boards of Education and the County Freeholders we saw a TAX REDUCTION of $150 on the average household. This type of reduction in property taxes is unprecedented and brought our taxpayers some much needed relief. This is an accomplishment of which we should be very proud.
• In spring of 2019, our streetscape project continued along McBride Avenue, extending to Newby Avenue. In addition, our DPW planted new trees along McBride Avenue. In 2020, we will see three additional phases of our streetscape being completed. The project will continue from Newby Avenue, near School #1, to Whippany Avenue across the street from Carvel. We will also start in the area near Route 46 and the re-developer of the Kearfott Property has agreed to fund and build the streetscape along their entire property line. 2020 will certainly be the year in which the most significant portions of this project are constructed, something we have been working toward for over 20 years.
• Last month, we adopted four of the six required Affordable Housing ordinances, which will begin to settle our obligation with Fair Share Housing with the approval of the Special Master and the Superior Court. The final two ordinances should be adopted by the end of February. The locations under the new zoning will be: the McBride Avenue Commercial Business District, the Marino property on lower Lackawanna Avenue, Garret Mountain Plaza on Squirrelwood Road and the Bank of New York property off Rifle Camp Road. These areas were selected so as to have minimal impact on the surrounding areas, while also considering what these sites may be used for in the years and decades to come.
• A main priority in 2020, will be to work with our new Planner to identify and refer to the Planning Board areas that may be in need of re-development, especially along the McBride Avenue corridor. We need to incentivize property owners and re-developers to invest in our community and transition to new modern buildings, exteriors and uses in our commercial center.
• In December, the Council adopted an ordinance which will prevent additional two-family conversations here in town. The growth of our town in all areas, but especially in our multi-family zones, has caused parking and density concerns. There is no additional ability to grow in these neighborhoods and this will prevent additional congestion moving forward.
• Through a Community Development Block Grant, the Borough was able to replace a water line in 2019 on Haverhill Avenue, which was the source of many previous water main breaks.
• Last fall, we completed the Oak Ridge Road, Elizabeth Lane and Old Orchard sewer and water project. The long-awaited project finally provides both sewer and water services to residents. And with regard to the sewer lines, property owners in this neighborhood now have access to a service for which they have been paying for decades but never received.
• We are in the final stages of designing the turf athletic field at Zaccaria Park and will break ground this spring. The project has been funded by the Passaic County Open Space Trust Fund with just under $900,000 secured. We are proud that we will be the first town in the Passaic Valley region to have a turf field in our community.
• The town was awarded a $25,000 grant by the Board of Chosen Freeholders to design improvements to Grimes Park on Mt. Pleasant Avenue.
• We will also be finishing the arch way sign at Memorial Field before the Opening Day of baseball and softball.
• The Library Board will make application to renovate the library building with funds matched by the Library Construction Act grant program, which was approved by voters Statewide in 2016.
• In 2019, the Council adopted an ordinance which will ban single-use plastic bags from being distributed by retailers. This ban goes into effect on April 1st. This act is environmentally friendly, will reduce litter in town and save wildlife.
• In the public safety area, the Borough and Board of Education delivered on our joint commitment to hire three Special Police Officers – one for EACH school here in town to keep our children and school staff safe while ensuring that we are only educating students who reside here in Woodland Park.
• Under the leadership of Fire Chief Paul Salomone, we took delivery of our new Rescue Truck at Fire Company #1 in April.
• Last month, our Fire Department along with Totowa, held our first Holiday Lights Parade on Thanksgiving weekend which was a big hit and they are already working to host this event again next year!
• Our Police Department under the leadership of Chief Eileen Tiernan continues to hire outstanding new police officers. Our new class of officers have been doing a great job and are working with and learning from our experienced team in the PD. I want to thank Chief Tiernan for agreeing to serve as Police Chief for the past two years and for all she had done to improve the Department during that time. She will be retiring on March 1st and our community owes her a debt of gratitude. The Council and I wish her well in her retirement.
• We received our 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 then modified to be able to purchase this piece of equipment in order to maintain our rivers and tributaries for years to come.
• As many of our residents have experienced, PSE&G continues to replace gas main throughout the community. We are currently working with them and our DPW to plan for road re-surfacing this spring. Streets which have been paved in the past 5 years will be required to be paved curb-to-curb by PSE&G. Streets outside the 5-year moratorium will be scheduled to be paved curb-to-centerline by Pubic Service. However, the Borough will evaluate each road and will consider supplementing the cost to re-surface both sides of the roadway. Those plans will be finalized and announced sometime in February.
• Last year, the Army Corps. of Engineers finally, finalized their plans for the Peckman River diversion tunnel and bank stabilization. After much advocacy, myself and Mayor James Damiano of Little Falls, the Army Corps. agreed to consider a pared down project to provide for only the flood diversion culvert and bank stabilization. This would save on cost and allow for the construction of the most needed components of the project. It would also provide a more realistic opportunity for funding the project. In October, I traveled to Washington, DC and met with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and her staff to formulate a preliminary plan for funding this project. This year, we will likely see Congress re-authorize the Water Act in the spring of 2020 which will be the first opportunity for Federal funding. It should be noted that this project has the support of the Congresswoman, Congressman Bill Pascrell who was the first to advocate for mitigation efforts along the Peckman River after the flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999, both our town and Little Falls and the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
• With regard to transportation, the Route 46 and Route 3 DOT project is nearing completion at the intersection of Rifle Camp Road and Lackawanna Avenue. While as inconvenient and frustrating as it has been over the past many years - the roundabout is now open, the new service road from Valley Road is accessible and the roads have been re-surfaced. We continue to advocate for improved drainage and ensuring that this project does not continue to adversely impact any of our residents who have dealt with flooding and run off issues since this project began.
• Speaking of the DOT, we will also remain in close communication with them regarding the additional sound barriers needed on Interstate 80 here in Woodland Park. The barriers are preliminarily slated for a planned 80 West improvement project from Polifly Road in Hackensack to Squirrelwood Road in Woodland Park. Although the project title is Route 80 “West”, barriers on both sides of the highway would qualify to be funded and installed.
• The Council and I 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 continue to advocate for full Verizon Fios installation town-wide.
As always, 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.
Council President Kallert, the Council and I look forward to working with all our residents to make 2020 another great year for Woodland Park. As always, 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! God bless.