All meeting minutes posted on the township website are unofficial minutes. Official copies of minutes may be obtained from the township clerk.
Minutes: April 2, 2020
A. OPENING OF REGULAR MEETING
1. Call to Order
A regular meeting of the Randolph Township Council was called to order at 5:00 p.m. by Mayor Carey. This meeting is held pursuant to the New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act. Adequate notice of the meeting has been provided by posting written notice of the time, date, location, and to the extent known, the agenda of the meeting in Randolph Township. This notice was posted on the bulletin board within Town Hall, it was filed with the Township Clerk, and it was provided to those persons or entities requesting notification. Notice was also provided to the Randolph Reporter and the Morris County Daily Record on November 6, 2019 by emailing them the annual resolution adopted by the Council on November 5, 2019. The annual resolution, which included this meeting date, was advertised in the Randolph Reporter, the official newspaper of the Township of Randolph, and the Daily Record on November 14, 2019. The time change for this meeting and the access to the remote portion of this meeting was advertised in the Daily Record on March 31, 2020.
2. Roll Call
Councilman Forstenhausler - (via phone)
Councilman Loveys - (via phone)
Councilman Nisivoccia - (via phone)
Councilwoman Potter - (via phone)
Councilman Tkacs - (via phone)
Deputy Mayor Veech - (via phone)
Also present (in person): Township Manager Mountain, Darren Maloney, Darren Carney and via phone - Attorney Ed Buzak from the Buzak Law Group
3. Pledge of Allegiance
Mayor Carey led the Pledge of Allegiance.
B. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Freeholder Steven Shaw commended the officials at the municipal level and reminded everyone that the county is there to support them; all their essential services are still operating but in a different way. He credited all the local municipalities for adapting and continuing to hold meetings.
Mayor Carey thanked Freeholder Shaw for joining the meeting and for all that the Freeholders are doing. She asked how the testing at County College of Morris (CCM) was going. Freeholder Shaw replied that it is going very smoothly; they were doing approximately 200 tests per day and the results were coming back in two days. The last round of tests came back with approximately 50% positive.
Councilman Forstenhausler commented that he observed the Zoom meeting Freeholder Shaw had with Freeholder Director Deb Smith and Rosemary Becchi the previous Saturday. He thanked the Freeholders for all that they are doing.
Deputy Mayor Veech commented that she was speaking with Ann Grossi the day prior about when the Governor was going to make a decision on whether the election would be by vote-by-mail ballots. Ann Grossi indicated that the towns would need to pick up their portion of the cost and when towns would get an idea of how much they would need to budget. Freeholder Shaw replied that he had no information on that whatsoever.
Jason Munch of 177 West Hanover Avenue expressed his thanks for the Council and staff for adapting to the current situation and making themselves available to the public. He asked if the township leadership was tracking an increased number of confirmed cases in Randolph in comparison to neighboring towns. He felt that our numbers were disheartening compared to some of the other towns. Mr. Munch asked if there was anything more the township could do to get the word out; Rockaway Township used their automated system to inform residents via text message daily. While the COVID-19 information is on the website, he felt that maybe the township could send it out via the automated system. He explained that his comments were not critical, but just coming from a place of concern.
Mayor Carey replied that the township doesn’t currently have a system to send out text messages; it is something to consider moving forward. The township has been updating the numbers daily on the website and an email is sent to the local papers as well. Our public health officials have not indicated that there are any more cases in Randolph versus surrounding areas; they also have not mentioned any reason for alarm. Manager Mountain added that it is a complicated set of factors that lead to the results; sometimes there is a delay in when the testing hits the confirmation of confirmed cases and it is also sometimes attributable to where the contacts are. In some of the early cases, it was due to contacts from a larger area such as a place of work/meetings. Now the majority of contacts are coming from a very small radius. There have recently been an uptick in some facilities in the community that are showing increased number of cases; these are not traditional residential properties and they have a more vulnerable population associated with them. The Manager explained that Randolph, compared to some other local towns, has some higher density populations. There has been nothing in the contract tracing that has caused our Public Health Nurses to feel like there’s something unique in Randolph or that there was something that we were not doing as a community that’s creating the spread of the virus. Manager Mountain stated that the township was not alarmed with the numbers that they were seeing based on the factors that they’re looking at beyond just the numbers.
Mr. Munch stated that he appreciated the explanation and acknowledged that his information was limited to the numbers. He understood that there were many more factors involved and appreciated all that the township leadership was doing.
Seeing no one further from the public, the public portion was closed.
C. MANAGER’S REPORT
Manager Mountain reported the following:
- COVID-19 Update
- Township Staffing/Services—all township services are continuing as of now, although some services have been modified or suspended. Administrative staff has been split into two shifts; the A shift is working extended days on Monday and Tuesday and a half day Wednesday and the B shift works a half day Wednesday and extended days on Thursday and Friday. Department Heads have been granted permission to work from home at their own discretion. Aggressive social distancing measures have been put in place for those working on-site. All deliveries/on premise public interactions are conducted through a single point of contact at facility entrances. Inspection services are continuing with no change for exterior inspections. Interior inspection processes have been modified to protect staff and the public. Police/Public Works/Parks and Water & Sewer field operations are all continuing on normal schedules. Contingency plans have been developed for each of these operations should there be a need to modify in the future.
- Communications—a COVID-19 news and statistical update has been provided daily. All of the updates are archived in a single place under the alert section of the township website. Additional single topic posts have also been going out as the subject matter warrants. All posts are also shared through our social media outlets and with the local media. SwiftReach alerts have also been used to inform the public. In addition, the Mayor has been posting regular messages to the community which we have been distributing through all our media. He explained to Mayor Carey that the township does have the ability to, and has used, text message; however, residents have to opt-in to receive texts.
- Business Community Support—the Economic Development Committee outreach team has been working overtime to get out messaging to the community in support of our local businesses as well as to provide information to businesses about programs being made available at various levels of government to assist businesses in need. These actions have been very well received and he expected them to continue over the coming months.
- The drive through testing site is up and running at the County College. The site logistics are being managed by County OEM and seem to be running very smoothly. Individuals seeking to use the service must have a referral from a physician and be registered for the date of service to be allowed into queue on-site. There have been no issues reported to date.
- The Rescue Squad has established donation bins at their headquarters on Route 10 and at the municipal building for protective equipment for local hospitals and medical providers. The response has been very positive so far.
- He has received outreach from many individuals and some groups looking to volunteer to help others. Barbara Lukavich in Community Services has been working to pair those volunteers with areas of need in the community. The NJ211 committee has also been working very hard to address areas of need in the community.
- As of today the town has 58 confirmed cases and sadly two COVID-19 associated fatalities. The Health Department has been working over- time managing the contact tracing on all these cases which has been greatly limited in recent days due to the social distancing measures in place. The public health nurses in particular have been at the forefront of the township’s response and their compassion and professionalism have been noted by numerous residents with whom he has spoken. He recognized the entire staff, the public works, water and sewer and parks employees, the police and volunteer first responders and our administrative staff all of whom are anxious about the crisis we are in, but continue to come to work and serve. I also want to recognize Donna Luciani and her staff. As usual, Donna has been invaluable assisting on everything from building sanitization to employee relations. Donna and her staff have also been essential in our being able to keep up with our communications effort. He recognized Darren Carney for his help with the technical issues as well as his assistance with issues from the public for which he has been delegated.
- He thanked the Mayor and all the members of the Council for their continued support and the many actions each of them had taken individually to respond to the concerns of the public and for their tremendous leadership in this emergency. From everything he has seen, the community is very appreciative of their efforts.
- He noted that residents have been very understanding and they have been very willing to donate and offer help when needed.
- Veteran’s Community Park—the replacement contractor for Veterans Community Park, Rochelle Contracting, has begun work at the park. Work is proceeding on the fencing for the community garden, and other site work will be resuming in the coming week. The township has requested a full schedule for the work to complete and he expects to have it to distribute shortly. He felt that it was nice to drive by the site each day and see activity again.
- Road Evaluation—he met virtually earlier this week with the Infrastructure Council Work Group, Tom Sweeney, Paul Ferriero and Wayne Corsey; they reviewed the 2020 Road Evaluation and recommended paving program for this year. They had a good opening discussion and the Work Group will be reviewing the roads recommended. The Work Group will reconvene early next week to finalize the recommendation for Council and he will have the matter ready for full Council discussion at the April 23rd meeting.
Councilman Tkacs asked if there were any specific places where shut-in residents could find out about having services such as food shopping and delivery. Manager Mountain said to forward any of these types of concerns to him or to Barbara Lukavich. There will be information added to the website for the Community Services Department to broaden the services.
Councilman Tkacs also commented that residents have contacted him asking if the township was doing anything about the property taxes. He had emailed this to Manager Mountain and received the answer that the Governor determines when taxes are due. Manager Mountain will cover this issue in the Discussion session.
1. Student Appointment to the Traffic Advisory Committee
Mayor Carey reported that there was a high school student that completed a Tap the Talent form and was interested in volunteering on a committee.
Councilman Nisivoccia made a motion to appoint Nicholas Agostin as student member to the Traffic Advisory Committee (TAC). Councilman Tkacs seconded the motion and the following roll call vote was taken:
Deputy Mayor Veech
E. DISCUSSION ITEMS
1. Possible Tax Relief Options
Manager Mountain noted that several Council members contacted him to inquire about the possibilities. The Manager summarized the below possibilities:
- Reduction of Tax Obligation—this would be the least available option as far as something that could be enacted in real-time. One of the two ways the tax obligation could change is through the assessment process. The state extended the deadline for tax appeals to May 1st. In order to qualify and come up with the supporting evidence that a business or property has been adversely affected by the current emergency will need more time to elapse to justify such a reduction. It would be something that would be looked at in 2021. The only other way is through the tax rate which is driven by the Board of Education; the township’s overall contribution to the tax rate is relatively small. This year’s budget is effectively already introduced and is expected to be adopted without a tax increase on the municipal side. He has not seen the final numbers for the school, but it is his understanding that they will have a tax increase associated with their budget. They are also well into their legal timeframe when they had to complete the budget that drives the tax rate. Even a change in the tax rate is likely not going to produce the type of relief that an individual or business would look for to substantially help them in a time of need; the appeal would likely help more.
- Extension of the Due Date for Payment or the Ten Day Grace Period—he felt there would be some movement by the state to enable municipalities to do something, but the state has to act first before the municipalities can act. The state controls those dates and the statute is written very directly that only the state can change that period. There is currently some legislation that would provide such authorization; however, it is still pending. As much as everyone wants to extend tax relief to tax payers, there are cash flow and business considerations that must be taken into account, particularly when you consider the township’s obligation to make payments to the Board of Education and the county, and the township’s primary ability to have the cash flow to make those payments. The township would be in a position, if there was a grace period extension, to be able to float those kind of taxes; however, if that grace period was to be extended for a significant amount of time, then it starts to become more of a business decision either for the township or for the Board of Education, depending on how the directive is written. If something was crafted for such relief, the township staff would discuss it with the Council and the Board of Education to be sure that any changes would not result in something unforeseen or unintended to any municipal or school operation. He expected to hear more in the coming weeks.
- Waiver or Reduction of Interest on Delinquent Payments or Lien Redemption Obligations—under statute, the governing body has the authority to set the delinquency rate of interest, which is done every year at the Reorganization Meeting. The way the statute is written is that a municipality may change the rate at a point in time where it’s determined that such change is warranted. However, when that rate is changed, it is not prospectively set, it changes the rate for all delinquencies including those from the past two quarters and lien redemption. Anything that’s obligated will then go to the new rate. The way the governing body would make a change would be through another resolution that would set the new rate and indicate the period of time that the new rate is going into effect for the future, understanding that it has a retroactive effect on anything already outstanding. The other requirement if a change was made would be for the township to notice that rate change through a variety of mechanisms that are detailed in the statute. This would be the process to follow; it would not be an immediate change. The good piece of delinquencies all being set at the same rate is that it does make logistically for the change to be managed fairly efficiently. The township’s software vendor would adjust the interest rate in the program; it would be easy for the Tax Collector and her staff to be able to provide guidance to those that have obligations. From his observation, the majority of towns appear to be holding back on this action to wait to see if the state in their legislation with respect to grace period and other things, includes language to what the interest rate could be lowered. The municipality can only lower the interest rate to 8% under the statute; there would have to be action from Trenton to allow municipalities to go lower. He felt that it was worth waiting a few weeks to see if the state provides legislation. The group of municipal managers had an exchange with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA); DCA understood why the townships were talking about it, but cautioned about acting on it and suggested they wait to hear from the state in order to limit confusion from residents.
Mayor Carey asked if this is something that would need to be done in April, prior to the tax payment due in May. Manager Mountain explained that if the idea was to be in effect prior to the tax payment, yes. But for a person whose payment is delinquent, if the interest rate changes, it will go retroactive anyway.
Councilman Forstenhausler clarified that the most the Council could do right now is to lower the delinquency tax rate to 8%. Manager Mountain confirmed that to be correct, without further direction from the state. He agreed with Manager Mountain to hold off and wait to see what the state allows municipalities to do.
Councilman Tkacs and Councilman Loveys agreed with Councilman Forstenhausler.
Mayor Carey asked if there was any action to be taken at the next meeting on April 23rd. Manager Mountain explained that however the state handles it, the Council will need to take action, but it may be that the Governor issues an Executive Order. The Council will then communicate and propose a Resolution for the next meeting. He suggested reaching out to legislators to find out more on where they stand on the issue and what their expectation is on the timing. Councilman Forstenhausler asked if it would be beneficial for the Council as a whole to reach out to Senator Bucco, Assemblyman Bergen and Assemblywoman Dunn to recommend that the state seriously consider this in order to help the residents. Deputy Mayor Veech felt that if all Council members were in agreement, that Mayor Carey reach out to them on all of their behalf. Mayor Carey stated that she would call the three representatives and report back to the Council.
F. COMBINED ACTION RESOLUTIONS
- R-113-20 Authorizing the Public Display of Fireworks for the 2020 Freedom Festival by Fireworks by Starfire Corporation on July 3, 2020, with a Rain Date on July 5, 2020 after Issuance of a Permit by Fire Official
- R-114-20 Extending the Contract for Electrical Subcode Inspection Services for the Period of June 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021, with the Option to Extend for One Additional Year Beginning June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022
- R-115-20 Authorizing the Award of a Professional Services Agreement to Ferriero Engineering, Inc. for Engineering Design Services for Franklin Road & Retaining Wall Improvements for the Term of April 2, 2020 through April 1, 2021
Councilman Forstenhausler made a motion to approve the Combined Actions Resolutions. Councilman Nisivoccia seconded the motion, and the following roll call vote was taken:
Deputy Mayor Veech
G. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Seeing no one from the public, the public portion was closed.
H. COUNCIL COMMENTS
Councilman Forstenhausler attended the infrastructure meeting regarding the road overlay program; they will be looking at the township roads and reporting back to the Council at a future date.
Councilman Forstenhausler reported that the Fire Department is responding to calls. They send out one engine and four members. There are check sheets that the dispatcher and responders fill out as far as illness or potential illness in the house. If there is a report of an actual fire, more firefighters then respond. The residents continue to be protected by the first responders.
Councilman Nisivoccia thanked Mayor Carey, Manager Mountain, and the staff at the municipal building; he has received feedback from neighbors that the township communications have been very helpful and very much appreciated.
Councilman Nisivoccia reported that the library remains closed to the public. However, the staff has been assisting patrons with accessing materials online. Realizing that some residents do not have access to the internet, a message was sent to senior citizens via the Community Services department informing them that Russ Newman and his staff would deliver library materials to them; they offered this service twice per week.
Councilman Tkacs echoed Councilman Nisivoccia’s comments regarding thanking the Mayor, Manager and staff for their work and communications. He has received feedback that residents are understanding and happy with the township’s response to the pandemic.
Councilwoman Potter reported that the NJ211 committee has been providing residents with information on the services and referrals available through NJ211. They created a flyer and included it with the lunches the school district is providing to families so they are aware of the services. The committee has been tracking the NJ211 social media sites and alerting Manager Mountain to the NJ211 posts in order to include the information in the township’s COVID-19 updates.
Councilman Loveys agreed with Councilman Nisivoccia’s comments, Manager Mountain’s comments in his opening as well as Councilman Forstenhausler’s comments on the first responders. He reiterated that the township staff has done a good job maintaining township services; he particularly commended the Water and Sewer Department for their continued services. Councilman Loveys commended Mayor Carey and Manager Mountain for their continued communications.
Deputy Mayor Veech agreed with all of the previous comments. She also thanked Pat Robinson from the Randolph Reporter and the staff at TAPInto for keeping residents informed. She felt the residents have been kept very well informed.
Deputy Mayor Veech asked for a moment of silence for the two residents who had lost their lives.
Mayor Carey thanked Manager Mountain and the township staff; residents have been very pleased with the communications as well as the services that continue. Her goal has been to communicate and keep residents informed.
Councilman Tkacs asked Manager Mountain if it would help to put something on the homepage of the township website with contact information for various community services and appropriate volunteers and service people. Manager Mountain will look into it.
I. EXECUTIVE SESSION
There was no Executive Session.
Councilman Tkacs made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 6:05 p.m. Councilman Forstenhausler seconded the motion, and the following roll call vote was taken:
Deputy Mayor Veech