My name is Liza Viana; I’m your Township Administrator. For those of you who have no idea what the Administrator does (and I’m guessing it’s a lot of you!), it’s essentially the town manager. I oversee the day-to-day operations of the town, all of our municipal departments and personnel, and assist department heads and our Chief Financial Officer with the budget. In our form of government, I’m appointed by the Mayor.
When Mayor Devanney appointed me for this position in December 2018, I knew I was in for a challenge with all of the redevelopment happening around us, municipal complex project, ongoing budget constraints, and increasing demand for services, among other things. I knew I had to jump right in, and be ready to tackle these challenges head-on. A large priority was increasing communication and transparency with our residents. Thanks to the help of the Communications Committee, we have been able to do just that. We’re always trying to think of out-of-the-box ideas to get news out to our residents. The launch of our “Happening in the Heights” video series, of which I am co-host with our Communications Committee Chair, is one of those ideas.
This “Notes from the Administrator’s Desk” column is the next step. I hope to bring you at least monthly updates on what’s going on in town, how your taxpayer dollars are working for you, and what you can expect from your local government in the coming months.
So, here goes!
- This month, I initiated the launch of a shared services group with a dozen business administrators in neighboring towns, spanning four counties - Morris, Union, Somerset and Essex. This group will periodically include public works officials, sewer directors, police chiefs and other department heads as needed, to identify potential services and equipment that may be able to be shared among towns, bringing down costs.
- The much-anticipated traffic light at the intersection of Locust and Snyder has been ordered; it will take about 17 weeks total for delivery. This roughly $250,000 light is being paid for by Garden Homes, the developer of the 55+ redevelopment project underway at 100 Locust Avenue. Under the redevelopment agreement, Garden Homes would order the light after receiving the first round of permits; they received those permits and broke ground a few weeks ago. We had been working with the developer since early 2019 to get all of their paperwork properly submitted to move this along.
- The seemingly permanent large “dirt pile” in the field at Snyder Park near the road has finally been taken away! The township had to pay to dispose of this material, which was a mixture of debris not easily dumped elsewhere. Thank you to our DPW for getting rid of this eyesore!
- We have been interviewing for an experienced Zoning Enforcement Officer to help our Zoning Officer; this individual will enforce our local ordinances when it comes to signs, vacant property maintenance, general property maintenance and more. We’re close to a part-time hire!
- Road reconstruction projects were started in late 2019 around Princeton, Fairfax and Rutgers, as well as Briarwood East/West; those projects will be completed in the spring when the weather warms up.
- We are meeting with our Township engineer and DPW director soon to determine road paving priorities for 2020 as we prepare our 2020 budget.
- This is prime budget prep time! Our CFO and I are working with all of our department heads, as well as some of our committees and commissions, to determine budget priorities - both operating and capital - for the upcoming year. Budget hearings will begin in February; we hope to have Council adopt the budget in April.
- The drainage study in the Emerson, Orchard, Mercier, Old Farm area of town will be completed in the next two months or so.
- Our Department of Public Works (DPW) has 13 men who handle all DPW functions; 9 of them maintain 76 miles of roadway, all of the town’s buildings and outside structures, as well as parks and other recreation spaces; 3 mechanics are responsible for mechanical repair and maintenance for over 150 vehicles and 200 pieces of equipment for DPW, Police, Building & Sewer departments, and Board of Education. Yet the department has been responding to resident calls/issues typically either same day or within 24 hours. Our residents have been extremely grateful for this level of service. This is a direct result of a new departmental structure, in which the two lead foremen have 50 years of Berkeley Heights DPW experience behind them and report to a director who lives in town and has a vested interest in taking care of its residents!
- The DPW finished leaf pickup around Christmastime; they picked up in each township section at least twice. The street sweeper is out on the roads all year long, weather permitting. We sweep sections at a time. During leaf season (October-December), our DPW crew follows the leaf sections scheduled for leaf pickup, and clean the streets after the leaves are picked up.
- Potholes are filled year round. In the Winter months when the asphalt plant stops making hot blacktop, DPW uses "cold patch" for any emergency potholes. Our DPW crews are also repairing storm basins as weather permits, and will be working with our Recreation Department on winter projects to help prepare for Spring and everybody’s favorite Playground Camp!
- Our sewer crews have started the arduous task of cleaning out all of our pipes, which have not been attended to in about 50 years. It’s extremely important that everything flows in the right direction!
- Stone was brought in to the municipal complex site to help the heavy equipment get around the site without sinking into the wet soil, as the crew works to enclose the building and finish the roof.
- The Terrace at Berkeley Heights - the rentals being built at the old Berkeley Theater property - is underway after a drainage system was put in. Click here for more on that project.
- Mondelli Park - Elite, the developer building 10 rental units on part of this property and developing a passive park with a gazebo on the train tracks side of the property, is preparing plans to go before the Planning Board zoon as we finalize the redevelopment agreement. More here.
- Woodcrest at Berkeley Heights - the 55+ community being built on Locust Avenue, has broken ground. Builders anticipate it taking at least 18 months to complete the first building. More here.
I hope you have found this informative. Much more to come next month! Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions or concerns, at email@example.com. Thank you for reading!