I truly hope everyone is enjoying the warm days of summer with your family and friends! July is marked by one of the longest traditions in Berkeley Heights; I hope everyone had a chance to enjoy the MT CARMEL FEAST with all the great rides, food, music and fireworks! Thank you, Joe Franchino, for your moving speech about immigrants and Mike D’Aquila for the flag raising idea at Town Hall!
VETERANS & SENIORS - Fiserv is hosting a job fair symposium for veterans on August 8 from 5-7:30 PM at Round Table studios. The link to register is here. I also want to thank Fiserv, The Connell Company family, Primrose School and Dr. Pat Smith for their generosity in helping the VFW repave their existing lot. Kindness is contagious! We also plan to hire SAGE for social services for those seniors who are in the greatest need. Our additional $2,500 a year from the Union County Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) contingency grant request was approved and will be added to our annual tranche.
Our SEWER PLANT is aging significantly, faster than me J, and some of the infrastructure is failing. In April, the Council declared an emergency to purchase and construct an emergency digestor flare which burns off methane gas taken into the plant during the sewer treatment process. Due to age, the flame does not remain lit, causing serious smells for our residents and has to be lit manually. On June 27, the Union County delegation of Senate President Scutari and Senator Joe Cryan voted “yes” on the State budget, which includes $350,000 for the “Berkeley Heights Township - Emergency Temporary Flare.” I’m thankful that the Senate President was receptive to our request for funding and worked to ensure it was included in the state budget. Governor Murphy signed the budget a few days later. This appropriation fast tracks this important project and provides some financial breathing space.
Many may have noticed that the hole left from demolition at BERKELEY CATERERS has been filled by Union County! The County Commissioners hired an engineer to help design the elements of the passive park and trail system Berkeley Heights greatly needs. Thank you to our County Manager for getting this parcel acquired and the County Commissioners for always having an open line of communication for the needs our community!
PEPPERTOWN PARK continues to move forward with our professionals from Arterial and VanCleef Engineering as we plan for our future! Part of this vision includes the creation of a “Mobility Hub”. that creates pathways for each mode of transportation – car, bike and walking - to the train station, since Peppertown is located directly across the street. With the new development and new residents, we need to stay a step ahead with a plan in which commuters can walk, bike, drive, scoot or shuttle to the train station. We had to nail down that mobility plan before we could start the very necessary drainage plans for Peppertown. Our professionals will meet again next week to map out the next steps. (Picture of draft design to the right)
Tackling the Hard Issues - Flooding & Drainage
Summer is the time for pop-up storms that can lead to severe flooding, especially as weather events become more serious over the last few years. Here is an update on how the Town is handling these critical issues, head on.
Council President Kingsley and I met virtually with the Green Brook Flood Commission this week; Green Brook flooding occurs predominately in the Free Acres area of Berkeley Heights, but the Green Brook traverses several towns and counties. Earlier this year, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman announced inclusion of $496 million in Federal disaster relief specifically for the Green Brook project. The disaster bill has an additional $3.2 million to re-study the Upper Basin portion of the project, in which the Free Acres/Berkeley Heights segment is located. The reason for the re-evaluation is that the features originally envisioned for the Upper Basin cannot be constructed as contemplated. The Upper Basin includes Berkeley Heights, Watchung, Scotch Plains and Plainfield. Some of that overland flow additionally wraps around into South Plainfield and Piscataway, where it re-enters the Green Brook. We discussed options forward with the Flood Commission, which includes a representative from the Army Corp of Engineers, and are looking for short-term solutions as well as long-term ones that will undoubtedly involve the Green Brook Flood Commission, DEP, DOT and other state and federal agencies.
Spring Ridge Drainage Study - Neglia Engineering has completed the majority of all the survey and field work for the Spring Ridge Drainage Study authorized by Council last year. Now they will build the base map and will finalize the field work by checking backyard basins and swales to add to the survey work. Once the base map is completed, a hydraulics analysis can be shared with the Council at a meeting similar to the presentation we had for our Council and residents for the Westside Drainage Study.
The Passaic River Coalition of Mayors will now work with Marco Laguna, the new outreach coordinator for Congressman Tom Malinowski and Deputy County Manager Amy Wagner on the multi-town and multi-county efforts needed to effectively help reduce Passaic River flooding, which affects our residents in the Riverbend/Chaucer area, as well as many other parts of town - particularly during extreme storm events. We are also awaiting word from Washington DC to ask for a meeting with the Army Corp of Engineers. The regional approach to the river will not only include desnagging but plans for desilting. This is not a single-town effort; to succeed, we need the cooperation and engagement of all towns along the Passaic, as well as state and federal lawmakers and agencies.
West Side Drainage – the Town received notification that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal department through which our federal appropriation will pass through for our West Side Drainage Project, will not issue final planning guidance for the use of our $500,000 allotment until this Fall. However, we anticipate that we will continue to move forward using the $290,000 in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds the Township received. Next steps include obtaining easements and our Town Attorney working with our Town Engineer to obtain them. Assuming no major hiccup in obtaining easements from homeowners, this step will take about 6 months. Meanwhile, we have the EPA’s draft guidance and are preparing our plans and design submissions for the agency to consider.
I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer. I can assure you I will keep fighting and caring for Berkeley Heights, but maybe with some much-needed R & R in between!
As always, if you need me, I am here for you. Please contact me mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, 908-464-2700 x 2116, facebook.com/mayorangiedevanney or instagram.com/mayorangiedevanney.