Our 9/11 Remembrance will be held on Tuesday, September 11 at 7:00 pm at the 9/11 Memorial in the park southeast of the railroad depot. This is the 11th anniversary of this horrific attack on not just the United States, but humanity. Please join us in paying respect to all those who perished that day 11 years ago, especially Demarest native Chris Vialonga and others who spent part of their lives in Demarest.
A second year with the unprecedented state imposed 2% tax levy cap in place has tested many a governing body throughout NJ. Without layoffs or service cuts, we could not get under the 2% cap this year thus the (soundly defeated) referendum in May. Fortunately, a new provision by the state allowed municipalities to make a last minute adjustment by way of anticipated tax collection. This helped us avert layoffs and service cuts this year, but has the potential of an adverse financial effect later this year and/or next.
Your governing body is continually exploring ways to reduce expenditures and increase revenues in this year and succeeding years. A few of the areas under review are: sharing services (including a police merger), increased fees for street openings and placing unused Borough-owned land (not land designated as open space) on the tax rolls either through sale (110 Serpentine Road) or development (parking area near the DPW facility).
We have received a proposal from Bergen County to merge our police department with that of the County Police. Besides guaranteeing the same level of policing we currently have, and some enhanced areas of service, the annual savings to the Borough residents would be greater than $400,000. The Borough would also receive annual revenue for rent along with one-time revenue for equipment purchase. On May 7, the Council voted to hold a non-binding referendum on this issue. We have the same issues regarding a non-binding referendum as the County as they debate the merger of the county police and sheriff. Can enough information be disseminated to the residents? Will the residents consider all factors when casting their vote, not just basing their decision purely on economics, emotion, politics or other? †This yearís referendum on taxes was a mandate to not raise taxes more than allowed by the state. How do you continue to offer the same level of services without a sufficient increase in revenue? The Council must weigh all factors in deciding on both a non-binding referendum and an ultimate decision on a police merger as well as other shared services.
Affordable Housing Trust Funds
We recently compiled data and records and submitted justification to the state that Demarest should not have to relinquish $317,000 in housing trust funds while still leaving us to meet (pay for) the same number of affordable housing units. †We have had several discussions with officials in Trenton regarding the measures Demarest has taken, in particular in 2012. I am cautiously optimistic that the state will recognize that Demarest is expeditiously moving forward in providing different types of housing to meet the requirements set by the state and will not require us to remit those funds. We are also in discussions with the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) of Bergen County to try to modify an agreement made in 2010 which calls for 12 affordable housing units to be built on Borough owned land; land purchased by the Borough for approx. $600,000 and promised to the HDC for $1 with an additional $32,000 of Borough funds dedicated to this housing project.
∑ We are completing a project (Safe Routes to Schools) left from 2010. This includes handicapped ramps at certain intersections (changed from proposed 6-foot wide sidewalks), safety cross walks (upgraded material at no additional cost) and flashing lights at certain pedestrian crossings. We considered cancelling the flashing lights but it may have been very costly to amend the previously awarded contract. As with all grants, we must make sure that any grant applied for is for a need and will not have excessive costs for our residents. It is a rare grant that does not require some funding from the recipient.
∑ We stabilized over 400 feet of severely eroding Tenakill Brook stream bank by grading, placing large stones (used for access points to the stream) and planting native vegetation. Total cost of this project was $40,000; $35,000 of which was granted through the Rutgers Water Resources Program, $2,500 from bartered services from Denny Wiggers Nursery and $2,500 from Borough funds. I express our thanks to Rutgers for this project and to the Demarest Fire Department members who helped water the vegetation on a couple of scorching weekends. Our DPW employees also had a key hand in implementing this project. We also had several Rutgers students volunteer to start removing invasive vegetation from the plantings around the pond. We will continue this effort with our DPW personnel and hopefully some resident volunteers.
∑ We have obtained a grant to pave part of Columbus Road and install new sidewalks and curbs where needed along the same stretch of road. We have until October 2013 to commit to this project.
Early in 2012, the volunteers on the Municipal Alliance Committee were tasked with organizing and seeking funds for Demarest Day activities. Demarest Day is tentatively scheduled for October 6, the same day Demarest is hosting the Northern Valley Firemanís Parade. What was true last year, is the same this year; Borough funds are not available to pay for Demarest Day activities. Demarest Day will only be held this year if the committee can collect enough contributions and has enough volunteers to put on the event. Please contact Chief Powderley for further information, to volunteer or to make a contribution.
Congratulations and Best Wishes to Demarest employees, Patrolman Michael Beliveau and Certified Municipal Finance Officer/Tax Collector Maureen Neville. Patrolman Beliveau retired on July 31 after serving the Borough for 16 and 1/2 years. Ms. Neville is retiring September 7 after serving the Borough for 23 years. Thank you and we wish you all the best!
††††††††††† Ray Cywinski