Thursday, February 25, 2010

Denville's New Website and Budget Update

Denville has launched a new website. It's great to see it being updated much more frequently. You can find info on upcoming meetings and council workshops. We are also still in the midst of reviewing the Mayor and Administration's budget. It's good to see how we've been able to cut many capital expenses but we have to keep moving along with efficiency.

Check out Denville's new site at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Let's Evaluate the Highlands Thoroughly

I like the environment. I value preserving our resources. I drive a hybrid car, drink organic milk, have helped clean out tires from the Rockaway River and have a wife who grows all our summer vegetables herself. There are important steps everyone must take. But I am also cautious and wary of our State's regulations and bureaucracy. Denville and many other surrounding areas in New Jersey will be faced with an important decision over the next few years; How to protect our water supply and make the appropriate planning for it? Many municipalities will decide on whether to opt into a regional plan (The Highlands Regional Master Plan)

At first glance, there are great aspects of this regional plan like stricter ordinances to protect our waters and environment, reduced affordable housing requirements and more. However, there are also many aspects of the plan in question like the compensation for properties affected by this plan, how it affects our planned recreational fields, the loss of local planning control, how individual towns will be properly represented and the status of affordable housing requirements in New Jersey. With a new Governor, we have see many indications of vast change in the Garden State.

Last November, Denville's Town Council, with three exiting Councilman, approved a resolution to submit a petition for plan conformance to the Highlands Council. This was approved at a meeting held in the midst of the holiday season with very little public attendance. At the time I was a Councilman-Elect and with all due respect to the Council, I was disappointed they approved that resolution. Although, it did not obligate us to the Highlands Plan, I felt we should be noncommittal until knowing more.

The decision to "opt in" or "opt out" of the Highlands Regional Master plan will be a difficult one and will take some serious time and research. At a recent Denville Town Council Workshop on the subject, Denville residents and the Town Council had a long and productive exchange of views and questions on the subject. Probably one of the best Council meetings I have seen in 3 years. Nearly everyone in the audience spoke with poignant and cordial views on the matter. This reinforces that we should be cautious with our approach. When a resolution to rescind the previous November resolution was introduced, I approved it. Not because of who was voting for it or to make a statement but because it was the right thing to do. The resolution to rescind the previous resolution was approved 5-2.

Despite the vote to rescind, I vow to push our Council to re-look at our existing ordinances and how they can be revised to reflect the protective benefits of the Highlands plan. I also believe we need to encourage our Planning Board and Board of Adjustment to be vigilant with enforcing them. I look forward to having representatives from the actual Highlands Council, not just a lobbying coalition, continue to work with us and educate us on their plans, changes and ideas so we can make an educated decision on the matter. And most importantly, I encourage the public to become involved in the process. To those who favor the plan; don't be so quick to accept it because there is still a lot to be mapped out. To those already against the plan; before you judge, let's hear more about it first.

I am not interested in making a quick decision then working and researching to support and justify it. I'd rather be cautious, objective and open so we make the right decision based on all the facts. We have time to carefully evaluate the Highlands Master Plan and I will. I hope you will as well.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Budget Process Begins

This past Saturday, the Denville Town Council began our budget process with the Administration.
We were able to see preliminary budget planning from the Denville Library Board of Trustees, Denville Police Department and Denville Fire Department. This budget session was over 4 hours long. If longer sessions are needed to save costs and provide all Denville residents quality service, so be it.

I was happy to see that all the budgets have been reduced at first glance. As the overall budget process unfolds, we'll be able to better determine if the individual budgets suffice. The Denville Police Budget of materials was a reduction of 4%. We should be proud that Denville has one of the best Police Departments in the area. The department runs very tight and follows police protocol to detail. This protects us from unwarranted lawsuits and other problems.

The Denville Public Library also continues to see outstanding growth while being responsible with their budget. The new library has been getting an enormous amount of use, membership and new materials. As well, they were able to tighten their budget for 2010 at first look.

Our Volunteer Fire Department performs outstandingly. When you think of the amount of money a paid force or coverage from paid EMTs would cost, our department saves us tons. They also are working with a tighter budget this year. However, Valleyview's Firehouse is in bad need of a new ambulance. This would not be something that would hit us as taxpayers in one single year but instead would be bonded over time to equally fund the usage over the years. Chief Crothers presenting a compelling argument to move forward with a new ambulance and most of the council agreed. Even with this need, the overall budget for our Volunteer Fire Department shrunk and will have less impact on us as taxpayers while still providing top service.

While all these budget were tightened, we are still very early in the process. And the state will undoubtedly cut more municipal funding but hopefully not institute any more unfunded mandates. Some of our budgets may need further reductions and difficult decisions will need to be made.

I hope you can join us at further budget workshops. Next on the list - Department of Public Works and Engineering.