The following is a complete text of Mayor Nicole Hagner's annual address at the Jan. 5, 2012 Reorganization Meeting of .
Good evening, I would like to welcome you to our 2012 Reorganization Meeting.
It is an honor to be serving another year as Mayor of Chatham Township. I am proud to be working together with my fellow committee members, former Mayor Kevin Tubbs, Bailey Brower, Bob Gallop and our newly elected committeewoman, Kathy Abbott, to keep Chatham among the best places to live in New Jersey. I look forward to continuing to work along side Deputy Mayor Bob Gallop this year. I would also like to thank my family and friends for all their support.
Looking back on 2011, the focus was not only on the completion of several capital projects, but also on the successful implementation of our shared service initiatives for emergency dispatch and municipal court services, as well as other cost saving endeavors that included entering into an agreement with Millburn to provide animal control.
To elaborate, we completed (the much anticipated) renovations to Shunpike Field which provides us with a lighted, state of the art, multi-use recreational facility.
We continued our commitment to recognize the history of Chatham through the installation of historic markers at the Beys’ Boxing Camp on River Road, and the Louis Noe Homestead on Southern Boulevard, with the assistance of Bailey Brower and the Historical Society. These historic markers serve to remind us of the long-standing history and character of Chatham Township, as I believe it is important to appreciate the foundation from which our town grows and transforms.
We closed on the purchase of 17 acres of one of our historic properties, the Dixie Dale Farm along Hillside Avenue, with $1.7 million in funding from a grant we received from Morris County with the assistance of Bob Gallop.
Not only will this purchase allow us to preserve one of the last remaining large undeveloped parcels of land in Chatham, but it will enable us to pursue developing a walking path to connect the Chatham Glen Development to existing sidewalks at the top of Southern Boulevard and Fairmount.
We completed the installation of energy efficient electrical upgrades in the Municipal Building, and expanded the project to upgrade the Police Department with the $18,000 rebate we received from the Clean Energy Program.
We will see instant savings from these upgrades as they use one-third less energy, and our investment is projected to turn positive in about five years. To further reduce costs the decision to join the New Jersey Sustainable Energy Joint Meeting, an energy purchasing group for both electricity and natural gas, will result in savings expected to be in excess of 10 percent.
Kevin worked closed with the Environmental Commission to advance several other ongoing Green initiatives; the food composting program with the school district, the backyard composting program, and the Green Fair.
This year we received the same amount of state aid as in 2010 which was a reduction of $241,000 or a 22 percent reduction from the 2009 level. Despite this, due to our planning and recognition of the need to make difficult budget decisions under the guidance of our Township Administrator, Tom Ciccarone, we have been able to control our budget and had a zero increase in the municipal portion of our property taxes this year.
We have worked closely with Tom over the last several years to employ a plan to reduce staff and consolidate positions at the municipal building, court, police department, and public works which has saved us over $1.2MM in salaries and benefits annually. Through our pursuit of shared service initiatives we have saved an additional $200,000 annually, and our success in obtaining grants and partnerships for special projects has all collectively allowed us to absorb the ever increasing costs of the mandatory and essential components of our municipal budget.
Although we focused on saving in 2011, we again did not overlook the improvements needed to maintain our town. We completed the 3rd year of our 5-year road improvement plan with resurfacing or re-paving done on approximately 35 of 131 roads in town, and we have completed the planned improvements to the Colony Pool facility.
Shifting our attention to 2012, Chatham Township continues to be in a strong financial position. We will continue to look for efficiencies and re-evaluate our processes to find savings, even if they are only small savings, to control our municipal taxes. We will finalize the plan and start the needed modifications to our sewer treatment plants. We will continue our efforts to establish more independent sports groups, and look to expand our recreation programs beyond youth sports under the new leadership of Jack Conway.
We will continue to pursue grant opportunities to develop walkways, and explore other opportunities to allow greater utilization of our open space properties. Along these lines we will be developing a safe routes to school plan. We will monitor the status of the PSE&G project to replace their existing utility towers with mono-poles, and will lobby to push the utility companies for greater accountability and improvement to the service and communication provided to our community.
These deficiencies became all too evident to us during the two historic storms of 2011. While we understand that power outages are unavoidable during such extreme conditions, the breakdown in JCP&L’s outage reporting process and recovery progress was unacceptable. Although the damage to property, the financial cost, and the inconvenience was severe, we are above all thankful that there were no serious injuries.
We again extend our gratitude to all our emergency responders, public works and others who worked to ensure that the recovery took place safely and effectively. As a committee we will continue to evaluate what went well and what did not in contributing to our recovery.
With the municipal building down we were able to work from a backup facility in our police department and circulate updates through their Nixle system, but we need to increase awareness of this system and develop other avenues of communication, such as a neighborhood watch program, going forward.
Each year I emphasize that, this short message can only touch on a small portion of all that goes on in a year in Chatham Township. It is the team work with our dedicated employees, police department, public works, and our professionals that we count on to help keep it all running smoothly. We are also heavily dependent on our volunteers, first and foremost our dedicated volunteer firemen and emergency squad members, and the volunteers that serve on our boards.
And each year at this time, I remind myself that I ran to ensure that our committee and boards are resident friendly, our deliberations are open and decisions balanced, and that our Township government maintains the best possible environment for our residents to be involved in shaping our community. Again, I encourage everyone to get involved and volunteer.
I would like to thank a few special guests for attending and for their support.