Category: Government

Solar on the New Municipal Building Would Save Berkeley Heights Taxpayers Money

Solar on the New Municipal Building Would Save Berkeley Heights Taxpayers Money

Thank you for doing such great research on the benefits and costs of solar panels on our municipal complex, Howard!!!

By Howard Lee

During the mayoral candidates’ debate, our mayor said there was no plan to install solar power on the new municipal building because it was “too expensive.” In reality it would save taxpayer money. Here’s how:

I reached out to several solar industry professionals, and they told me that the municipal building roof could host enough solar panels for a 141 kW system that would generate, here in NJ, on a southeast-facing roof, about 183,000 KWh/year. The town budgets about $335,000 in electricity spending (2017 budget), a significant portion of which would be offset by a solar power system. Exactly how much depends on the financing.

A lease with $0 down, which saves taxpayers the least money but removes the need to find funds to purchase the roughly $340,000 system, would save taxpayers around $6,400 in year one, around $7,000 in year 2, with rising savings over time as grid electricity becomes more expensive, amounting to approximately $400,000 over 20 years. A fully-owned system (eg through a loan paid back by savings on electricity bills) could save more than $20,000 in year one, rising to roughly $55,000 per year after 20 years, saving a total of about $750,000 in the system lifetime. These estimates apply even though municipalities can’t reap the same tax incentives afforded to residential and commercial solar customers.

It doesn’t have to stop there.

The electricity savings could be multiplied by adding solar car ports (you can see examples in the L’Oréal office near Lifetime Fitness) and/or by putting solar panels on other township roofs, like the wastewater treatment plant. There is even the possibility of “Community Solar” in which our community can collectively subscribe to solar electricity generated by the town. And… it’s clean energy that could save around 100 tons of CO2 emissions each year from the municipal building alone, a small but necessary contribution to the reductions needed to preserve the environment for our kids.

I support Angie for Mayor, and Stephen and Alvaro for Council, because I know they won’t leave a stone unturned to save taxpayer money and preserve a future for our children.

Originally published in Tapinto Berkeley Heights

Facts Matter: Our History of Giving Back & Commitment to Moving Us Forward

Facts Matter: Our History of Giving Back & Commitment to Moving Us Forward

Angie, Stephen and Alvaro not only care deeply about this town, but each and every one of them has spent years of their lives giving back to Berkeley Heights any way they can. They have volunteered for organizations in town, spent years obtaining grants and other funding for our town and schools, and given back in numerous other ways. In addition, they each have distinct experience and skill sets that will allow them to hit the ground running when elected. Here’s just a little bit about them….

 

ANGIE

    • Has helped our town get grants and other funding for our fields, parks and schools for years.
    • In 2014, applied for a $18,000 matching grant from the Union County “Kids Recreation Trust” Grant Program on behalf of the BH PAL. The grant money was to be used for softball field dugout installation and drainage improvements at Columbia. She also spent 2 years recuperating grant funds not applied for or drawn down on by the Township; pored over the books for years trying to recoup county grant money for the BHPAL. See the 2014 grant application here.
    • In 2004, helped negotiate with Union County to acquire the land that is now Snyder Ave Park, to save it from development and turn it into the community jewel it is now (final acquisition was in 2006).
    • Worked to get a grant for the softball field at Columbia; just a few weeks ago she got concrete donated to be poured at the Upper Columbia softball dugout pads.
    • Spearheaded an initiative to raise $21,000 in 8 months for air conditioning in every classroom at Mountain Park.
    • Volunteer with Sandy Hook Promise
    • Mountain Park PTO President
    • BHPAL Secretary
    • Awarded the “Women of Excellence Award” in the area of Environmental Advocacy.
    • Berkeley Heights Township Administrator from 2004-2007, running business operations, overseeing the departments of DPW Public Works,Engineering, Finance, Zoning/Construction and Public Safety
    • Named Business Administrator of the Year in 2004 by the Regional Gateway Chamber of Commerce.

 

Stephen

  • Part of the leadership team of Stop the BAC (2013), the community group that was formed to oppose the build of the Berkeley Aquatic Center to Emerson Lane; that grassroots group helped defeat the 2013 referendum.
  • Town Communications Committee.
  • Reported on Town Council meetings for the former Independent Press, through letters to the editor, so residents could know what happened at all meetings.
  • Volunteered with our town Historical Society.
  • Applied to join the town Veterans Memorial Committee twice (in 2014 and 2015, but was not approved; was referred for appointment again in 2017 but was not approved).
  • Recycling and environmental sustainability advocate.
  • Works for the Union County Bureau of Recycling & Planning.
  • Worked as the Individual Giving Manager for United Way of Greater Union County; turned around years of decline in contributions from non-corporate donors, generating 2 straight years of increased revenue and a nearly 20% increase in the organization’s donor base.
  • Experience researching, applying for and obtaining grants, building community relations.
  • Served as the Secretary of the New Jersey Employee Charitable Campaign Steering Committee.

Alvaro

  • Served as a Committee Member and Troop Activities Coordinator for Boys Scouts of America, Troop 368.
  • Leadership positions with the Governor Livingston High School Marching Band.
  • Member of the Environmental Commission.
  • Helped initiate the Trex thin-plastic initiative with the Environmental Commission.
  • Ran for Town Council in 2017 with Susan Poage, because he felt he wanted to give back to the community that has given his family so much; he lost by just 7 votes!
  • 25-year career at AT&T, is now Sales Center Associate Vice President; oversees a team of directors and account executives with a sizable budget.
  • Experience negotiating large, complex deals involving many different stakeholders.
  • Strong background in sales, marketing and operations.

 

We Need to Aggressively Seek Out Grants as a Municipal Government Resource

We Need to Aggressively Seek Out Grants as a Municipal Government Resource

Many governing bodies at the federal, state and county level make development funds available to their constituent entities in the form of grants. These grants can be applied for by municipalities to augment tax collections in satisfying whatever needs may be covered under the grant guidelines.

But these funds are not equally distributed because they require application, justification and sometimes require matches. There are a myriad of charitable grants that are made available, some recurring annually, others only appearing as funds are secured. I firmly believe that the potential to earn considerable funding is enhanced by dedication and effort in discovering, persistently pursuing and diligently applying for available funds.

As an example, I was impressed to read in the 9/15/2017 Daily Record that Boonton, NJ, had been awarded a $1M grant thanks to the “efforts by local officials and a volunteer committee [that] helped secure a $1 million federal grant to fund various improvements to the historic Main Street district.”

So when Councilwoman Susan Poage earlier this year proposed the formation of Township-sponsored committee to pursue grants and organize current grant efforts by our town volunteers, I fully endorsed the idea and anticipated enthusiasm from her fellow township leaders. Councilwoman Poage even had a professional grant writer from our community willing to volunteer her time to help lead this initiative. Much to my disappointment, the response was tepid and to-date has not realized any traction in our Township. The identification of available grants can be daunting, is time consuming and can be a complex pursuit. We missed two state DOT grants in 2014 and 2017; each typically totals about $200,000 annually. We could have paved a lot of roads with $400,000! One individual alone may succeed but a committee of people dedicated to the task, with assistance from an experienced leader, multiplies the potential success. We have people in our community – experts in their fields – willing to  assist our current volunteer efforts, and secure more funds so our taxpayers can benefit from more services from around town. Why would such an amazing idea not be met with immediate warmth and acceptance?

Last February, Governor Phil Murphy announced an increase in the amount of Municipal Aid grant awards in New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), thanks to the recent gas tax increase, which more than doubled the amount of funds for local road and bridge safety improvement projects. Berkeley Heights received $275,000 in awards, which positioned us in a tie with Winfield Township for 15th among the Union County recipients, while neighboring townships such as Summit, Cranford and Union received twice as much or more. Not only do we lag behind our neighbors in the amount awarded, but we are yet farther behind due to having completely missed applying for any monies in 2017.

While the reasons for such variability may be sound, I feel strongly that Berkeley Heights can do better. These are funds that we have paid for and  are there for the asking. We owe it to our residents to do everything possible to ask for the most we can get.

Like Boonton, we should aspire to deliver the best for our residents and together with Angie Devanney as Mayor, Stephen Yellin as Town Councilman and knowing we already have Councilwoman Poage’s support, I pledge that, if elected, we will make every effort to deliver these kinds of results for Berkeley Heights.

They Told Us the Municipal Complex Wouldn’t Cost More Than $28M

The $28 million-turned $32 million Redevelopment Plan is going forward. We need to have new, independent-minded Council members that can ensure the project is managed as transparently and efficiently as possible.

The project already went $4 million over budget before a shovel was even put in the ground.  This despite repeated statements  from members of the governing body that they would hold the cost of the project below $28 million. In addition, the previous, publicly promoted statements the Mayor and Council made about the average tax increase residents would face were wrong. This is why Councilwoman Susan Poage (the only Democrat on the Council) voted “no” to spending the additional $4 million.

We fully support the need for a new Police Station, Emergency Dispatch Center, Town Hall, and Library, but are disappointed by the manner in which the Mayor and Council have handled the process. Many residents feel they have never even been informed about the project, let alone asked for their input and support, leading to an erosion of trust and confidence in township government.

Our Plan: We need to ensure the municipal complex projects stays within budget and is built in an appropriate timeframe. 

Angie’s tremendous record as the Berkeley Heights Township Administrator, along with Alvaro’s 25 years of business experience experience and Stephen’s in-depth understanding of Berkeley Heights issues, means they can hit the ground running in making sure the Municipal Complex project is handled much more effectively going forward. We will work hard to identify every possible way to hold down the cost of the project while finishing it in an appropriate timeframe; we will strive to achieve savings below the Guaranteed Minimum Price (GMP).

Another priority is to ensure the complex and the surrounding areas fit in with the town’s Master Plan. The complex should also showcase environment-conscious features such as solar panels. In the future, we need to make a much stronger effort to actively educate and engage the public from the beginning of projects such as these, and to be more transparent with the process and the details.

Facts Matter: Roselle Mind and Body Project

Facts Matter: Roselle Mind and Body Project

From Angie Devanney, Mayoral Candidate

A number of residents have asked about inaccurate information about me being shared by my opponent’s supporters. Since I agree with them that Facts Matter, here are the facts about one piece of misinformation:
The Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) entered into a shared agreement with the Borough of Roselle and Roselle Board of Education to construct a Mind and Body complex consisting of a community center and early childhood school. The UCIA sought a Public-Private Partnership to realize cost savings, eliminate change orders that occur in traditionally publicly bid projects through a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) and also provided for the lowest possible financing rate.
This is a similar process used for the Berkeley Heights Municipal Complex whereby EPIC Construction was selected and awarded the project and a Developer’s Agreement was signed. The developer does not determine the scope of the project. The project price is based on architecture (rectangular building vs unique shape), programming (how much square footage for offices, meeting rooms, etc.), materials used (wood vs. brick, granite vs. marble, etc.) and how the building is outfitted (technology, furniture, etc.).
Programming is determined by the Governing Body. In Berkeley Heights, it is the Township Council who made the final decision about the scope and size of the project therefore setting a framework for the cost of the Municipal Complex. In Roselle, the Borough Council and Board of Education made the programming decisions and the UCIA selected a developer.
My husband, George and I were not the developers on the Roselle Mind and Body Complex, but rather served as part of the professional team for the developer, as listed in the official Request for Qualifications submission to the UCIA on January 16, 2016 by the developer. Contrary to the misinformation being spread by my opponent’s supporters, we had no involvement with any other aspect of the project, including any decisions made about the cost and management of the project.
Residents deserve a campaign focused on facts and issues that affect our community, not relying on misinformation and fear-driven innuendo. I urge Mayor Woodruff and his team to join Stephen Yellin, Alvaro Medeiros and I in committing themselves to that kind of campaign.
Warren Development: We’ll Always Stand Up for Berkeley Heights First

Warren Development: We’ll Always Stand Up for Berkeley Heights First

By Angie Devanney, Stephen Yellin & Alvaro Medeiros

Last week, the Township of Warren voted to accept a court-imposed settlement with the NJ Fair Share Housing Center.  This was unwelcome news for many Berkeley Heights residents. As many will recall, this is the same property that Berkeley Heights residents overwhelmingly voted to prevent overdevelopment on Emerson Lane in 2013.  Now we are faced with a project on the exact same spot; Warren Township plans to build nearly 200 housing units there.

Since the proposed development is located in Warren, Berkeley Heights government does not approve or deny any development planned for the parcel.  However, it appears as if the project would rely on sewer capacity from the Berkeley Heights Wastewater Treatment Plant. If elected, Angie, Stephen and Alvaro will unapologetically oppose any agreement allowing Warren to hook up to the Berkeley Heights sewer if it requires a vote by council.

Further, it appears that the current Berkeley Heights Township attorney participated in talks with the Warren Township attorney related to the sewer, despite having a conflict as the son of the Mayor of Warren. While we are not attorneys and are unsure if this would provide legal basis to nullify any agreements that may already be in place, we will certainly investigate if it can be legal grounds to stop the development.

While the settlement was just recently confirmed, this is not a new subject to the Berkeley Heights governing body.  Documents have surfaced revealing that one year ago, in October of 2017, the Town Council, through the Township Attorney, provided a letter stating that Berkeley Heights has the requisite sewer capacity to accept and process the sewage from this planned development in Warren. It was only when the settlement was proposed that the governing body made a public showcase of hiring an attorney to consult on our options. Our elected officials owe us an explanation as to why they didn’t say “no” and why they did not provide residents with any information about the situation in a timely manner.

Our Mayor and Township Council have not been transparent when it comes to informing residents about the Warren Affordable Housing situation.  If we are elected, we will do whatever possible to prevent this project from proceeding. Going forward, we will ensure full transparency and accountability to ensure residents know as much as possible before major developments like this are formally adopted.

Stephen Yellin: 2 Major Changes Needed for Selecting Volunteers (TAP Series)

Stephen Yellin: 2 Major Changes Needed for Selecting Volunteers (TAP Series)

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

Week 3 Question: How would you improve upon the process of selecting board members and volunteers to Township appointed committees? What do you think the County’s role in local government should be?

How would you improve upon the process of selecting board members and volunteers to Township appointed committees? 

One of the best things about Berkeley Heights is our incredible community spirit, and that includes volunteering to serve on Township appointed committees. To volunteer, you currently have to fill out an application and be approved by the Mayor. But I believe there is a lot of room for improvement here. There are two major changes that should take place:

  1. A larger, more diverse group of volunteers should be appointed. There are many residents – myself included – who have applied to serve on these committees but have not been chosen by the Mayor. Meanwhile, others have been appointed to two or more committees, many of whom are vocal supporters of the Mayor and his running mates. This imbalance must be corrected if all residents are truly going to be welcomed to participate in local government.
  2. We must do a much better job in recruiting residents who may be excellent committee volunteers but haven’t been asked. Westfield’s new Mayor, Shelley Brindle, and her team created a townwide, online application drive for committee volunteers, and several hundred residents responded for the first time! We should do the same thing, and put an easily accessible application on our website instead of forcing residents to file a paper request with the Clerk’s office. This will also create a much larger “talent pool” for other volunteer opportunities, including the Fire Department and the Rescue Squad.

What do you think the County’s role in local government should be?

If elected, my responsibility will be to put Berkeley Heights residents first. That means building a stronger, more effective partnership with Union County in order to get back more of our tax dollars, and that is what Angie Devanney, Alvaro Medeiros and I will do if elected.

This approach has had real results: just 15 years ago, an all-Republican Township Committee worked with an all-Democratic county Freeholder Board to create Snyder Park, instead of letting it become a 259-unit housing complex. One of the key people in making that happen was then appointed by that Republican Township Committee to be our Business Administrator: none other than Angie, whose record showed that having a (D) or (R) next to your name doesn’t matter when it comes to making local government do things better.

Union County’s role should be to act as a partner in our efforts to win every possible grant, develop reasonable shared service agreements, and support programs that protect the environment and promote inclusion. This partnership must be a two-way street, however. We must ensure our residents get a voice at the table and are treated as fairly as any other town, and that is a goal Angie, Alvaro and I will strive for if elected.

Alvaro Medeiros: Volunteer Selection Process Should Be Inclusive & Transparent (TAP Series)

Alvaro Medeiros: Volunteer Selection Process Should Be Inclusive & Transparent (TAP Series)

Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

Week 3 QuestionsHow would you improve upon the process of selecting board members and volunteers to Township appointed committees? What do you think the County’s role in local government should be?

How would you improve upon the process of selecting board members and volunteers to Township appointed committees?

There is considerable value that board members and volunteers can bring to the leadership and the Township as a whole. For that reason, the process to select members must be entirely transparent and that every effort must be made to be inclusive in member selection; the community should feel encouraged and welcome to volunteer. I was selected when I applied for membership on the Environmental Commission and for that, I am grateful. However, I also know that others who have applied for other committee memberships but were not selected without any reason given.

I am also a strong proponent of diversity and of collaboration. There are many people in Berkeley Heights with considerable skills and abilities or who are extremely creative and have out-of-the-box solutions. All of them can devise and help implement solutions to Township challenges that the leadership may otherwise not come up with. We should do everything possible to advertise committee membership, add new committees and include committee activity, reports and proposals in the public agenda, as well as in our strategic planning. Moreover, no one should ever feel that they are not welcome nor encouraged to join, nor be unaware of the opportunity to be an active volunteer.

What do you think the County’s role in local government should be?

In 2017, nearly $18 million, (24%) of our Township taxes were paid to Union County, an average of over $3,000 per household.  Many of the major thoroughfares in our Township are county roads – Mountain Ave., Springfield Ave., Plainfield Ave., Union Avenue and Snyder. Many residents in Town are Union County employees and we have a substantial share of the Watchung Reservation footprint here in town. Clearly, the county is a major stakeholder in the Township and most certainly the Township deserves to benefit from our contribution to the county.

I believe it is incumbent upon our local government to coordinate with and work closely with the county to help defray costs that would otherwise drive our taxes higher. These may be take the form of library and recreation grants in which Berkeley Heights has inexplicably trailed our neighboring Townships – or completely missed available grants completely – or coordination on street signs, street lights and other means of improving the quality of commuting within the Township. Moreover, as recycling has become less convenient due to the limitations of what our Township Recycling contractor can now collect, Union County recycling events (many of which are held at the Nokia Labs Building), are an ever-more relevant solution to our recycling needs.

Finally, the county can serve as a resource for beneficial development and help to coordinate cost-saving shared service agreements with other county Townships. Together with Angie Devanney and Stephen Yellin, I pledge, if elected, to work much more closely with the county than what has been evident in recent years. We firmly believe it is foolhardy to ignore the county’s potential role as a resource for Berkeley Heights. Rather, the county can be another valuable means to solving the challenges we face.

Leadership Starts at the Top

Leadership Starts at the Top

By Angie Devanney

Make no mistake about it, I personally know first-hand that our municipal and Board of Education employees, and our volunteers do a great job with the limited resources they have to work with. But being a member of a governing body, particularly one with a small population, means jumping in the car, driving to Trenton or Elizabeth and advocating for County, NJDOT and other state dollars – not missing grant deadlines. It means ensuring all organizations in town are getting what they need to adequately service residents. That is the leadership I believe has been missing. It is time to think beyond the status quo of how “we’ve always done things,” and strive to do better.

As a baseball and softball mom, I have increasingly become disappointed with the condition of our fields over the last decade. I witnessed countless volunteer dads and moms try to maintain the fields, but seemingly, it has been a losing battle. We are a small town where every penny does count. When opportunities to obtain grants are missed that would improve the condition of our fields, our children are the ones affected most by it – and that’s not acceptable. These grants programs are also opportunities to get back more of our tax dollars from Union County. While Berkeley Heights has missed several of these grants, our neighboring towns of Mountainside and New Providence received $300,000 – $400,000 more in recreation grant dollars than Berkeley Heights.

Now our roads are falling more and more into disrepair. During my tenure as Township Administrator, our Department of Public Works’ track record was a source of community pride. Yet today, the Township government has missed 2 New Jersey Department of Transportation (local aid) road grants, once in 2014 and just last year in 2017. On average, these grants are $200,000 annually. Imagine how many roads could have been repaired and reconstructed with $400,000 or more! How can our DPW deliver services efficiently when the overall conditions of our roads requires far more attention than should be necessary just to do basic maintenance?

Likewise, libraries always seem to be on the chopping block at a time when they are needed more than ever helping to prepare our children for the future. That’s why I am committed to advocating for New Jersey State Library Construction Bond Act funds to help offset some of the cost of the municipal complex. I will also fight to ensure that Berkeley Heights tops the list of library grant funds received from Union County in the next coming three years, not the bottom.  We owe it to our library staff and board to be fierce advocates for them and our community.

Regardless of political party affiliation, the Mayor and Council have a duty to work across party lines at both the county and state levels and provide the tools our DPW, recreation, library staff and volunteer organizations need to build better fields, create recreation opportunities, maintain the roads and provide resources for our library.

Leadership starts at the top. That is why I ask for your support on November 6th  to be our next Mayor, along with Stephen Yellin and Alvaro Medeiros for Township Council.

P.S. I welcome your questions or ideas on how we can make positive changes in Berkeley Heights. Don’t hesitate to email me at AngieforBHMayor@gmail.com. 

Angie Devanney: Plans for Handling Impact of 1,000 New Housing Units (TAP Series)

Angie Devanney: Plans for Handling Impact of 1,000 New Housing Units (TAP Series)

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Democratic Mayoral Candidate Angie Devanney for Week 2.

Week 2 Question:

  • What is your recommendation for an infrastructure plan to handle the impact of the addition of approximately 1,000 new housing units as part of the Affordable Housing Settlement? (Please include scope of impact on roads, services and infrastructure.)

Berkeley Heights is on the precipice of significant change. With nearly 1,000 housing units slated to be built by approximately 2020, we need to plan 2, 5, 10 years into our future. Roads, fields, public safety, the sewer plant, public works will all feel the impact.

First, as Mayor, I will institute a fee on any incoming development to lessen the burden on our town. I successfully negotiated this fee while working on a luxury housing project in a nearby town and stand ready to do the same here.

Second, we should institute a Citizen’s Review Committee comprised of different residents from across the community, facilitated by our planning and engineering professionals. This will allow us to assess our needs for 2020 through 2030 by reaching into our community and listening to our residents and business owners.

Surprisingly, our township Master Plan has not been substantially updated since 2007 despite all the new development. Berkeley Heights deserves a government that will be proactive rather than reactive. We will pass resolutions and ordinances that put “teeth” into a new Master Plan and the Citizen’s Review Committee’s recommendations.

Third, I will look for other sources of revenue or areas to ease the pressure on the municipal budget, such as the township sewer plant. Other communities are sharing wastewater services and making long-term investments in energy projects so that plants can become a net zero energy facilities. While these may be long-term solutions to ease the burden on our taxpayers, we need to look beyond the immediate future and plan for our children’s future.

Fourth, I would create a coalition of recreation groups to pool funds and make significant improvements to our fields. When Mountainside and New Providence have received $300,000 and $400,000 more grant dollars from the County’s Open Space program, we need to reassess how we leverage our recreation dollars. As the author of grant applications for the Kid’s Recreation Trust Fund and Greening the Streets, I understand that leadership starts at the top. As leaders like State Senator Vin Gopal have noted, we must stop working in silos and bring our shared resources together.

This focus applies to other areas that we need to support, like library grants. I will advocate for Berkeley Heights’ fair share of the state Library Construction Bond Act funds, along with increased funding from the Union County library grant. With a municipal complex that has a price tag of $32 million, we need to take advantage of every grant dollar.

With proper planning, innovative ideas, proactively running our government by including our community groups, non-profit organizations and others, we will be ready for our new future.

Read the original TAP article here.