Council President, members of the Town Council, municipal employees, friends, relatives and fellow residents of Mount Olive, I once again thank you for the opportunity to report on the State of the Township of Mount Olive this year, 2017.
It gives me great pleasure to advise all of you that the budget I intend to submit to the Town Council will, for the fourth year in a row, contain no tax increase for municipal services. Further, through continued conservative fiscal management, the projections looking forward for 2018 and 2019 remain sound.
Although we, collectively, have successfully held the line on taxes, those efforts and results have not come at the expense, and/or resulted in a reduction of, the municipal services we provide. To the contrary we continue to improve and expand those services. I take pride in knowing that our efforts do not go un-noticed. One resident, who follows my facebook page, recently wrote that she "loves our community and all that it has to offer." I, and many residents who have stopped to talk to me around town, share that same sentiment.
Mount Olive has come a long way in the few years that we have governed. I see no reason to believe that 2017 and beyond will be any different.
We, as the elected officials, of course, cannot take all of the credit for Mount Olive's successes. Obviously, government works through the department heads, supervisors, employees and residents of the Township. To all of our employees, I thank you for your efforts on the residents' behalf and take pride in your successes, some of which I am now going to touch base upon.
The administration continues to coordinate all aspects of local government as between the municipal departments, local businesses and residents. Through the use of facebook, radio, newspapers, flyers and other media, we have posted over 7,000 announcements, events, job openings, programs, employment opportunities, weather and health concerns, as well as special notifications. Our efforts of communicating with the residents far exceed any of the surrounding municipalities.
We are continuously working on developing and re-developing properties, in an effort to build and sustain or commercial ratable base throughout the Township.
Responding to employees' concerns and recent events, we've implemented additional security measures in town hall, including panic buttons in all departments and additional emergency exits in council chambers, finance and planning.
Along with our building security measures, all staff went through mandatory active shooter training, conducted by Chief Steve Beecher. The first active shooter drill included a practice run of building evacuation.
This year the Township also purchased three automated external defibrillators (AEDs) that have been placed in various locations in Town Hall. Eight staff members were trained on how to use the AEDs.
In 2016, the Township was faced with the health and safety issue related to the storage of propane and butane railroad tankers within the township. At present, I am pleased that no such tankers currently remain in Mount Olive. We have requested that, when Morris County renews its lease with the Railroad in spring 2017, that such storage be prohibited.
Now that the Morris Hunt/Morris Chase developments are near completion, the Township has taken over all public services including street lighting and snow removal, as well as the public water system.
A number of measures were taken by the Township to provide relief for residents of Sunset Drive, due to the proximity of their homes to Turkey Brook Park. These measures include new fencing, additional signage, new trees, and redirecting some of the field lighting.
Last year, Givaudan generously donated $32,550 to the Township to fund improvements to Drakesbrook Park for the lacrosse program. This donation will fund a new park entrance sign, a new solar powered scoreboard, a storage shed and a practice wall.
Substantial work was done on the Seward House to stabilize the structure. 80% of the work was funded by the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust and included roof repair, masonry restoration, repair and replacing portions of the cupola, and repairing and/or replacing windows and doors.
The restoration of the Baptist Church is nearly complete. All that's outstanding are lime washing the exterior and the installation of ADA accessible restrooms. This year, with 80% funding from the Morris County History Preservation Trust, completed work included moisture protection, doors, finishes, installation of plumbing and electrical, and restoration of metals and carpentry.
Due to the large number of vehicles and the large expense of vehicles the Township purchases each year, we formed a Fleet Committee consisting of Councilman Alex Roman and representatives from finance, administration and DPW. This year the committee reviewed proposed purchases, their cost and their justification prior to the requests coming before Council.
Thanks in part to Council President Joe Nicastro’ request, the Township purchased two flag donation boxes so that residents and business owners may dispose of their flags according to federal protocol. These boxes are located in Town Hall and at Turkey Brook Park.
After the blizzard in January and the numerous issues that occurred within the apartment complexes, Administration and DPW met several times with the property managers of Village Green, Eagle Rock, Oakwood Village to assist them in developing a plan for both staging of residents' vehicles as well as timely snow removal, so that residents are not trapped on the premises and so that Township emergency vehicles can access the property during weather events.
After NJDEP notified us that their standards for certain types of chemical contamination became much stricter in 2015, the number of affected properties increased from one to 35. Administration continues to work closely with DEP to install waterlines to all of these properties. While we had optimistically hoped the project would be completed this year, mapping all of the wells on each property took longer than expected. The project will commence in early 2017 and we hope it will be completed by summer.
The NJDOT re-paved Route 46 from Sand Shore Road to Old Wolfe Road this year. The project, with the coordination of the Township, went smoothly with a minimum impact on traffic.
This year, Atlantic Ambulance took over Hackettstown Regional Medical Services EMS service in Mount Olive. However, the service has remained the same. As with HRMS, Atlantic pays the Township rent to house their ambulances in the Blue Atlas building. This rent goes into a dedicated fund that pays for ambulance services provided to Mount Olive residents who do not have the resources to pay for the services.
The Township received an in-kind grant from NJDOT that will examine all of our current trails planning documents and our existing trails, and develop a comprehensive plan of our current trails, potential connections, potential new trails, potential funding sources and an implementation plan.
Finance Department Accomplishments
The Finance Department, as always was outstanding in 2016. Some of those accomplishments included:
A finalized tax list for 2016 which resulted in a net valuation taxable that was $35,000,000 higher than it was in 2015.
They handled a total of 38 county appeals and 8 state appeals which were filed in 2016. Out of the approximately 8,500 tax line items, the appeals represented less than 1% of our ratable base.
The anticipated current fund balance at year end was more than one million dollars higher than it was in 2015. That end of the year fund balance is the largest in the last 16 years and is directly attributable to the collection rate, added assessments and conservative budgeting.
The year end collection rate exceeded the rate in 2015. The 2015 rate was 99.03%.
The reverse tax appeals pursued against five apartment complexes in Town netted over $240 million in added assessment which resulted in over $900,000 in additional revenue to the Township.
The 2015 audit was finalized with no audit recommendations for the eighth year in a row. The LOSAP audit, arbitrage audit and worker's compensation audits were also finalized with no recommendations.
The October bond sale resulted in a credit rating increase for the Township of one step below AAA. The sale also resulted in almost $200,000 of premium earnings for the Township and a very low interest rate.
The annual tax sale resulted in $685,000 of premiums. In the event a lien is not redeemed within five years, those premiums will escheat to the Township.
The added assessment list for 2016 resulted in a net increase of $28 million in prorated assessment and $831,000 to the Township in additional revenue.
The IT department upgraded the township phone system with Lightpath's IP based phone system, with an annual cost savings of approximately $3,000.00. The installation provided 125 IP based phones to end users with an overall better quality of service as well as full redundancy in the event of a power outage.
Township internet speed has increased from 50mb to 100mb. The increase allows for faster downloads and less bottlenecking of data which includes cloud storage, offsite backs-ups, video surveillance, file transfers and internet browsing.
Lightpath has also agreed to credit us the remaining months on our Avaya maintenance contract which covers our current PBX phone system at $a savings of approximately $17,000.00.
With the implementation of Livestream, we will be able to connect with our community during town council meetings. Viewers can watch on any device, including desktops, tablets and mobile devices.
Department of Public Works
The Department of Public Works had numerous l substantial accomplishments in 2016. Those included:
The 2016 road resurfacing program which included curbing and resurfacing at the South Sutton Park area of Flanders on Hermanne, Deerpath. The second section, Downstream, Pheasant Court is to be completed in 2017. In 2016, DPW paved the Kevin Drive/Bennington Road sections of Bennnington Woods; Flanders Bartley section, Lozier, Station Road and Old Wolf Road also completed.
Drainage was also improved on Drakestown Road, River Road, Firetower, sections of Sandshore, Crease Road, Grant Court, and Ridge Road. .
Tree removal resulted in over 75 dead or hazardous trees cleared from the township right of way and detention basins.
Full depth pothole repairs were accomplished on Flanders Drakestown, Tinc Road and River Road. .
Sanitation continues garbage collection within Chester Borough, including household dumpster service and large item pickup. The large item sticker program has had a revenue return of over $25,000.
DPW also revamped the residential recycling center to be more resident friendly for drop of recycling materials.
In 2016, acquisition of the Morris Chase water system from American water was accomplished which has resulted in lower residential water rates to the residents and improved water supply within the Goldmine estates water area.
DPW also installed a 300,000 gallon holding tank at the Flanders sewer plant for additional holding capacity, in part, to allow the construction of the Regency at Flanders.
The Fleet Department that was put in place by the current administration in January 2013 has become an integral part of Mount Olive's DPW, and the decision to bring Fleet Maintenance in house has proven to be a great success.
For the 4th year running Fleet Maintenance has surpassed its expectations and been under budget. By continued use and refinement of the Fleet Master Plan, vehicle down time and costs have continued to drop.
Fleet has been able to keep over 99% of all repairs in-house.
The Recreation Department held 19 special events in 2016 with more than a total of 32,000 attendees, 198 business sponsors and over 65 volunteers. These
Five new events debuted, including the Mermaid, Pirate and Princess Lunch at the Fairy & Pirate Festival, the Pajama Run 5K, the Township-wide Garage Sale, Glow Run 3K, Hot Cocoa 5K and Winterland. Returning favorites were the Cabin Fever Reliever, Lego Tech Festival with the Mt. Olive Robotics Team, Fairy & Pirate Festival, Power Wheels Races, Raiders of the Lost Park Mud Run (215 children and 335 adults participated), Mt Olive Week Carnival, three Movie Nights at the Park, Touch-a-Truck, Food Trucks & Fireworks, Starry Skies Craft Beer Festival, and Monster Mash.
Approximately 1200 adults participated in 44 programs and approximately 2,300 children participated in 225 programs during the year. Over 900 children participated in 16 summer camp programs which were held in July and August.
Pirates Cove at Mount Playmore opened on July 16th and continued to be popular the rest of the summer.
Mandatory fingerprint background checks for volunteer coaches began in January. So far, over 400 volunteers have participated.
The Planning Department was actively engaged in a number of projects in 2016 beyond the typical responsibilities to assist the general public with questions concerning zoning, the enforcement of the Township's Land Use Ordinance.
Site plan applications approved by the Planning Board in 2016 included: use variance/site plan approval to utilize property on Flanders Netcong Road for storage and maintenance of equipment; use variance/site plan approval to Motion Kia to utilize vacant parcel on Harris Lane for storage of vehicles; preliminary and final site plan approval was granted to Scannell Properties for construction of 48,300 square foot building in the Foreign Trade Zone on International Drive; preliminary and final site plan was granted for construction of two story building consisting of 9,600 square feet on Gold Mine Road to be used as office/warehouse facility; preliminary and final site plan approval was granted to Mavis Tire to construct a new retail store consisting of 6,762 square foot on 259 Route 206; Mountain Ridge Estates (Simoff) obtained amended preliminary and final site plan approval and minor subdivision approval to create a separate lot for the 54 low and moderate income units. The new owners of the Sutton Plaza Shopping Center obtained minor subdivision approval to subdivide the one lot into three lots; McDonalds Restaurant, PNC Bank and the main shopping center building (Weis/Tractor Supply) and the freestanding building (Subway/Verizon).
The Planning Department also worked on draft ordinances to expand the range of permitted uses to include residential use in the FTZ-4 zone district, to help aid in the Township's effort to redevelop the old BASF site and surrounding properties.
The Township also continued in its efforts to acquire the former Cobblestone Nursing home site to remove the abandoned buildings and to redevelop the site with affordable housing consistent with the Township's COAH requirements.
As of the time that the information was provided to me, the Building Department had collected approximately $640,000 in 2016, with $585,000 staying within the Township as revenue.
During the period of January 1, 2016 to November 28, 2016(present), the Building Department issued a total of 2,200 new and updated permits.
The department had a total of almost 5,000 inspections: 1,900 for building, 1,400 for electric, 1,100 for plumbing, and 465 for Fire. The department also issued 61 permits for new homes within the Township.
The biggest change in the court system last year involved State mandated bail reform. That reform has led to a fundamental shift in how both courts and police departments process arrests.
Mount Olive continues to provide through a recently negotiated contract court services to Netcong Borough. Mount Olive will see at least a 2% increase in fees from this service agreement each year for the next five years.
The Health Department:
Monitored events and progress and participated in public meeting regarding Combe Fill North well water contamination.
Six (6) private wells ran dry; all affected properties were issued permits for alterations; a few received supplemental assistance from the Township Water & Sewer Department.
After a joint investigation with the Zoning, Health and Police Departments, the Young Health Spa (193 Rt. 206) was forced to close due to failure to fulfill licensing requirements.
There were 28 dogs impounded, 25 dogs reclaimed, 1 dog adopted, 1 dog euthanized; 13 cats impounded, 2 cats reclaimed and 1 cat euthanized.
In terms of our shared service contracts, there were 68 responses to Byram Township animal control calls and 49 responses to Washington Township. Animal Control issued a total of 697 cat licenses, and 2447 dog licenses.
The Health Department conducted 469 inspections which included: 136 retail food inspections and 899 inspections of multi-dwelling units.
In total the Health Department issued 53 summonses for numerous violations.
With respect to health education/community outreach, the Health Department:
Arranged for a Registered Dietician to present at Senior Center;
Purchased a Booth and displayed Department services at the Carnival, Purchased a one page article in MORE for an article on winter health tips;
Held two after-hours Food Handler's Course for Mt. Olive Non-profit Organizations; trained over 60 volunteers;
Created a new Health Department website that showcases services for residents;
Created Zika Virus education posters and placed in several venues in town;
Conducted two (2) Retail Food Handler's training courses for local food businesses;
Posted a total of 183 health education messages and health department events on the Department's Facebook page; resulting in 321 "Likes" with "reaches" over 600 each for some;
As to public health nursing, the Health Department:
Held one (1) Female Cancer Screening; two (2) abnormal results referred and being followed;
Held 2 Blood Screenings; eighty-seven (87) residents referred for nutritional counseling and/or follow-up;
Held three (3) Child Health Clinics; 92 vaccinations given;
Held nine (9) Influenza Clinics; vaccinated 351 residents;
Held one (1) Skin Cancer Screening; 13 residents screened;
Held one (1) Stroke Screening;
Held one (1) Bone Density Screening;
Conducted twenty (20) Blood Pressure Screenings;
As to senior transportation:
Ridership in all categories increased every month compared to 2015, and included but was not limited to 225 medical transports and 1054 meals delivered.
New programs created for seniors in 2016 included the Walking Club, "Let's Move" exercise program and monthly trips to Wal-Mart.
The senior meetings included invites from such groups as the Heartbeat Dance Center's National Champion Tap Quartet and the CMS 4th Grade Chorus.
Each month at least one "Special Trip" was coordinated; including trips to, the Rockaway Mall, Cracker Barrel, IHOP, Black River Barn, Mohawk Lake, ITC Shopping & Lunch, Sun High Orchard, Cliff's Ice Cream, Chatterbox, Davey's Dogs.
The Fire Marshall's office conducted a total of approximately 2500 premises and 468 smoke detector inspections among the three towns Mount Olive provides such services for through shared service agreements.
Mount Olive Police Department
As always the Mount Olive Police Department had many successes in 2016. The pride that the community has for our police force is something that gets communicated to me on a daily basis. Some of the 2016 police department accomplishments included:
NJSACOP LEAP Accreditation Re-Certification was awarded March 10, 2016;
Captain Beecher graduated from Rutgers CPM in May of 2016, and became Chief of the Department upon the retirement of Chief Mark Spitzer after 30+ years of dedicated service;
The police department helped prepare building change recommendations and training related to safety. They conducted the first township employee active shooter drill in November of 2016;
They instituted Law Enforcement Against Drugs (LEAD) program in all elementary schools;
Lt. Austenberg started the MOPD Pink Patch Project in October to promote Breast Cancer Awareness;
Officer Elbaum Initiated the Coffee with a Cop Program to stimulate community officer communication and conversation;
With regard to calls, the Police Department responded to approximately:
1,300 ambulance requests;
14,000 business check incidents;
4,100 residential check incidents;
315 vacant home checks;
12,300 directed patrols;
108 theft/shoplifting incidents;
781 traffic crashes;
42 criminal mischief incidents;
139 incidents of harassment;
180 noise complaints;
Patrol also responded to several drug overdose calls in 2016 and were able to save 7 victims by administering Nasal Narcan.
3 officers assigned to Patrol received the Morris County 200 Club Award for Valor in 2016 for their actions at 2 residential fires where they entered the structures and saved 2 lives.
The police department closed down three (3) massage parlors as a result of prostitution/massage ordinance.
They made an arrest in an employee theft at Laser Technologies involving over $225,000.
176 cases investigated by the Investigations Division.
25 Deaths Investigated.
What I have included in this address is only a small sampling of what our Township Departments and employees accomplished over the course of the last year, and what they accomplish on a daily basis. Let us not forget that they are on the front line everyday working to make Mount Olive a better safer place to live. To that end, I congratulate all of the employees in all of the successes of 2016 and look forward to greater achievements in 2017.
I would like to thank the Town Council, our Business Administrator, Laura Harris, and all of our municipal employees for a job well done in 2016. May you all and have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
Sincerely and with great appreciation,
MAYOR, MOUNT OLIVE TOWNSHIP