Town Meeting Dec 10

Think Dentistry

Oakland town meetingThe relatively short Town Council meeting proceeded with Mayor Szabo absent and several items on the agenda were pulled as a result. Several items of interest were discussed.

Tennis Courts

While tests to determine the condition of the sub base directly under the courts had not yet been reviewed, those from the immediate periphery did not show signs of any organic problems. Rumors of landfill material having been dumped in the vicinity have been mentioned in the past, but the borough engineer indicated this appears not to be the case. He went on to provide his estimation that the problems plaguing the courts are most likely the result of poor base preparation when they were first installed. His belief is that a deeper excavation and a tightly packed base should provide a solid foundation for the courts. The results of the final tests should be available in the next few days.

Garbage & Recycling

Bids will be going out for a contract to handle the garbage and recycling pick-ups in town. Oakland will be seeking bids that vary in specifications so as to allow the council options to choose the most pragmatic and economic. One specification in the contract will be to return the 7am pick-up start. The length of the contract and the frequency of pick-up will also be discussed once the bids are received. Preliminary discussions took place on whether there was any substantial benefit to reducing garbage pick-up to once a week. The recycling contract will also be put out to bid. On a side note, It was announced that the town’s present vendor is now accepting plastics 1-7 for curbside pick-up.

Fuel Tanks

In a moment of satori, Council member Frank Di Pentima sounded more like a taxpayer than a politician. His inquiry as to whether the municipality will soon be pumping its own fuel was met in the affirmative. He expressed a bit of exasperation that projects in Oakland tend to drag on way too long and the fuel tank installation was indicative of the situation.

NJDEP Fines

The borough has been fined $15,000 by the state’s DEP for failure to register underground fuel tanks back in 1988. Originally assessed fines up to $45,000, the town negotiated the fees down. Neighboring Franklin Lakes is also being faced with a $10,000 fine that they are still appealing. In both situations, there was not threat or damage to the environment, but the hefty fines have been imposed for failure to properly complete required paperwork.

In both towns, there was no malicious intent to avoid the regulations. Franklin Lakes had been working with the DEP to complete the required reports on the recently purchased reservoir, and Oakland’s situation dates back twenty years. New Jersey’s DEP makes a substantial part of its budget from fines, and enforcement in this area will probably increase as the the new head of the NJDEP intends to, “to save as many jobs as possible”, in his department. The New Jersey Institute of Technology conducted a study that found New Jersey had excessively high environmental fees and fines compared to other states.

As New jersey’s manufacturing businesses move across to Pennsylvania, and budgets are cut, the NJDEP will most likely need to get more aggressive in finding sources of revenue. Increased fining of municipalities may prove to be that new source of revenue.

COAH

The Mayor’s absence from the council meeting was due to his attendance in a COAH planning meeting. The question of affordable housing continues to plague townships throughout the state who are being repeatedly confronted with short deadlines. The third round COAH obligations just released this spring required towns to submit a plan by December 31st. The High Lands Master Plan, which was finally released this summer, is also imposing the December 31st deadline for those towns, such as Oakland, that are considering “opting-in” to the full plan.

Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow sponsored a meeting on COAH and the HighLands Act in Clinton Township. She is concerned about COAH’s “Scarce Resource Restraint Order” forbidding the development of tax-offsetting rateables unless there are enough water resources to meet the housing obligations mandated by COAH. Karrow is concerned towns in her district will be forced to pass all spending increases back on to property owners.

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