Monday, March 23, 2020

KPN FaceBook Posts to the Community March 21 and March 23, 2020

March 21, 2020 8:43 PM

Hey Everyone: I am sure most of you have received word regarding our Governor's recent directive to stay home...with certain exceptions. I do not want to attempt to summarize his Order (Executive Order 107), but rather I do offer you the link so that you can read the entire statement to better inform yourselves regarding our new normal. It is here: https://covid19.nj.gov/

As we all try to process the impact this pandemic is having on our lives, and will have for some time, it is absolutely critical that we collectively, as a community, become caretakers for one another. Whether it is simply following the restrictions set forth in the Order from our Governor (being a responsible citizen), or doing more by thoughtfully and consistently checking in on neighbors and friends to make sure they are okay (being a responsible human). We have to remain "together" (though remaining a safe physical distance from each other🙃). Some employees will be rolling their eyes now because they know this next line is coming..."TOGETHER IS BETTER." It has been my mantra since I began this job, and it is full throttle right now.

I ask all of you to create a list of people that you know that may need some assistance in some way. Some extra attention you can offer that you may normally not provide. Maybe an elderly neighbor who lives alone that you never spoke to before. Or a relative or friend that are home alone and in need of a funny story or food or supplies. This is our opportunity to be the best we can be and take care of our own.

This took many of us a while to realize that this health crisis is real, and that it will get worse before it gets better. This is new to everyone. It is important to remain calm, and to be a source of strength and confidence for the important people in your life that look to you for guidance.
Continue to practice physical distancing (I like this term better than social distancing), keep your hands clean and away from your face and mouth as much possible, and support our local businesses even if you don't have the "need." They need us. A bigger tip if you are in a position to do so. A kind smile always. Tap into your "empathy" chip and act upon it.

If you have any questions or concerns and you think that I may be able to help in some way, don't hesitate to contact me. Cell 609.508.4871. Email Knerwinski@lawrencetwp.com. If I don't have the answer for you, I will work to find one. If you were able to see your municipal employees and how they are responding to this crisis, you would be proud.....I promise you. Police, Fire, EMT, Health, Public Works and all of our other departments are doing all they can to give us the ability to provide the services you expect from us. We will be working short staffed, and we ask you understand if some services are stopped or delayed in some way. All we can do is our best, and I know our people are committed to do just that. Stay safe. Stay Smart. Stay Responsible. #LawrenceNJStrong!!! 👊👊✌️

Caveat: "Together is Better" is a book by Simon Sinek. It really had a positive impact on me. It is a perfect book for a young person in your life. I have given out 20 books already as a gift. It provides the reader with important life lessons to face challenges in a meaningful and positive way. And yes, that is a Raiders bug in the background!!!



March 23, 2020  11:50 AM

Hey Everyone: Please be informed that all of our Municipal Buildings will be closed to the public until further notice. Importantly, the Police building remains open to all as a "safe harbor" for anyone in an emergent situation that needs police assistance.

Though our municipal buildings are closed to the public, we remain staffed to continue with our operations and deliver services. This is a new normal. Instead of dropping by to do business with one of our departments, please call in advance and "game plan" with our staff member to determine a means to accomplish what you need to accomplish.

We have a drop box positioned at our North Entrance, and there is also a desk with envelopes and markers to use (if needed) to properly address your item to the staff member or department that you want it to go to. There is a list of phone numbers for each department displayed️ should you need "more" than just a quick drop-off. All of our staff have been asked to think "outside the box" to meet the needs of our public but always being mindful of physical distancing. We can do this. I ask for everyone's patience and understanding.

NOTE: If you look closely at the picture, you will see Officer Robert Wagner who successfully photo bombed it! Nicely played Sir! 👊👊✌️



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

KPN Memorandum to Mayor and Council Members 2020 March 17


                                 Lawrence Township - Interoffice Memorandum



To:

Mayor and Council Members

From:

Kevin P. Nerwinski, Esq., Municipal Manager

Subject:

Township Response to Coronavirus Pandemic

Date:

March 17, 2020

cc:

Kathy Norcia, Municipal Clerk and David Roskos, Municipal Attorney

 

 


Please accept this memorandum as an update on the Township’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic as of March 17, 2020 at 12:15 PM.[1]  I provide the date and time to this report since this is a very fluid situation which requires flexibility and modifications to decisions already made.


1.    Municipal operations will be suspended on Thursday and Friday for the next two weeks (except for essential personnel).  As a result, the Municipal Building will be closed to the public and employees will not be allowed entry on these days.  Department heads are working with their staff for at home-work assignments, if possible.   Three days on and two days off may continue until such time as the health crisis dissipates to better provide for the safety of our employees and the visitors they interact with.  This decision was made to reduce the movement and interaction of people within the buildings for an extended period of time, but also provide enough time for us to maintain operations.  Closing down completely is simply not an option at this time. 


During our days of operation at the Municipal Building, we have closed the front entrance and the South entrance from public access.  Access to the building is ONLY through the North Entrance.  We have hired a temporary receptionist and positioned him at a desk so that each person entering the building registers (providing name and contact information). We are doing this to provide us with a record of all persons in our building at any given time should the need arise to contact them if a positive Covid-19 person has been confirmed to be in our building.   We also are making available information on preventative actions to take during this health crisis.  Employee parking is in the South parking lot, and the public parks in the North lot.  The Municipal Building will be locked by 5:00 pm Monday through Wednesday. 


2. The Senior Center is closed except that we will be continuing the Nutrition Program with designated times for meal pick-up.  The information will be posted prominently on the exterior of the building and on all social media outlets and in our Senior Connect that we will make available for pick up and distribution.


3.   Recreational programs have been suspended until further notice.  All fields used by the various sports clubs will be closed until April 14 (with the potential for further delay if required).


4.    Our Health Officer and her staff have been working non-stop during this crisis.  As you know we have two confirmed Covid-19 cases at this time.  These patients will be monitored by our Health department, and I am told they are extremely cooperative with all set protocol.  At this point, there is no need to increase the staffing in this department, but we are prepared to do so if necessary.


5.    Our Chief of Police reports to me throughout the day.  His department and operations are all running normally.  Yesterday, the State of New Jersey acted to designate all Class III Officers to Class II status if the municipality needs additional police presence or is experiencing a more than normal decrease in manpower.  Class II officers have very much all the same power and authority as a police officer.  Funding for engaging Class II officers to serve in our department is available.


6.    Our Director of Emergency Management reports to me throughout the day.  Although there have been some staffing issues, they have been addressed and we are in good shape right now.  The EMTs are performing exceedingly well and our career and volunteer fire fighting departments are ready to provide responses to issues as they arise. 


7.     Our CFO keeps me updated on our municipality’s financial situation.  At this time, there is no immediate adverse impact to our finances due to this crisis.  With the market tanking, we should, however, expect less income on our investments which will affect future budget decisions. 


We received approval from the State of New Jersey to access funding from our Storm Recovery Reserve (formally known as snow removal) to apply to additional costs associated with this crisis.  In addition, we have modified our 2020 budget, and increased the tax from 1.7 cents to 2.0 cents.  This additional monies are designated for use if and when necessary for Coronavirus response.  Should we not use this additional funding, it will be returned to surplus with the ability to use it at as a credit for future budgets.  Introduction of the 2020 Budget will be tonight.

All Coronavirus expenditures will be designated with the Covid-19 coding.  As a result, we will have a record that will form the basis for any application for federal or state relief if and when that opportunity arises.


8.   We have suspended all committee meetings at this time.  We did have a Planning Board meeting last night and there will be a brief Zoning Board meeting tomorrow night.  But my sense is that future meetings will be canceled until further notice.  We must have our council meeting tonight.  The introduction of the 2020 Budget must be done tonight due to the deadline.  I do imagine that State action will cause a rescheduling of the budget process but we are proceeding in compliance with the present regulations.  Although we have a plan to get through this meeting tonight, I will be exploring other options for our next meeting.   The obvious hurdle is ensuring adequate public participation in compliance with OPMA (Open Public Meetings Act).  But we will work through it.
  

9.   Public Works will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the next two weeks except for essential personnel (i.e., mechanics…to keep all municipal vehicles operational).  Greg W. is working on a plan to meet the services expected by the community, but I believe the services we do provide will be subject to modification for a new normal until the crisis dissipates.


10. The Court is closed for the next 2 weeks as ordered by AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts).  The staff, however, will work as scheduled like other municipal employees.
  

11.  Tax and Sewer collections.  We are working with our credit card company to temporarily eliminate the service fee for those paying by credit card and, when we receive confirmation of this, we will take the steps necessary to inform the tax payers and promote the use of the credit card option to reduce visits to the office.  The Tax Collector is also looking into extending deadlines for payments to promote people to mail in their payments should the credit card payment not be an option. Authorization for any extension must come from the State. Additionally, we are on the last step of having the bank approve our ACH module to allow tax payers another option to pay without mail or on site payment.
  

12. Tax Assessors office is modifying its work by working directly with residents and business owners to perform assessment via “virtual assessment” (i.e., pics of areas to be assessed and measurements being provided by the tax payer, etc.) eliminating on site visitation temporarily.
    

13.  Our Bureau of Vital Statistics (i.e., marriage licensing, etc.) will be engaging in a shared service agreement with another township for continuity of operations should staff be unable to perform duties to the virus.  We are fortunate to have a full time staff member performing this work and a certified back up already, but the State is mandating this shared services plan and, of course, we will comply.
  

14.  Social media posting continues throughout the day providing important information and updates.  I am continuing to keep residents informed by engaging them on the various community FaceBook pages and through my blog.


15.  I have asked our Municipal Attorney to look into the necessity for our municipality to declare a state of emergency on the local level.  At this point, I do not see a need or justification for it.  Heath, Finance, Public Safety are all in a good state at this time.  He will report back to me on this issue.
  

16.  I have met with all of the Department Heads on multiple occasions throughout the past week to game plan on expected issues and problems, and to ensure the continuity of operations within their departments.  I have made each Department Head a stakeholder in our municipality’s response to this health crisis, and they have responded with professionalism and commitment.  I also went from department to department to personally address our employees to keep them informed as to our plans, the importance of the work that we do for our community, and our commitment to keep them as safe as we can.  All have responded favorably.  I know this dialogue must continue because this crisis will continue for an extended period of time.  


     I will work from this memo for future updates by highlighting additions to the text. 





[1] Presently implemented actions not prior actions taken.

FaceBook Posts to Community Pages on Coronavirus


FaceBook Posts to the Community sites:


March 17, 2020 at 10:30 AM:  A copy of an email sent to me by our Health Officer:

From: Carol Chamberlain
Sent: Tuesday, March 17, 2020 11:21 AM
To: Kevin Nerwinski
Subject: RE: coronavirus cases


Kevin,

Just to review, upon receipt of a positive case form the NJDOH, the following steps are taken:

  1. The case is confirmed through  review of laboratory results in the NJDOH Communicable Disease Reporting System (CDRSS)
  2. The individual is contacted and the NJDOH COVID -19 Confirmed Case Interview Form is completed which asks the patient about where they have been, who they were in close contact with and how they moved through the community (transportation). This form is submitted to the NJDOH to be reviewed by the Communicable Disease Service staff and if additional  information or instruction is needed, it will be provided to the local health department.
  3. Close contacts are notified and provided the following information:

-          Self- Isolation Agreement is forwarded to them to sign via email. Self isolation is for 14 days from the date of their last known exposure to the positive case

-          Monitoring log for temperatures and other symptoms is sent to them with understanding the health department will be in contact to review temps and symptoms.

-          Instructed if they become symptomatic to contact the health department (me) and they are provided daytime and nighttime contact information and they must contact their own healthcare provider.

-          Maintain log for contact person  - with exception if contacts are associated with a health care worker, the healthcare facility will monitor their own employees.

  1. The confirmed case is to stay isolated for three days after temperature and symptoms are no longer present OR a minimum of 7 days  from the date symptoms started. Please note these criteria are fluid and have changed as the outbreak progresses therefore this could change at  any time.

Please remind people that COVID 19 is in the community at this time and there may be people who have COVID 19 who do not express significant symptoms, therefore everyone is asked to protect themselves by  practicing social distancing and handwashing .

I hope this is helpful.

Carol



March 17, 2020 at 9:40 AM


Hey Everyone! With the announcement that our community has confirmed two members of the same household have tested positive for the Coronavirus, has come a renewed and heightened cause for concern and a demand for more information on these two cases. Please know the following: These two individuals were under self quarantine for a period of time prior to when they were confirmed positive AND under self quarantine for more than 3 days prior to having any symptoms.

Each positive case is reported to the NJ DOH (Department of Health) and our Health Department. We then perform an extensive interview of the person(s) to obtain all information regarding their whereabouts and close contact encounters. All persons in the "close contact" category (within 6 ft for 10 minutes or more) are contacted and informed of potential exposure to the virus. The recommendation from NJDOH is a look back period of 3 days before the person started to feel sick. These persons were under self quarantine BEFORE that look back period since they already had been informed of a potential exposure during a gathering. Additionally, the persons who have tested positive maintain consistent communication with our health officer to report on their condition.

It is extremely important for everyone to remain calm. To be smart. To take the recommended precautions of social distancing, limiting public interactions, keep your hands clean at all times. If you feel sick, immediately self isolate and contact your health provider and follow recommendations.

The Coronavirus is in our community just as it is in many others. We need to accept this fact, and act responsibly to ourselves and others. Think twice before taking to social media and ask yourself, "Will my post unnecessarily cause panic among my community?" If the answer is yes, please don't post and call me or our Health Officer with your concern so we can discuss it further. Stay safe everyone.👊👊✌

March 16, 2020 at 9:45 AM


Hey Everyone! I know you have been inundated with all things "Coronavirus" related, but I do want to keep you updated on municipal operations. Today, we made the decision to close municipal buildings and non-essential operations on Thursday and Friday for the next two weeks. The purpose of this is to reduce the movement of people in our buildings for the health and safety of our employees and the public that they interact with. Shutting down completely is not an option for us because we have an obligation to serve our community and continue to provide needed services.

I ask that you all make thoughtful decisions on what is and is not necessary in terms of choices to interact with others in a public setting. If you can call or email us with your inquiry in lieu of coming into the municipal building, that would be appreciated and responsible.

This is a very fluid situation with new information being received hourly. I am thinking in 2-week increments, but also knowing that at any moment I may have to respond to new information that will impact the "two-week" planning. I am confident that for the next 2 weeks we can maintain our services working Mon through Wed. Many employees are coming up with plans on what work they can do at home, and I am proud of the professionalism and commitment they are showing at this time.

Police, Fire, EMT and other essential employees will be required to continue with their responsibilities with much gratitude from me, our elected officials and the community.

Public restrooms at parks will be locked. The Senior Center will be closed except for the nutrition program will continue as modified (go to our website at www.lawrencetwp.com for more information on that and all things relating to our response to this public health crisis). Let's all continue to take the well established and publicized preventative actions to fight the spread of the virus. Stay safe. 👊👊✌


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Email to Mayor and Council on the status of the Township's response to the Coronavirus


This is the body of an email I have provided to our elected officials to inform them of our actions to date in response to the coronavirus.  Since most of you who read my blog are residents with a vested interest in our community, and deserve to be provided with the latest information, I thought I would share the exact communication I have provided to our Mayor and Council.  Please know this is not an exhaustive report and I continue to update and converse with our elected officials on actions taken or to take.  

Mayor and Council:



(Pardon any grammatical errors….I have had quite a day and I do want to get this information out to you as soon as possible….so I am just getting it out without much editing).



I wanted to give you all a status report on the Township’s efforts in response to the coronavirus health crisis.  First, be informed that we are proceeding to error on the side of caution at this time.  Based upon the information that we have, the crisis is real and its spreading in the U.S. and in N.J.  As a result, we are formulating plans on a 2 week cycle (and this may shorten if necessary) as more information becomes available.  Our Health Officer and our Emergency Management Coordinator are in constant contact with County, State and Federal health officials obtaining the latest information and reacting accordingly.



I met with our Department heads this morning to establish a response plan to implement immediately with regard to Township operations.  My concern, as the Municipal Manager, is to ensure the safety of each and every employee and establish protocol to protect them as they serve our community.  I am concerned equally with the residents who participate in the programs we provide both to our elderly residents and our youth.



The most vulnerable group of residents with regard to this virus are those 60 years and older.  As a result, we have planned the following for our Senior Center (which we will keep open for the time being):



1.       For the next two weeks, we will be cancelling events and programs at the Senior Center that involve gatherings of 10-15 persons or more (but keeping the Nutritional program in place).  We will provide notice to the public regarding cancelled events/programs. 

2.       We are requiring each person entering the Senior Center to sign in and confirm that they are not experiencing any health issues that may be consistent with the Coronavirus (i.e., flu like symptoms and respiratory ailments).  I am told that some residents are annoyed at having to sign in, but we are taking the time to explain why to each resident.  This information is necessary since we are keeping the center open in order to have a record of those in the building and the times that they are there.

3.       There are pre-planned and pre-paid events for some Seniors that will use the Township vans for transport that will not be cancelled.  Each van driver has been educated on the need to disinfect the vehicle completely after each transport.  New “outings” will not be scheduled.

4.       As for all Township employees, the Senior Center staff will be educated on preventative measures to take (i.e., maintain a safe distance from individuals, keep the work area clean, do not share pens, etc.).

5.       The Senior Center will have information posted in all areas about preventive action to take to minimize risk of infection. 

6.       The cleaning staff has been educated on the need to be vigilant in disinfecting work spaces throughout the building.  We may have to hire additional and temporary cleaning staff during this time frame.



The Municipal Building:



1.       We will be limiting the public Access to the building to the North Entrance keeping the Main entrance and South Entrance for employee entrance only (starting Thursday).  We will have a reception desk set up at the North entrance for visitors to check in and to be provided with information for preventative action (and encouraged to not conduct business in the building if they are experiencing flu-like or respiratory symptoms).  Signs will be prominently displayed at all entrances.

2.       Each employee has been educated on preventative action to take to best protect themselves from exposure to the virus.  Keeping a clean work area.  Wearing gloves when handling mail.  Keeping a safe distance from visitors they conduct business with.  Do not shake hands, but offer a polite explanation when they decline.

3.       The area at the Construction Office will have tables at the counter to provide more distance between employee and the visitor and to allow the visitor a clean area to do the paper work needed to complete their task.

4.       We met with the group of inspectors that enter residential and commercial properties.  They have been instructed to make telephone contact with the resident/business owner prior to the inspection to confirm that those present in the structure are free from flu-like and respiratory ailments.   If the response is affirmative, the inspection will be rescheduled.

5.       The Health Officer will follow up with the entire work force periodically to continue to educate on being vigilant with preventative action.



The Municipal Court:



1.       We met with our Judge and Court Administrator.  They are receiving information and instruction from the AOC and will keep our Health Official and myself apprised of any directives coming from the Presiding Judge.

2.       The municipal court will remain open.  At check in, the staff has been educated to be conscious of visible signs of symptoms (i.e., coughing, etc.) from visitor and, if necessary and justified, to offer or require a rescheduling of the court matter.

3.       Each staff member has been educated on the importance of keeping a clean work area, and to wear gloves when handling mail.   They have also been informed to error on the side of caution if they are not feeling well…to not come into work. 



Public Works:

Our Public Works staff have been advised of the importance of keeping vehicles clean (disinfected) and the work areas clean.  They have also been informed that if they are not feeling well to error on the side of caution and not come into work.

2.       The public areas that are maintained by PW will receive extra attention in terms of disinfection procedures.



Police Department:



1.       The Police Chief has established new protocols for police officers when dealing with the public.  Safety precautions (i.e., masks and gloves will be used when indicated and upon their discretion).

2.       Persons exhibiting health issues consistent with the virus will receive special attention and alternative processing may be done.



Fire Department:



1.       Our career staff, under the direction of our Fire Marshall and our Emergency Management Coordinator, will go to each multi-dwelling residential buildings to post educational and prevention information prominently throughout each building. 



Health Department:



1.       Carol Chamberlain and staff are on the front lines of this issue.  I will look to Carol on issues and necessary responses to new information as it is received.

2.       Each resident in Lawrence Township that is diagnosed with the Coronavirus  or potential infection (by a medical professional) is identified to our Health Department for monitoring.  We will know each and every resident that has been diagnosed and what, if any, level of quarantine is required.  Our office will work with the residents to educate them and keep them compliant with proper protocol.

3.       The Health Department will continue to acquire the latest information on the virus and ensure that it is posted on our website and social media sites.  



Recreational Programs:



1.       At this time, we are fortunate that there are not many programs occurring at this point.  The pool will remain open and adult volley ball will continue.

2.       We will make further decisions on future programs as we progress through this crisis. 



Social Media:



1.       This is exactly the type of event that caused us to invest in and expand our social media presence.  Our FB and Twitter pages will provide continuous health information and important information relating to Township issues. 



Employees will not be required to attend or participate in any public/community events for next couple of weeks.  I have today informed our Health Department, Recreation Department and our Public Works Department that they are not authorized to attend the Green Fest scheduled for Rider University this weekend.  It is my understanding from Rider that this event may be rescheduled but I have not received any confirmation regarding this.

The above is not all inclusive of the steps we are taking, but it should give you a good sense of what we have been planning.  As we receive additional information from the CDC and other health officials, other action may be taken.



We do have the community meeting tomorrow tonight regarding the Brunswick Pike Streetscape.  Will take the opportunity to provide educational materials on the virus to the residents who attend.



Planning Board, Zoning Board and Council Meetings will not be cancelled at this time.



It is important that our actions reflect an acknowledgment that there is a serious public health crisis occurring, but we also do not want to go overboard with our response.  That simply is not justified at this time. This may change, however, in a matter of a day or week.  We will keep on top of this.



Any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.



Carol and Jack:  Please jump in and provide any information that you think I may have missed.



Kevin



Kevin P. Nerwinski, Esq.

Municipal Manager/QPA – Township of Lawrence

2207 Lawrence Road

PO Box 6006

Lawrenceville, NJ 08648

Direct – 609.844.7005

Fax – 609.895.1668

www.lawrencetwp.com



NOTE:  I am not authorized to practice law on behalf of the Township of Lawrence.  Communications with me are not protected by the attorney-client privilege.



Thursday, February 20, 2020

Brunswick Pike Streetscape: 15 years in the making.....

In checking the records in our engineering department, the earliest documentation we found about  the Township's efforts to improve the streetscape along Brunswick Pike date to 2005.  For those involved in all things "Lawrence" back during that time, you may have a personal recollection of discussions on this topic before 2005, but for our purposes I am putting 15 years as the time-frame...and counting. 

We have never been closer to realizing the completion of a plan to improve the portion of road from the Brunswick Circle to Lake Drive then we are right now.  Records that I have reviewed indicate that our Township officials and officials from NJDOT were able to reach agreement (2010) on a plan with the stated purpose to create a pedestrian friendly urban streetscape that promotes commercial development.  This would include slowing traffic speed, improve pedestrian circulation and connectivity, as well as add aesthetic elements to provide context for a "Main Street" environment.

Presently, what we see now at that section is (for the most part) the completed work by the NJDOT that made fairly substantial improvements (i.e., the round-a-bout at Whitehead Rd, on-street parking, wider grass medians, pedestrian crosswalks, etc) which provide the "bones" for the Township to complete the final improvements in creating a "Main Street" type of environment.  

For those of you who may not be aware, this section of road (U.S. Route 1) is owned and maintained by the State of New Jersey.  Our deal with the State was to take it over after it did its part in making the improvements as I described above.  With that work (essentially) completed, the Township immediately applied for and received a $60,000 grant for the study and design of a streetscape.  This work has been completed, and we are now in the process of having the "community conversation" about the plan to obtain feedback from the stakeholders (i.e., our residents).  The link to the "Brunswick Pike Streetscape Project is here 
https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3Aaf8191ff-1f3e-41d0-82ee-b50e1e7b7cb0 for those of you with an interest in reviewing it.

We recently had a public discussion of the plan at our Growth and Redevelopment Committee meeting on February 11, 2020.  At the meeting, I think it is fair to say that the general consensus was positive, with many residents expressing thoughtful opinions.  We plan another public meeting on March 11, 2020 at 5 pm at the Slackwood Fire House, and hope those who are interested attend.   

Clearly, this has been a very long process, but our commitment to get this done as soon as possible is strong and sincere.  This section of our town deserves the attention and the improvements we seek to make. Though there may be some people that say the plan falls short of expectations or possibilities, my response is that the improvements we intend to make are thoughtful, significant, reasonable and fiscally responsible (our search for grant monies is continuous for this project).  It is very easy to do more....but to do more....means to spend more.  At this time, it is my opinion that the financial commitment that will be made for this improvement is justified, and will be an improvement for all in our community to enjoy and have pride in.

If you have hit on the link I provided to the streetscape plan, you will see on page 35 the conceptual rendering for the round-a-bout.  It is a series of wind turbines.  These turbines will also be functional by providing the power source for the decorative lighting in this area.  It represents our community's commitment to sustainability and to our future.  It also provides a clean site line through the round-a-bout for better navigation through it.  

It's my hope that our community can rally behind this project, and appreciate the importance of making the strategic improvements we can and should throughout our town in a responsible way.  Fifteen years is a long time.  Let's do this thing!!!

P.S.  Once the Township takes over the ownership of this section of road, we will be reducing the speed! This was a consistent concern expressed at the last meeting, and it will be addressed. 

P.S.S.  Once this project is completed, Colonial Lake Park is expanded and improved, and the Lawrence Shopping Center is firing on all cylinders.... we have the makings of a successful reclaiming of an area that was...……… lacking for far too long. 





Thursday, February 13, 2020

"Lawrence, we have a problem!"

                                                                     Act 1, Scene 1

A man in a crisp, white collared shirt with an Oakland Raiders tie, tight against his neck, is at the control board with a headset on and a thin microphone extending from his ear to his mouth (like J-Lo at the halftime for the Super Bowl).  A distant voice comes through his headphones with a panicked tone.  Listening hard to make sense at what he is hearing, the man's face begins to tighten and show signs of stress.  He places his hand on the microphone and says, "Please repeat what you just said to me."  The voice comes through louder, yet each word is said slower and more emphatic.  The man, with his forehead now glistening with sweat, calmly presses a button that will broadcast his voice to his entire team, and says, "Lawrence, we have a problem!"  End of Scene 1.

Just so everybody knows, I am the "man" in this scene and you all are the "team."
(Trying not to be an alarmist, but being one at this point) As a community, we are absolutely failing in our recycling efforts.  If it continues, this will effect us financially.....setting aside the environmental impact for this discussion.  I hope I have grabbed your attention. 

I just completed a meeting with the officials from Waste Management.  This is the company that hauls our recyclables from the condo and town house associations throughout the community.  At this point, the collection bins are showing up to 80% contamination (i.e., 80% of the volume is not recycled and is ultimately discarded as trash).  This is a crazy, alarming percentage!  (I am told under 15% is the target).

The main issue is that residents are putting their recyclables in plastic bags...and then throwing the bags in the bin.  Maybe the intention is good...and the thinking is..."well, its a PLASTIC bag so it must be ok"...but this simply results in good recyclables not actually being recycled.   These bags are NOT being opened at the facility and picked through to separate good from bad recyclables.  It's all deemed bad because its in a sealed bag.  What is the solution you ask?  First, we need to care about following rules.  Second, if you need to collect your recyclables in a bag in your house, just open the bag and dump  the contents in the bin.  Easy peasy!  If the bag isn't too ruined, re-use the bag for the next batch of recyclables you collect, and be proud at how responsible you are to your community and to your own bottom line. 

The second most common violation is PIZZA BOXES!  Stop already! (he says respectfully but forcefully....).  I admitted to being a violator a couple months ago and have now stopped and feel wonderful.  Pizza boxes go in the regular garbage.  Don't ask why?  Don't think..."It's a box, so it must be a recyclable."  It's not.  What is the solution you ask?  Just accept that this box is not a box that is recycled.... like I accept the fact that my Oakland Raiders were once a storied football franchise and now, not so much.  But I do still bleed silver and black!

The third most common violation is throwing away bottles and jars with food contents still in the container.  This ain't good people.  The bottles and jars are crushed, food stuff seeps out and then contaminates the clean recyclables.  The clean recyclables are then considered contaminated and thrown in the regular trash dump.  What's the solution you ask?  Rinse the jars and cans out before placing them in the plastic bag (see above for follow up on the plastic bag usage).

Now, I don't want this to be just about me picking on the condo and town house associations.  I write this today only because my meeting today was on this issue.  Residents that have curbside pick up are now seeing red tags on containers that are not being collected.  I reported on that particular meeting several months ago.  This is a part of a new enforcement program to improve our recycling efforts.  While you drive on our roads on collection day, just think how many plastic bags you see in those yellow containers!  The red tags provide the reasons why the container was not collected.  I would venture to say that the main reasons are the ones I discussed above.  Side Note:  Please try not to call me to complain that your container was not collected...we both know why it wasn't!  

We are in crisis mode people!  The recyclable program is not what it used to be.  Remember when we had to separate everything?  Remember when there were more things that were recyclable?  Well its all changed now.  Waste Management's contract is over in November of this year, and they have told us they have no interest in renewing the contract.  They have lost thousands and thousands of dollars each month from our contaminated recyclables.  This will certainly be a problem for those associations should no one bid for this work.  If bids are received, trust me when I tell you that the costs per ton will be much higher than what we paid in the last contract. 

And, yes, for those who wonder whether there has been any communication to the associations about the problem with its recycling.  Many, many times.  It just seems that people are choosing to do things in the easiest manner for themselves....and we simply can't sustain that attitude and keep costs down and be responsible environmentally.  We all have to start caring more about following the rules of recycling.  It takes a little effort....emphasis on the word "little."  And anyone who thinks the Township should have officers patrolling for these violators... I ask that you accept my honest response as true, "that's simply not realistic."

You may have noticed we are using our electronic display boards to help with educating on these issues.  "No pizza boxesNo plastic bags."  If we were to eliminate these two items we could make a substantial improvement in our program.  Now listen, we still have the residents throw away stuff like bowling balls (yup, it happened), diapers (yikes....) and furniture, etc., in the large bins at the associations.  Those things unfortunately will continue to happen because the individuals that do it, do it knowing full well the items are not recyclable.  But we can change our own habits because we care enough to do so.  

The associations will be receiving a letter shortly that will let them know that the current bins will be changed from large, open containers to locked and sealed tops with small openings large enough to fit bottles, cans and cardboard, but too small to shove full plastic bags through them.  Now, this will create a moral dilemma for some people.  Will they take the extra step and open the plastic bag and discard the contents through the slots or will they simply throw the bag and the recyclables in the regular garbage bin?  I hope we can turn this all around.  Education is key...and that's the purpose of this article.    


Interesting fact:  "Houston, we have a problem" is a popular but erroneous quotation from the radio communications between the Apollo 13 astronaut John "Jack" Swigert and the NASA Mission Control Center ("Houston") during the Apollo 13 spaceflight, as astronauts communicated their discovery of the explosion that crippled their spacecraft.  What was really said was "Houston, we've had a problem."

Another interesting fact:  Easy Peasy comes from a 1970's British TV commercial for Lemon Squeezy detergent.  A little girl points out dirty, greasy dishes to an adult and then the adult produces Lemon Squeezy and they clean the dishes quickly.  At the end of the commercial the girl says "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!"



Thursday, January 23, 2020

2020 Budget Message


2020 Lawrence Township Budget Recommendation
                
         In 2020, Lawrence Township is set to realize the culmination of significant projects that have been years in the making.   They include the following:

  • The acquisition of 5.9 acres of land located at 2420 Brunswick Pike, which is situated adjacent to Colonial Lake.  The property to be purchased has been subdivided to allow for the continued operations of the business known as Colonial Bowling & Entertainment.  The purpose of this acquisition is to preserve the land surrounding the lake, and to improve the park for the overall expanded enjoyment of the residents of the Township.   The total purchase price is $3,650,000 which is being funded by the Mercer County Open Space Assistance Program ($1,470,100), the New Jersey DEP Green Acres Program ($211,133 with an additional $500,000 pending final approval), a citizen’s group known as the “Friends of Colonial Lake” (amount to be determined) and the remaining balance from the Lawrence Township Open Space fund.  The terms provide for payments to be spread over three years to allow the Township additional opportunities for grant money.  If the additional targeted grant money is realized (and it seems promising), the total contribution from grant sources would be $2,950,200 which would result in total contributions from our Open Space Fund just fund $700,000.  

  • The planning and completion of the Brunswick Pike Streetscape.  With grant monies received ($60,000) and a previously budgeted amount ($175,000), the Township’s long time work in realizing an improved Brunswick Pike from the Brunswick Circle to Lake Drive is closer than ever to a reality.  Public meetings will be held to discuss the design plans and receive resident and business owner feedback. We expect to start the work in the Fall of 2020.

  • The continued study and remediation of the property appropriately known as the “Pit Stop” (1175 Lawrence Road) has been green lighted with grant monies being awarded by NJ DEP Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund in the amount of $239,524.  A firm has been engaged, and the work scheduled will include the demolition of the structure and the evaluation of the soil underneath it to determine the extent of contamination to develop a plan for remediation.   The goal is to clean the property, discharge the current liens against title, and acquire ownership.  Grant funding is conditioned on the fact that the site is to be used as a passive park.  

  • The Township’s commitment to sustainability has recently been recognized by Sustainable New Jersey as we maintained our status as a Silver Certified Community (which is no easy task).   Most observable to the public is the recent completion of the installation of the car port styled solar panels installed at our municipal complex (municipal building and the police and court building) and solar panels on our Public Works roof.  We anticipate that will meet 85% of our energy needs with a realized savings of approximately $40,000 annually.                               
         Over the past several years, we continued to participate in the NJ BPU Direct Install Program which provides energy efficiency in all of our facilities that have resulted in a 30% reduction of energy costs.  It is interesting to note that our solar power program was to include a car port styled solar panels at the Senior Center on Darrah Lane, but after assessing it, our efforts through the Direct Install Program reduced the building's energy requirement to less than an  average household thereby disqualifying it from a car port solar panel installation.  However, we have recently been awarded a $10,000 grant from Sustainable Jersey which will be used for the installation of solar roof panels.  The goal being to have the building powered almost solely by solar energy.  And under this grant, we will own the system!
          
        The Township was also awarded grant money for the installation of two electric vehicle charging stations at our municipal building, and partial grant money towards the purchase of an electrical vehicle in this budget, and if approved, we will buy one more additional vehicle.  All  of these efforts are leading us to a pathway to achieve the Gold Standard in Energy from Sustainable Jersey (currently only one municipality has done so).

  • The completion and roll out of our new Township website which will improve the delivery of services to residents, business owners and others by taking advantage of the latest technology that today’s web designs offer (i.e., online payments, licensing and application processing for our varied departments). 
      
         It should clear from the descriptions above that the Township has focused its efforts towards obtaining grant monies to fund its various projects, and has been very successful in doing so.  The use of grant money combined with the socially and fiscally conscious effort towards sustainability demonstrate the commitment that we have towards reducing the tax burden on our residents for the operations of our municipal government.   It is our mission for Lawrence Township to continue to balance services while keeping the overall tax rate growth responsible. 

       This year the budget does not include any new positions to be added to our municipal operations. Throughout the year, however, we are committed to maintaining the strength of our police department by hiring new officers as current officers retire.  As we did last year, we provide you with the following fundamentals of this year’s budget [with a comparison to 2019]:
  
     The recommended municipal tax rate for 2020 represents a 1.75 cent increase [2 cent increase) from last year and is .5945 [“.577”].  1 cent = $463,052.32 [$462,589.71].



Ø The Amount to be Raised by Taxation in 2020 is $27,528,964.21 [$26,691,541.69] which is $837,422.52 [$927,471.69] over 2019.
Ø  The Levy Cap Bank available from 2017, 2018 and 2019 is $958,518 and we will use $0 to remain within the 2% tax levy cap.  NOTE:  2017 cap bank in the amount of $791,958 is expiring this year.  However, 2020 Recommended Budget is $385,848 under the Levy Cap and is available for “Banking”. This addition to, and the expiration of 2017 bank, will leave a usable “cap bank” of $554,626 for future budgets.
Ø  The 2019 year-end Surplus balance is $16,983,267.36 versus a 2018 year-end balance of $15,549,725.39, an increase of $1,433,541.97.
Ø  The Surplus balance remaining available after applying an amount as anticipated revenue, will be $10,133,267.36 [$9,899,725.39], an increase of $233,541.97 over the 2019 remaining balance.
Ø     The cash reserve balance for tax appeals is $4,119,491.18 [$3,444,491.18].
Ø  The decrease in outstanding debt continues.  The 2010 closing balance was $30,797,000.  The 2019 closing balance is $14,035,000 [$15,350,000].   
                Fiscal strength is evident as $5,650,000 in surplus (also known as Fund Balance) used in the 2019 budget has been regenerated at the close of 2019, with an increase from 2018 year-end Fund Balance of $15,549,725.39 to $16,983,267.36.  Further evidence is apparent as the Township’s Moody’s Rating has been upgraded in 2019 to Aa1 (Aa2).  Fund Balance is the excess in the following Balance Sheet categories:  Amount to be raised by Taxation, Miscellaneous Revenues Anticipated (MRA), Delinquent Taxes, Prior Year Appropriations Lapsed and Miscellaneous Revenues not Anticipated (MRNA). 

           In 2020, our recommendation is to utilize $6,850,000 in surplus (an increase of $1,200,000[1] compared to 2019), $15,218,097.43 in MRA, $830,000 in Delinquent Taxes and $27,528,964.21 in Amount to be Raised for Taxes, a 1.75 cent increase on the municipal tax rate. [2]

This equates a municipal tax increase of $49.24 on the average assessed home at $281,403.



     The level of appropriations contained in 2020 recommended budget was considered carefully when shaping this budget, all within the statutory limitations placed on revenues and appropriations.  The following are significant changes in appropriations leading into 2020:



Appropriation                            Increase/Decrease                  Reason
MCIA                                              $11,000                             Contractual Increase
ELSA                                             $220,000                            Pass Through Billing Increase
Salaries                                          $288,000                            Labor Contract
Trash Collection                              $40,000                            Contractual Increase
Pensions                                         $136,399                            Statutory Increase
Debt Service                                  ($15,140)                            Payment of BANS/Long Term Debt
Capital Improvement Fund            $475,000                            Funding Capital Program
Reserve for Uncollected Taxes      $91,430                              Statutory Increase
Health Benefits                             ($101,000)                          Rate/Participation Adjustment

        I would like to thank the Township Department Directors, Division of Accounts and Control, Payroll and Municipal Managers Office.  The Township Administration is prepared to fully cooperate in the review of this recommendation by the Township Council.


[1] $250,000 for additional capital expenditures, $450,000 to reduce the 2020 tax increase, and $500,000 to replace “Anticipated Court Revenue” as a line item.
[2] $50,427,061.64 (total Budget) = $6,850,000 + $15,218,097 + $830,000 + $27,528,964.21


KPN FaceBook Posts to the Community March 21 and March 23, 2020

March 21, 2020 8:43 PM Hey Everyone: I am sure most of you have received word regarding our Governor's recent directive to stay ho...