Friday, April 12, 2013

Another Council Meeting Thursday Apr 11

There was a regular Newfield Borough Council meeting on Thursday, April 11th.  Contrary to the website, regular meetings are held on the second Thursday of the month, at least for 2013.  Budgetary and other ordinances and resolutions were passed.  Most of them were clearly identified by title and short description on the agenda provided to the public.  Some were done by the "kitchen gambit" but I don't believe any of those related to the fire company.

During one of the times when the floor was open for comment, one resident asked why the fire company ordinance had been "tabled".  The response was that there is on-going mediation.  And, it was clear from the report given by the Public Safety Chairman that data the Council had requested on fire calls was being provided.  In fact, that report stated that the trucks would be at the fire company's fund raiser Comedy Night so they could respond more quickly.  Sounds like cooperation to me.

One ordinance that was passed was for purchase of a 'trash' truck for picking up trash and recycling.  The ordinance also provided for purchase of new trash bins and recycle bins with lids.  They are switching from a business model where they pay a nearby township (Franklin) to pick up trash once a week and recycles twice a month to a model where trash and recycle pickup is once a week.  Needless to say, historical recycling rates are poor.  This new model should help.  The trash truck to be purchased is a demo model so the town is saving about $30,000 off the cost of a new one.  Franklin Township had offered to sell us one of their old trucks for about $6000, knowing it has problems backing up.  Whoop di doo, so helpful our neighbors.  The only sad part is that from the figures quoted on cost and savings, it will take about ten years to amortize the tax dollars laid out.

I took advantage of a open floor to read a letter (see below) about developing a disaster plan for the town.  One had been developed before but not implemented because of lack of buy-in.  Not surprising since the plan was put together without input from town organizations or residents.  Even big cities canvas neighborhood groups for ideas and volunteers when devising disaster response plans.

The good news is that the Council has hired someone as the "Office of Emergency Management" and he has asked for my assistance, which I am glad to provide.  He may not know it yet, but I will also change some of his opinions on how such plans are developed and implemented.  When you start out with "stone soup", too many cooks do not spoil the broth as much as invited to help in a reasonable manner they turn out a robust, hearty stew [Sorry for the metaphor; mixed as it is.]

I remember the 1950's in this town, when it wasn't usual to see for more than year a big thermometer with a red line inching up as the town organizations including the churches, businesses, PTA, Kiwanis, et al,  raised money for a new fire truck or to supplement the cost of addition of a gym/lunchroom/auditorium to the school.  Good government guides and coordinates before it provides.  Good government is inclusive before it is dictatorial.

Dear Sirs and Madam:

This is a letter to suggest that the Council pursue funding from the State of New Jersey for preparing a disaster plan for Newfield that coordinates the use of Borough and volunteer resources and organizations.  I spoke with Harold Spence, assistant to Stephen Sweeney of the Third Legislative District and he indicated such a request would have to come from the Mayor or a Council Member.

The derecho that hit Newfield in the early morning hours of June 30, 2012 exposed how unprepared Newfield and its residents are for responding to a disaster that knocks out power, whether it is another fiendish storm, hurricane, or blizzard.  The town and its volunteer organizations responded with many helpful activities but the efforts were disjoint and sometimes ineffective. 

One egregious problem was the lack of coordination and prioritization with and for Atlantic City Electric as they restored power.  The school building, which could have provided respite from the heat, was one of the last buildings to get power, and instead, residents had to trek to Malaga to a Red Cross Center set up there.  

Worse, Atlantic City Electric left Newfield late Wednesday July 6th believing Newfield was fully restored when; in fact, many Rosemont Avenue residences were still without power.  I know because I called them Thursday morning to inform them the power was still out for my elderly mother and her neighbors and they explained this.

So, I suggest you canvas residents to compile a list of those items that worked and those that didn’t and put together a coordinated plan that builds on the activities that were successful and improves or adds new activities to address the problems.  The plan might also uncover items to be purchased such as portable or fixed generators and perhaps one of the volunteer organizations such as the Business Alliance could be in charge of raising funds.  In other words, addressing the problems doesn’t necessarily have to come out of tax dollars.

I want to stress that all of the burden of planning and response should not be on town employees or officials but include volunteers from town organizations such as the churches, businesses, and volunteer organizations.  I would like very much to see Newfield prepared for that next terrible physical event. I don’t think I am alone.

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