“While homeowners across the country are already seeing relief, for some, that relief has not yet come. Unfortunately, I’m still hearing stories of egregious and unreasonable rate hikes in New Jersey.
On June 18th, Mayor Nolan introduced R-14-161, which limits resident speaking time to 2 minutes. Further, it instructs the Governing body members to not respond to the questions of the resident until that resident has finished speaking in his/her entirety. There was a subsequent blog post here.
Overwhelmingly, residents polled were against the time limitation. Some concerns brought up about the resolution included not only the content but the way it was introduced:
- it was not printed as an agenda item made publicly available on our town website previous to the meeting,
- it was not attached on the meeting packet handouts left outside the meeting room for the public to read during the hour the Council was in closed session,
- it was placed on the table next to the public comment sign-in sheet – which many of those attending did not realize was supposed to be part of the agenda.
The resolution in question was pushed through within 15 minutes of the start of the public session with no explanation or comment period. Even at the public comment portion at the end of the meeting when residents verbalized their disagreement of the approved resolution it was basically ignored. (So much for working with the council or having your opinions matter.)
There now is an online petition at Change.org that asks for support not to abolish the ordinance but to amend it to increase the speaking time from 2 min to 4 min as a reasonable alternative to this tactic of retribution by the council.
How does it work? You go to the Change.org page and sign in, name email address and why you agree with amending the existing ordinance.
Each person that signs it a notification goes to the petitioners. In this case its Mayor Nolan, Tim Hill and Carolyn Cummins. On the right hand side it will show recent signatures and below the petition it shows the reasons people are signing.
Why online petitions can work: Governments, companies and individuals normally value their reputations and feel accountable to their neighbors, constituents and customers. When hundreds or even thousands of people raise their voices about an issue they care about, the message is very hard to ignore.
According to Change.org, Successful petitions ask for something very specific, that a decision maker can change. They usually propose a sensible solution to a problem. i.e. a compromise to an existing ordinance asking it to be amended.
If you haven’t already signed, please click here
Back in 2010, I did a post on dog friendly places in Highlands. At the time there were a few:
Waterwitch Coffee – still is
Chilangos – They used to be when he had an outside patio, but he enclosed it, so I don’t think he is anymore
Bay Ave Bakery – wasn’t there then, but is now… dog bowls and treats available
Seascape Manor B&B – allows two dog under 40 lbs for a fee of $25 per stay.
Dawg House – No More
Beacon on the Bay – No More
Clamhut – Was, but is no more
Some are no more because of Sandy, Dawg House got moved for the new Quickchek.
Sandy Hook is dog friendly on the bay side during the summer and on both sides Labor day through March.
The Pet industry is a $58 billion (that’s right BILLION) dollar business.
Seastreak dogs/cats ride free. We could capitalize on being a dog friendly town and attract more tourists that want to travel with their pets.
If anyone knows of any other pet friendly businesses in town, let me know and I’ll add to the list and market for them.
Guest Blogger: Kim Skorka
At the July 16th council meeting Carla Braswell spent 5 minutes during her HBP report making claims about me that border on defamation of character. Go to 16:45 here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/50179297
She claims that I am “harassing” Havana. Rita, the manager of Havana, made similar claims during the public portion. Go to 24:20 here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/50180732
Carla spent over five minutes trashing me yet I was only allowed two minutes during the public portion to voice my side. I was unfairly denied extra time. I did not ask the council to allow me to speak open-ended, I asked to speak for 3 to 5 minutes. The council can absolutely grant me extra time but they refused to do so. Go to 33:32 here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/50180732
I thank the Highlands Blog for allowing me to an opportunity for rebuttal. Since Carla spoke first, I’ll start with her. I understand that as head of the HBP her interests lie with the businesses and not the residents. That is counter productive. The HBP should be working towards an amicable resolution and continue the mediation rather than add fuel to the fire. Carla and Ralphie (owner of Havana) came to my house once, on June 8th. I never met with either of them before or after that date. It took two years for this meeting to happen and it was only at newly elected Councilman Doug Card’s suggestion. She has been aware of my complaints for years and never once thought, “Gee, maybe I should talk to her and work this out for the benefit of the business.”
At that meeting on June 8th Ralphie told me that if there was ever a problem to come talk to him. There have been weekends when I’ve been home when the music is too loud. I’ve gone and talked to Ralphie or Rita in his absence and politely asked to have the music lowered and ask for the below suggestions to be considered. I did what Havana asked me to do (come talk) and it’s still “harassment.” It seems Carla forgot or wasn’t paying attention when Ralphie and I had that exchange.
I did send a letter to Dreamer (the band). I did ask if they would consider turning their speakers. I got a very pleasant reply that they would try a few things the next time they were there. If they did, none worked. I asked Ralphie and Rita if they would consider having the bands turn their speakers away from Shore Drive. It is a small change that could go a long way. Ralphie told me he would ask, Rita flat out told me “no.” I asked Rita if it was possible for the band to set up with their backs to Shore Drive and was told “no.” I can only assume they don’t have extension cords and the means to cover them to prevent tripping.
While Carla claims Havana is trying (emphasis mine) to be nice, I have been patient and suggesting multiple solutions since the spring when Councilwoman Tara Ryan offered to mediate. Even though I’ve been dealing with the volume issue for two years I have NEVER asked for the bar to be closed, for the music to stop, for them to no longer have live music, etc. I have never asked anyone not to patronize the restaurant. I want Havana to be successful. I do not want another vacancy in our town. But I also wish they would be respectful of their neighbors.
They bought a restaurant (not a nightclub) in the middle of a residential neighborhood and fail to see a problem when I can hear the music above the TV in my living room with my windows shut. Imagine trying to sleep though that. This issue would have been resolved months ago if they would just turn the volume down. Not off…just down. There are plenty of restaurants in residential areas that are successful on the strength of their food and beverage sales without having to offer unnecessarily loud entertainment that affects their neighbors’ quality of life and property value. Why can’t Havana figure it out? Why won’t the HBP help them reach that goal?
I will take their claims of filing reports at face value. If the prosecutor’s office was called and a complaint filed with the Highlands PD I was unaware. No one has contacted me from either department regarding this issue. I welcome the opportunity to present my side.
I don’t know why I’m the only one complaining. I’m sure people have a myriad of reasons not to call the police. Friends on Ocean Avenue say they can hear it, friends on Barberie hear it occasionally, friends on Rogers Street can hear it, and even someone in Eastpointe can hear it. I am the only one that has bothered to take action. Perhaps it’s the acoustics of the condo buildings in relation to the speakers, maybe my neighbors have better windows than me. Maybe they go out if the music is too bothersome, maybe they don’t realize how loud it is because they live down the street, behind the speakers.
About calling Monmouth County: it was not a threat. It was a head’s up that I’m taking further action again. Since the Highlands noise ordinance is subjective (not decibel levels) it is not in compliance with the State Noise Control Act. If the town can’t or won’t enforce the NJ NCA the county health department can and will. The NJ Noise Control Act allows for 65 decibels from 7am until 10pm and 50 decibels from 10pm – 7am. Rita is correct that the last time the county was out that Havana was found to be in compliance, but it was just barely. They were over 50 decibels after 10pm but reduced the volume before the reading was complete.
I’d like to finish by stating that I will not be intimidated by these repeated claims of “harassment” from either Havana or Carla Braswell.
Threats of the prosecutor’s office and police reports will not deter me. I stand by my statement that the music is too loud for me to peaceably enjoy my home. I continue to welcome legitimate efforts to mediate the situation.
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Here is the update to my original June 18th post, now with answers!
Did Highlands qualify for any of the state DCA money mentioned in this article? If yes, how much? If not, why? http://www.app.com/story/news/local/ocean-county/sandy-recovery/2014/06/10/sandy-aid-ocean-county/10302185/ This is for essential services and Highlands received funding in a previous round and we haven’t spent down that money.
When can we expect an update from the finance committee? Per Mayor Nolan during the 6/18 council meeting, the Finance Committee will be meeting within the next 10 days. He has asked Becky Kane for available dates. Also, there may be more people appointed to the committee but he is waiting for Doug Card to be sworn in as he may have some input on committee members. ***July 17th update: the Finance Committee still has not met
Does the town pay the school district for the meetings held in the gym? Per Tara Ryan 6/18 – no, the town does not. ***July 17th update: the town does pay for the custodial services, so there is a cost associated with our need to hold meetings while borough hall is damaged.
There are so many committees in town. Why don’t they give regular updates? For example, the environmental commission, shade tree, substandard housing, etc. After a discussion with Tim, he will work with the council and the committees to include a summary report in the agenda. We agreed that the meetings would be too long if every committee gave a detailed update but also see the need for everyone to stay informed on what the groups are focusing on.
What is the status of finding a communication tool for the residents? (ex: Nixle?) Tim thought this is being included with the web site committee’s work.
How much is in the Open Space trust fund? $155,000 rounded
Is the town getting reimbursed by FEMA for the 2014 lease of the borough trailers (municipal and police)? Yes, through Arcadia and the town is hoping to extend this through 2015. The reimbursement is 90% of the cost.
How much is left on the bond for the fire truck? Are there bonds on any of the other fire equipment? There was some confusion on this question. Pat thought I was asking for how much we are still able to spend on that bond when what I meant was how much debt is left to pay. He will follow up with me.
What spending cuts can you recommend? This is for everyone, not just Mr. De Blasio. Are you asking all borough employees for suggested cost savings? Recommendations and a review is completed prior the preparation of the budget. All departments are involved and some recent cost reductions were found in changing the cell phone contract, renegotiating other contracts, and changing the phone plan.
2014 Budget Quesitons: I was told that in general, 2013 was an “off year” as we were still recovering from Sandy and not all departments were running at 100%. The Community Center is a good example of that. In the coming months I will be working on an analysis of our budget and spending trends over the last 3 – 5 years.
- Sheet 12, Central Services – Other Expenses. Why was $37,000 budgeted when only $21,741.48 was spent in 2013? The budget was kept the same as 2014
- Sheet 12, Borough Council – Salaries and Wages. Why is there in increase? The mayor didn’t draw a salary until 2014
- Sheet 12, Borough Council – Other. What is this for? Why was $67,580 budgeted when only $13,928.02 was spent in 2013? This is for the grant writer
- Sheet 13, Assessment of Taxes – Other Expenses. Why was $48,205 budgeted when only $30,790.02 was spent in 2013? This is to cover the cost of the new county pilot program where 20% of the homes will be reassessed every year.
- Sheet 13, Legal Services, Other Expenses. What is this for? Why was $177,500 budgeted when only $120,124.15 was spent in 2013? The budget is decreasing year over year and the increase in spending is due to more employee contracts coming up for renewal.
- Sheet 14, Engineering Services and Costs. Why was $150,000 budgeted when only $114,000 was spent in 2013? This is based on the 2014 projects
- Sheet 14, Code Enforcement – Other Expenses. Why was $25,100 budgeted when only $6,738.91 was spent in 2013? This is for private property maintenance. The town will demolish homes and place a lien on the property so that the town will recoup the cost sometime in the future.
- Sheet 15, Police – Other Expenses. Why was $86,066 budgeted when only $63,140.80 was spent in 2013? This is for the purchase of ammunition for training.
- Sheet 15-1, Road Repair and Maintenance – Salaries and Wages. Why was $178,000 budgeted when only $153,809.15 was spent in 2013? In 2013 4 to 5 positions were covered by workforce development.
- Sheet 15-1, Road Repair and Maintenance – Other Expenses. Why was $55,000 budgeted when only $40,891.27 was spent in 2013? The budget was held at the same level as 2013 and spending was down because the DPW supervisor was not replaced
- Sheet 15-1, Snow Removal – Other Expenses. Why was $40,000 budgeted when only $18,039.11 was spent in 2013? The budget is the same as the prior 3 years. Spending will be up in 2014 due to the amount of snowfall.
- Sheet 15-2, Sanitation – Other Expenses. Why was $50,350 budgeted when only $32,861.00 was spent in 2013? Skipped
- Sheet 15-2, Public Buildings and Grounds – Other Expenses. Why was $80,000 budgeted when only $40,855.91 was spent in 2013? The budget is being reduced over the years and we had less maintenance in 2013 due to being in trailers.
- Sheet 15-2, Condominium Expenses. Why was $28,000 projected when only $5,951.94 was spent in 2013? The budget is based on maximum exposure and spending is based on the reimbursement requests submitted by condo associations.
- Sheet 15-3, Dog Control – Other Expenses. Why was $18,000 budgeted when only $6,165.00 was spent in 2013? Spending in 2013 was low because bills didn’t come through until 2014 and the animal control officer tries to mitigate. Also, the ASPCA TNR program was scaled back.
- Sheet 15-4, Community Center – Salaries and Wages. Why was $103,000 budgeted when only $77,979.02 was spent in 2013? In 2013 there was less staff and more down time while the 2014 budget is based on the community center being up & running for a full year.
- Sheet 15-4, Community Center – Other Expenses. Why was $25,000 budgeted when only $14,431.79 was spent in 2013? Same as salaries & wages for Community Center
- Sheet 16, Construction Code Official – Other Expenses. Why was $23,200 budgeted when only $4,146.44 was spent in 2013? This is for the new software for construction/code enforcement.
- Sheet 17, Electricity. Why was $60,000 budgeted when only $41,544.15 was spent in 2013? The 2013 spending only has 11 months of bills because the December bill is received in January. I asked why didn’t 2013 run from December ’12 – November ’13 (12 months) and was told that in the reporting to the state that the spending is adjusted and that adjustment is not reflected in this budget packet.
- Sheet 17, Telephone. Why was $32,000 budgeted when only $21,460.32 was spent in 2013? Same as explanation for Electricity.
- Sheet 17, Landfill/Solid Waste Disposal – Other Expenses. Why was $199,000 budgeted when only $166,2017.39 was spent in 2013? Even though there was continued clean up from the storm, there were fewer residents so the tipping fees were lower.
- Sheet 20, Length of Service Awards Program. Why was $45,000 budgeted and nothing paid in 2013? This is similar to the explanation for Electricity. The 2013 LOSAP awards had not been calculated yet so the 2013 spending does not reflect the awards yet. The first aid LOSAP was in last night’s agenda and the fire department should be received soon.
- Sheet 20, Employee Group Insurance. Why is nothing budgeted for 2014 when $14,505.79 was paid in 2013? This is formula driven and some insurance is in the cap and some is outside of the cap. There is $45k budgeted for 2014 outside of the cap.
- Sheet 22, Atlantic Highlands – Maintenance of Motor Vehicles. Why was $90,500 budgeted when only $41,760.58 was spent in 2013? The budget is down compared to prior years and the 2013 spending is down due to Atlantic Highlands having lower staff. Highlands is keeping up with the maintenance of the fleet but some general maintenance was not done due to the Atlantic Highlands staffing.
- Sheet 26, Capital Improvement Fund. Is there a minimum balance for this? How is this calculated? This is used for the down payments when bonds are issued. It is an estimate based on the projects anticipated for the year.
- Sheet 26, Firehouse Facility Upgrade and Equipment. What is this for? What exactly is being upgraded and/or purchased? There was a pipe break in the fire house over the winter. The insurance company has made suggestions to bring the fire house up to code. The items include communication equipment, moving the pipe, and making sure there are adequate electric outlets.
- Sheet 26, Restoration of Borough Hall. Why is nothing budgeted for 2014? The 2013 expense was for the clean up.
- Sheet 26, Firehouse Repairs and Equipment due to water pipe break. Did insurance cover the $50,000? Insurance reimbursed the town $70k for the incident.
- Sheet 27, Interest on Notes. Why is there an increase? Does the borough have the option of paying down the notes early? Is there a penalty for early payment of the principal? What is the interest rate on the notes? The increase is due to the emergency notes. They are issued for one year and the interest rate is between 0.90% and 2.0%. At the end of the year a small principal pay down is required and the notes rolled over. The town can pay down more principal if the cash is available.
- Sheet 27, Capital Lease Obligations. What is this for? Why was there no expense for this in 2013? This is for equipment (5 year leases) and police cars (3 year leases).
- Sheet 29, Reserve for Uncollected Taxes. Why is this less than 2013? This is formula driven and budgets for a 93% collection rate. Any late payments are charged 18% interest and the town does collect that. There is no waiving of the interest.
- Sheet 34, Sewer Rents. What is this for? Why is there a decrease? This is the fees paid by the town. There was some catch up in 2013 because the 4th quarter bills went out late in 2012 due to Sandy.
- Sheet 35, Water & Wastewater – Salaries & Wages. Why is $79,805 budgeted when only $66,379.64 was paid in 2013? The 2013 expense was lower due to a decrease in man hours, a decrease in overtime, and one position being vacant for part of 2013.
- Sheet 35, Water & Wastewater – Other Expense. Why was $1,152.838 budgeted, which is less than the $1,471,582.11 spent in 2013? The decrease is due to the anticipated cost savings after the dissolution of the AHH Regional Sewer Authority.
- Sheet 35, Debt Service. Can the bond principal be paid down early? What is the interest rate on the bonds? Bonds are different than the notes and some of them may not be callable (able to pay the principal early). The interest rates range between 2% and 5%.
Are there any plans to replace trees lost in recent years? Shore Drive is lacking in trees compared to just five years ago. Tim said he would look into this and we agreed that we have to keep in mind the root systems and placement so that the trees don’t impact power lines and our infrastructure (sidewalks, sewer, drain, roads, etc.). Shrubs and grasses were offered as an alternative.
Status of the community center – when can we start repairs? The town is still working with FEMA and is awaiting approval of the formal mitigation plan (ex: raising outlets). This should be done by the end of the month. I asked about volunteers and donations and was told that the value of whatever the town receives in goods & services would be deducted from the amount FEMA pays us.
Status of boro hall – when can we start repairs? See above for Community Center
Status of the Transit Village application and can anything be delegated to move this along? It is included in the Master Plan and was revived after Sandy. Steve Nelson is doing more ground work on this.
Is Hope for Highlands winding down? Why haven’t we heard about any fundraising or more programs? As per Carla at last night’s (7/16) council meeting, Hope for Highlands is accepting applications in case they get more funding. At this time Hope for Highlands is not actively fundraising.
Sea Bright celebration & promotion of the town. What is Highlands and the HBP doing to draw people in? skipped
Can we get a composting program going in town to cut down on the tipping fees for garbage collection? Princeton has a program where the residents separate their compost materials and pay a fee to have it picked up and taken to a central location. http://www.princetonnj.gov/organic/CurbsideOrganics.html Chatham has a program where people compost in their own yards and has a great planning tool. http://www.njslom.org/96thconf/presentations/ChathamTwpSaveitToSpadeitProgram-Nov17-2011.pdf The town was approached by a student from Rowan regarding a composting survey. That can be found here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZFFBFZL It’s also on the Highlands web page under “Public Notices.”
*HUD certified housing counselors work with Sandy-impacted residents to find viable and permanent housing solutions – repair, rebuild, relocate.
*One-on-one counseling, group education and referral resources to help homeowners manage the reconstruction/rebuilding process.
*Counselors assess each client’s ability to move forward to repair, rebuild or relocate, based on their available financial resources and their future financial capacity.
*Frequent seminars and workshops educate residents about the different aspects of the construction process, financial literacy, home purchase process, foreclosure intervention, and consumer awareness topics such as contractor fraud and legal assistance.
*Staff will assist clients with locating financial or volunteer assistance to help fulfill funding gaps impeding their recovery process, including local, state and federal grant opportunities, as well as referrals to other agencies and support services that can assist in their recovery.
HOUSING RECOVERY RESOURCE CENTER
Housing Recovery Resource Center was made possible with funding from Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund and NeighborWorks America.
WHAT: Twin Lights 5K Twilight Run
WHERE: 2 Lighthouse Rd Highlands, NJ
Online Registration Only CLICK HERE
$25 through July 25th
$30 July 26th – August 7th
Entry fee includes one year membership to the Twin Lights HIstorical Society ($50 value) and a 10% coupon at the store.
According to App.com the Jackson, NJ Council introduced an ordinance that allows local officials to force owners of abandoned homes to register their property. The 130 abandoned or vacant properties in Jackson aren’t necessarily from Sandy, they are mainly due to the downturn in the economy.
“People should not be living next to a home that’s been foreclosed upon where grass is 10 feet tall, there’s a health issue there,” stated Jackson Councilman Martin.
The concerns about abandoned properties include houses collapsing, vermin and potential fires caused by homeless people seeking shelter or vandals.
Apparently Howell, NJ also adopted a Real Property Mortgage Registration ordinance last August that requires mortgage holders to meet stricter maintenance and security standards.
By potentially adopting a similar ordinance, Highlands could more easily identify properties that are truly abandoned from properties where owners are in RREM flux and actually are planning on coming back.
Its been replaced with Highlands PD on foot patrol.
Shrewsbury Avenue and Miller St residents seem to be very positive about the change.
Some of the resident responses include:
“Thank you Highlands P.D.! Kudos! Bravo! Just spoke with an officer that is on foot patrol for Shrewsbury and Miller!!!!!! I have awesome espresso available for the asking!”
“I live right next to the inlet, highlands police officer has been out here all day, good job I’m deff a happy camper“
This move is definitely a step to better officer/community relations.
Highlands is one of 6 towns in Monmouth county that have been accepted into a state program to demolish unwanted, unsightly and unsafe housing, according to the NJ DCA.
Highlands has historically had its share of abandoned homes. Hurricane Sandy has compounded the problem. The issue since Sandy of the down spiraling of property values, rodents, critters, high grass and criminal activity isn’t specific to Highlands but has proven to be problematic all over the bay shore.
Earlier this year, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration made $15 million in federal money available to cover the costs of razing Sandy-damaged buildings through the Unsafe Structure Demolition Program.
This is actually progress. Hopefully the initiative will begin sooner than later, as to alleviate the emotional impact of residents who have to view the abandoned homes day after day. When properties remain untouched still after Sandy, it gives a feeling of hopelessness to its neighbors who do live there, it’s just a feeling of, “are we ever going to get out of this?”
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watches through Friday for New Jersey because a cold front will interact with tropical air from Arthur, the Cat 1 hurricane that is heading towards NC. Forecasters say the potential exists for 1 to 3 inches of rain.
Enhanced rip currents are expected today through the Saturday as Arthur moves up the east coast. Beach goers are cautioned to obey lifeguards and not swim at unguarded beaches.
This is NOT a Super Storm Sandy or even an Irene. No landfall is expected in New Jersey. However…heavy rain, rip currents, heavy surf and potentially wind and tidal flooding are hazards to be aware of as we head into a major holiday weekend.
ASBURY PARK — Fireworks on beach south of Convention Hall on Friday beginning at 9 p.m. Asbury Park Boardwalk, Ocean Avenue.
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS — Atlantic Highlands Fireman’s Festival running 6 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday, with fireworks Friday at dusk in the Municipal Harbor on First Avenue.
BRADLEY BEACH — Fireworks on the beach at Brinley Avenue starting at dusk on Saturday; rain date July 12. Brinley Avenue Beach, Ocean Avenue.
HAZLET — Fireworks at dusk Saturday; rain date July 6. Veterans Memorial Park, Union Avenue. hazlettwp.org
KEANSBURG — Fireworks at dusk Thursday and Friday, Keansburg Amusement Park, 275 Beachway Ave. keansburgamusementpark.com
MANASQUAN — Decorated bicycle contest at the Little League field 5:15 p.m. Thursday followed by a parade beginning at the Coast Guard Station and traveling to Whiting beach and Main Beach, with a concert by Billy Lawlor at Main Beach concluding with fireworks at dusk; rain date Saturday. manasquan-nj.com
UNION BEACH — Festivities beginning 6 p.m. Thursday with DJ and live music, culminating with fireworks at dusk. Downtown Union Beach, Front Street and Florence Avenue. unionbeach.net
WALL — Independence Day celebration during last day of Wall Fair, 5-10 p.m. July 6 at the municipal complex at 2700 Allaire Road with rides games, pettng zoo, DJ entertainment and fireworks at dusk. wallnj.com
WEST LONG BRANCH — Fireworks Friday beginning at sunset; rain date Saturday. Franklin Lake Park, Locust Avenue. westlongbranch.org