50 North Road
Chester, NJ 07930
50 North Road
Chester, NJ 07930
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Last week I had the pleasure of having breakfast with a new resident of the Borough. During the course of the conversation, she mentioned that she felt as though she had moved to the set of a Hallmark movie. She had taken some relatives from out-of-town to Main St., and as though right on cue, the carolers who were strolling the street came up and started singing to them.
I’m not sure that the Borough is a Hallmark movie set, but I do think that the large majority of our 1650 residents think that our 1.6 square mile is a little piece of paradise. Credit for this belief goes to those who sat in these seats before us, those who sit here now, countless residents who have volunteered for various committees and commissions and a staff that keeps the whole operation humming. I have to say, that our current staff, under the leadership of our Administrator Margaret Nordstrom is exemplary. We have some of the best professionals in the state, including Mr. Mason who has been with the Borough for 20 years and whom we all rely heavily on, especially myself. And most importantly, the members of the Council, with whom I have the privilege to serve, are as dedicated, committed, thoughtful, and resilient and you could ever want. More about the need for resilience later.
A quick recap of 2022. Fourteen new ordinances were passed compassing everything from clarification of snow removal, vacant and abandoned properties, Comcast Cable contract renewal (we had no options), and the ability to enjoy an alcoholic beverage in a municipally owned park at a municipally organized event, such as the summer concert series.
The Turkey Farm project is ongoing. The Land Use Board spent many hours listening to testimony regarding the plan and did approve the first phase of the site plan application. Also they approved a demolition permit for the kitchen, dining room, and bar areas only of the original restaurant. Many new businesses opened in town. Chester Day made a return thanks to the efforts of the Environmental and Open Space Committee and the Recreation Committee. 24 ash trees located in the Borough easements were removed and 4 new trees were planted thanks to the efforts of the Shade Tree Commission. The Recreation Committee and our new Rec Director have a full calendar of events and activities for residents of all ages. The Board of Health has been reviewing ordinances and bringing many up to date. We have three volunteers who serve on the Library Board, one of which serves as the Board president. Newcomers to town are always amazed at the quality of offerings at our library. The Environmental and Open Space Committee continue working on the Seward Preserve restoration project, and we should all see the first signs of flowers this spring to the meadow restoration effort.
One of the biggest accomplishments of the year was the awarding of a contract for the demolition of three of the legacy buildings at 50 North Road. The buildings were part of the purchase of the property almost 25 years ago and have never been used (except by vandals!). Utilizing Open Space tax money and Fund Balance, the Council awarded a $479,000 contract for the demolition of the buildings. The project commences January 9.
As for 2023, this is the part where the Mayor and Council show resiliency. The quest for the expansion of the Borough sewer continues. In 2022, the DEP required the Borough to have another degradation study completed, as the discharge stream was recategorized from a Class 2 to a Class 1 stream. As with the original study, it was found that the stream will actually have cleaner water once homes or businesses with septic/cesspools that are currently leaking into the stream are on the sewer system. The Borough is working closely with the NJ Highlands who has partnered with us to obtain the necessary approval for the sewers thus helping accomplish the Highland’s mission to clean water and ample water, for the residents of the Highlands.
The Borough participates in the State Healthcare Benefit Plan. Premiums for the plan have increased 22% for 2023, across the board, for all participating municipalities. Employees share in the cost of their healthcare insurance, so this results in an increase for their share, too, and in many cases, a decrease in their take home pay.
The municipal portion of employee pensions has increased 19%. Again, this is across all municipalities. Both of these state mandated increases will have a profound effect on our budgeting for this year.
Additionally, the state has two new Public Laws, the first requiring owners of businesses, along with residential and non-residential rentals, to provide municipalities a certificate of insurance proving they maintain liability insurance for negligent acts and omissions in an amount of no less than $500,000 for combined property damage and bodily injury to or death of one or more persons in any one accident or occurrence. The Borough has contracted with a third party provider for businesses to access a portal to provide the certificate.
The state also enacted a law requiring lead paint tests on all rental properties within the municipality. The Borough will need to track all rentals and provide an inspector, or contract with a third party, for the lead paint inspections. In both cases, the Borough will be able to charge a reasonable fee for the requirement.
The DEP has instituted new Municipal Stormwater requirements, and moved the Borough into a Tier A resulting in a significant increase in the budget to cover the costs for the additional compliance.
All this being said, this Council continues to operate in a fiscally conservative manner and I’m sure they will continue to do so. We will rise to the challenge of state mandates and continue to do the best we can to provide services to the taxpayers of the Borough at the most reasonable cost.
Tonight, I begin my 18th year in public service in Chester, six years on the Board of Education, three years as a Council member and now, my ninth year as Mayor. It is an honor and a privilege to serve you. To me, there is no better elected position than that of Mayor. Working with the various volunteer groups in town, from the Chester First Aid Squad, to the Chester Volunteer Fire Company to the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Chester Historical Society, Lions Club, and more, has been a pleasure. I encourage other residents to get involved as you will receive back much more than you give.
We may not be a Hallmark movie set…we are better. We are real and I couldn’t be prouder to serve as Mayor and I look forward to serving with Chris, Gary, Russ, Liz, Karen and Kyle. Thank you all for another opportunity.