Hello. My name is Angie Devanney. Thanks to voters of all political ideologies coming together last November – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – I was elected Berkeley Heights’ first female elected Mayor in November 2018 and was sworn in on January 1, 2019. The coming together of people to elect a Mayor and Council who are wiling to face our town’s challenges head on, for the benefit of our residents, was a historical moment in our town. It was what we call a “purple” moment. Being “purple” isn’t just the coming together of Republicans and Democrats to work together for a common good; it’s a mindset. It’s being open to the ideas and input from others. It’s welcoming, not excluding, people because they are different than you or have different ideas. It’s being respectful of people no matter their background, and it’s, above all, putting partisanship aside to work for the betterment of our town.
In the months since I was sworn in, my administration hasn’t stopped working for you. Every day, we tackle numerous problems are town is facing – such as:
- An aging and insufficient drainage system
- Roads that are in disrepair; some of them just paved in the past few years but were not completed with any quality controls, so they are causing runoff and other issues
- Finding new ways of financing our road and drainage projects
- Creating more shared services to reduce costs and increased services for our residents
- How to finance our debt so the township was not simply paying the interest every year
- And more!
I would like to keep you updated on everything our administration is doing – from township updates on issues that matter most to you, to press releases, to my monthly “Mayor’s Corner” articles in TAPinto Berkeley Heights, and more.
Township Status Report
October 3, 2019
Benefits of our Department of Public Works Shared Service & Partnering With Union County
- Saved $70,000 in salary plus benefits by sharing our DPW director with the County
- Road reconstruction intersection of Park Avenue @ Princeton Ave
- Road reconstruction Lower Columbia Road leading to lower parking lot
- Replacement of multi-turf field at Snyder Park, appx $500,000
- Install turf baseball field at Snyder Avenue Park, scheduled for construction in 2020, appx $1.5 million
- Salt Dome Shared Service Agreement, generating $1,000,000 over 20 years
- Repaved Plainfield Avenue, handicap ramp improvements to sidewalks
- Traffic study and restriping of Springfield Avenue
- Reconstruction to help stabilize the stream bank Mountain Ave bridge
- Tree trimming along County roadways including Plainfield Avenue, Mountain Avenue, Glenside Avenue, McMane Avenue, Horseshoe Road and Diamond Hill Road
- Fall leaf pickup along County roadways, saving time Township time and personnel
- Usage of County sewer camera truck at multiple locations to identify debris blockage leading to drainage problems
- County Shade Tree crew removed downed trees on Township property
- Reconstruction of Hillcrest Avenue basin
- Restriped Sherman Avenue
- Partial culvert reconstruction on Whitney Drive
- Completed 158 Mosquito Control work orders from January 16 – September 5, 2019; tripled efforts after County trap determined a positive result for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE); initiated aggressive town wide spraying program that included all Township and County parks, field, playground and schools that continues today
Continuous Oversight, Accountability of the Municipal Complex
- To date, just under $27 of the $32 million has been spent on construction of the municipal complex. We have a tight budget and will need every penny to create a great place for our library, recreation department, seniors, police department and more!
- Unsuitable soil was found at the site of the municipal complex beginning in 2018; asbestos in 2018 and hydrocarbons in 2019.
- In 2018, the former Township Council voted to pull the shared savings out the project approximately $950,000; in 2019, $800,000 of those funds were used to pay for the removal of the unsuitable soils found at the construction site; another $150,000 went toward an underslab drainage system that was not factored in to the original budget.
- In 2019, at my direction, contracts were removed from the Council agenda until better accountability from the developer and the construction manager was established.
- In 2019, my administration ensured money was encumbered to properly and transparently pay professional services bills relating to the municipal complex.
- My administration is in contact with the project managers daily, helping to keep the project moving.
The 2019 Budget delivered a smaller tax increase over last year
- Despite non-discretionary spending increasing, my administration delivered a budget with a 3.15% tax increase in 2019 – that’s lower than the increase of 3.65% from the previous year
- An 8% spending (NOT tax) increase was due to non-discretionary expenses such as pensions and a 142% increase in the recycling budget.
- I created the Mayor’s Recycling Taskforce in response to this budget crisis to proactively search for solutions using passionate volunteers in our community.
- We permanently financed our debt instead of kicking the can down the road and created a plan for our future that resulted in nearly a $3.8 million savings to the taxpayer.
- Breakdown: $1.3 million savings by permanently financing the debt, $1.3 million in lower interest rates than anticipated and $1.2 million in premiums received from Bond and BAN sale.
- My administration has restructured the Finance Department to increase oversight over our daily budget, vendor contracts, tax collection, grant dollar expenditures; we also hired a professional CFO that is a qualified purchasing agent – which benefits the township – and replaced the auditor, who was not providing sufficient oversight of our finances.
- Hired a Financial Advisor to guide us through the next 30 years of revenue, debt and budgeting.
We Agreed with the BOE to End a Shared Service Agreement (SSA) that was costing the Township money and kept the SSA that benefits both
- A shared service was entered into three years ago between the Township and Board of Education for garbage collection; the township was paid $19,200 in 2018 for garbage collection.
- In 2018 alone, the Township paid out the following costs not covered by the agreement:
- $14,355 in disposal costs
- $13,976 in converting used garbage bodies into a vehicle capable of handling the trash pickup, plus repairs
- plus overtime for staff to collect garbage for the BOE
- DPW staff were brought in on overtime to collect garbage at our local schools. Then, during regular business hours, personnel traveled to Rahway to dump garbage, waited several hours to discard waste and traveled back to Berkeley Heights. The Township “garbage truck” continually broke down, forcing the Township to pay a private hauler to collect garbage from the schools.
- From 2017 – 2019 the cost of equipment, repairs, purchases and use of a private hauler cost the township $67,652.79.
- By severing the agreement, resources were then redirected to patching potholes, repairing storm basins and cleaning the streets with our sweeper and providing more services.
- We renewed the motor vehicle shared service agreement (SSA) that sends Board of Ed vehicles to our maintenance department at the DPW – a great partnership for both.
- Continue to look for ways that the BOE and town can work together.
Our 2019 Berkeley Heights Capital Plan funds repaving roads for 30 years
- In addition to creating a plan to capitalize our road reconstruction for the next 6 years, we took measures to plan for the continual upgrade of our roads for the next 30 years when we permanently financed the debt in July of this year.
- A minimum of $750,000 of capital has been dedicated for roads annually. Our capital budget includes $1.5 million from 2020-2024 and $2 million from 2025-2052 capital for the next 30 years to help improve ALL of our aging infrastructure.
- Local aid from the Department of Transportation will augment our 6 to 30-year capital plan, averaging between $200,000-500,000 in state aid annually.
- In 2019, we allocated over $900,000 in capital dollars to repave numerous roads – above our $750,000 target.
- This year, we will repave Saw Mill, Cornell, Rutgers, Hamilton, East & West Briarwood, Fay Place and Ridgedale Place
Other Great News
- Created Grants Committee, Senior Citizens Advisory Board
- Introduced ordinances for Historic Preservation and Economic Development Committee
- Initiated an e-waste and styrofoam recycling program
- Held Family Safety Event
Mayor’s Corner TapInto Articles & Press Releases
September 30, 2019: Team Effort to Battle EEE is Working, but Please Remain Vigilant – September 2019
July 31, 2019: Mayor’s Corner Summer 2019 – Fiscal Responsibility
March 20, 2019: Mayor’s Corner, March 2019 – DPW, Budget Hearing, New Electronics Recycling Program, ‘Project Lifesaver’ & More
February 19, 2019: Mayor’s Corner: What is a Shared Service Agreement for an Interim DPW Director? And Here’s what Berkeley Heights is Getting Out of It