Highlands Borough Council Meeting 4/7/21

HIGHLANDS – Borough Council approved one ordinance, introduced three more, passed 13 resolutions, all but one unanimously, including the municipal budget resolution by title only and heard about a rabid raccoon and criticism of the Middletown Building Department all within an hour long meeting Wednesday night. Although adopted by resolution, the Mayor and Council unanimously adopted a budget totaling $11,975711.84 for the year, of which $8,632,759.61 shall be raised through taxation. A public hearing on the budget is set for May 5. No one spoke at the public hearing and an ordinance to convert $2.4 million in short term loans to long term loans was also unanimously approved. The three new ordinances, all set for public hearings at the April 21 council meeting, include one which would require commercial companies to pay a fee and be licensed by the borough before doing any commercial filming within the borough . The other two, which make 15 new ordinances since Council organized in January, include exceeding the budget and raising the cap, a routine in many municipalities which enables the borough to set aside a budget amount as a protective measure but dictates no additional expenditure of funds, and an ordinance to transfer unused funds from prior projects to roads and sidewalk improvements. Each of the proposed codes appears in full on the borough’s official website page. By resolution, and over the objection of Councilwoman Linda Mazzola, the Mayor and Council authorized giving $10000 to the Business Partnership as full payment for the BPP owned sign on Linden Avenue at Route 36 . The sign was damaged during a winter storm and subsequently cleared from the borough road by the Public Works Department and destroyed at the borough public works yard. Mayor Carolyn Broullon, in response to Mazzola’s objections to not pursuing further possibilities of insurance coverage, said all avenues had been exhausted. In defending the $10,00 payout, she said should the BPP take the matter to court, it would cost the borough at least twice that amount. No one addressed Mazzola’s suggestion that the community might rather join together and work with the governing body on a fund raiser to pay for the damaged sign. Other resolutions included payment of bills, refunding a tax overpayment and overpayments of road opening permits, naming Luke Bollerman to a one year term ending Dec. 31, 2021 on the Economic Development Board, naming Martin Hawley to a one year term as a special police officer when needed, amending the temporary budget, naming the Rev. Jarlath Quinn, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help St. Agnes parish the chaplain for the local police department, amending the borough’s agreement with the Police Department’s Local PBA to enable more flexible hours for officers and senior officers working as detectives in research and investigations, and approving LOSAP payments for local volunteers. At the recommendation of both Mazzola and Councilman Donald Melnyk, the municipal administrator and the municipal engineer will make at least one report monthly at public meetings on their activities during that month. Both councilmembers praised the work of the professionals, and noted the public had a right to hear the advancements they make and the work it takes to complete that work. Though council made no reference to it during the meeting, local resident Kim Skorka, during the public portion, asked if dog licenses would be enforced. She said her question was prompted by the recent finding of a rabid raccoon in the borough which had apparently had interaction with a cat. While there are apparently no rabid cats in the borough because of the incident, Skorka said it made her realize that from her perusal fewer than 50 per cent of dogs in town are licensed, and while many may be vaccinated against rabies, nonetheless the local ordinance should be enforced. In response Broullon indicated they would check to see the canine population and whether it is licensed or whether more action should be taken. During the public portion, resident Joseph Nardone assailed both the Middletown Building Department and code enforcement officer William Brunt for the delay he said he has faced in securing the necessary approvals he needs for his business on Bay ave. While the residential section of his two story building has received a certificate of occupancy, he said the business portion has been delayed. He said many others have complained about the building department, which handles the borough’s permits and hinted that some business might be “better connected” in order to get their permits. Tricia Rivera made reference to the same “connections,” noting that Captain’s Cove Marina, long a topic of discussion and descension in the borough, has failed to obtain the business certificate of occupancy she cited as a municipal law. Borough attorney Brian Chabarek conceded he is not certain of the need or the law she cited, but would investigate and report back.


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