What's going on in Highlands?

The Mayor and Council did an awful lot of things right at their meeting this week, but there’s so much more they can do to prove to the people that they really are open and not keeping actions that affect all taxpayers under wraps. Cheers to Linda Mazzola and Don Melnyk pressing the vote on voting for each of the resolutions individually. It’s usually not a terrible idea to group them all together, but that’s in towns where people are kept abreast of everything and most of the resolutions are routine anyway. Ms Mazzola is pretty much the only council member who asks questions, and Mr. Melnyk is doing a great job in opening up communications, so hopefully both are trying to keep the public informed. It was great to see all their faces this week, a sharp contrast to previous meetings when you could only each when he or she spoke. This late in the game and they’re finally starting to be as professional as so many other towns. It’s greater news that they’re really going to hold meetings that people can attend again, but it’s a shame they won’t continue a combination of in person and Zoom. It’s a new world out there now, with plenty more possibilities for people to learn what’s going on in town, but I guess it will take a while before Highlands gets that advanced or desirous of wanting the people to know everything. The “cannabis legislation’ is one example. The agenda reported that the executive session prior to the meeting, was for “cannabis legislation.” During the meeting, the attorney said it was necessary for “attorney-client privilege,” which, according to state law, is not a reason for the governing body to discuss a matter in executive session. Highlands has already adopted an ordinance allowing marijuana…the type of cannabis included in the new state law.. to be sold in stores in the borough. Is the executive session because the borough is being sued for acting so quickly? Is the executive session because maybe they rushed that ordinance through too fast and has to be amended before it even goes into effect? Is it because a member of council knows somebody who wants to open a marijuana store? The executive session for “attorney-client privilege” leaves too many questions unanswered. For the second time, the governing body introduced that $10 million ordinance for the will-it-ever-be- borough hall on the highway, and this time the public hearing will be May 19. The good news is there MIGHT be FEMA funds totaling half of that amount, which would make the tax rate increase about four cents, instead of the seven cents predicted before. The bad news is there’s no guarantee that FEMA money will really be coming, no matter how promising it looks. So once again, after ten years, what is the rush? Hasn’t that FEMA money been pursued before while so many other municipalities have already rebuilt with FEMA funds? Certainly happy the emergency and police volunteers in Highlands are continuing their agreement with the Coast Guard to be first responders should there be fire or health emergencies on Sandy Hook. But no one seemed to know whether Middletown, where the Sandy Hook Coast Guard station is located, is also a first responder. Nobody seemed to know whether there’s a similar agreement with the National Park Service for the rest of Sandy Hook, though Highlands is forever out there in emergency situations. Of course Highlands is closer, Sea Bright is closer, but Sandy Hook is still in Middletown and Middletown ought to be doing more than its fair share not only in emergency situations, but even in all that traffic folks in Highlands have to endure for Sandy Hook visitors. Yet keep in mind, when there are private/public agreements out there, Middletown certainly wants the taxes for improvements. Criticizing the governing body is healthy for a council that wants to keep the people informed and happy, but the public has obligations as well. Yet only one resident asked any questions on the municipal budget during the public hearing. Yet many will be down there complaining when they get their tax bills. That simply isn’t fair. There will be more on it, but May 22 from 9 ,a.m. to 2 p.m. is the town-wide yard sale. Check out the borough’s page for how and when to sign up to be included in advance information on it. This is always a fun idea, keeps things orderly, and brings lots of folks looking for bargains or treasurers into town.


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