News & Announcements for Sunday December 8, 2013
The deadline for homeowners to file 2012 Homestead Benefit applications has been extended to December 31, 2013. The original due date was November 22, 2013. Homestead Benefit applications were mailed in October, and many homeowners need more time to file. Residents can file their applications either online or by phone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most homeowners will receive their benefit as a credit on a future property tax bill. Those who indicate when they file that they no longer own the property or that their principal residence was a unit in a co-op or continuing care retirement community will be issued a check (or direct deposit).
*To File applications by phone: 1-877-658-2972
*To File applications online: www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/
*To ask questions: 1-888-238-1233(8:30am-4:30pm, Monday thru Friday except holidays)
*Online information: www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/homestead/geninf.shtml
Fall leaf clean-up is still underway. The DPW is beginning another sweep of the entire town, neighborhood by neighborhood, starting this week and continuing through most of December. Any questions, please contact the DPW at (908) 859-0013 or the town clerk at (908) 859-3355 x 225. Thank you!
The Planning Board meetings for November and December 2013 have been cancelled. The next scheduled meeting will be on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 7pm at the Municipal Building.
The next Dog and Cat Free Rabies Clinic will be held on Saturday, December 7, 2013 from 9:30am - 11:30am at the Township Garage on Beers Street. All dogs must be on a leash and accompanied by an adult, and all cats must be in a carrier.
We currently have openings available on our Recreation Committee and our Economic Development Advisory Committee. Also, if you are interested in any other committee or board that does not currently have an opening, please submit an application anyway. We will put you on the waiting list and will notify you when an opening is available. The Volunteer Form can be found on the left hand side menu of our website. Thank you!
4th Quarter Sewer bills were mailed out on November 8, 2013 and are due on December 9, 2013
Updates have been made to the SWRPC page, including newly posted Questions and Answers. If you have any additional questions, please contact Councilwoman McCabe or any of the committee members. They are the most informed on the matter and have the most accurate information available.
The Sewer Appeal Meeting for today, October 16, 2013, is cancelled. The next meeting date is , at 3:00pm, which is also the reorganization meeting.
The Warren County Department of Public Safety provides the public with a way to receive Emergency notifications via home or work telephone, cell phone, or cell phone SMS text messages. Emergency messages may include evacuation and sheltering information, missing persons notifications, mosquito treatment announcements and other serious emergencies or dangerous conditions. This system will NOT be used for non-emergency purposes such as campaign messages or recreational event announcements. To sign up, please visit their page and register your desired numbers.
Please visit State Senator Mike Doherty's website to learn more about the Fair School Funding Plan for fair distribution of school aid throughout the State of New Jersey.
If you are in need of a Landlord Registration Statement, it has been added to our website, on the menu on the left.
In order to enhance communication, we have set up our 'Council Corner' news page. Please check it frequently to stay up to date with the happenings in the township and with your town council.
The West Nile Virus has been detected in mosquitoes in Lopatcong Township. Please see the Warren County Mosquito Commission website for more information.
The Easton-Phillipsburg (Route 22) Toll Bridge Rehabilitation Project began Monday, June 17, 2013. Please use I-78 as a travel alternative during construction. The Free Bridge is not a recommended alternative as it is already congested and cannot handle vehicles in excess of three tons. Please see the DRJTBC's website for more information on this project: http://www.drjtbc.org/default.aspx?pageid=2326
In order to effectively communicate with our residents in the digital age, we have started our 'Council Corner' blog. We feel that open and honest communication is key to good government. Please check out 'Council Corner' often! If there is any topic you would like to see addressed, please let us know!
Township of Lopatcong
September 27, 2011
Dear Lopatcong Resident:
This year marks my twelfth as Mayor of Lopatcong. I took office in January 2000, with a Council that has changed only once in the more than one decade that I have served you, and has not changed at all in eleven of the last twelve years. Although I have inquired, I have not been made aware of any governing body in this State serving its community unchanged, for as long. I am honored to serve with Messrs. Baker, Camporine, Curry and Mengucci and honored more to serve all of you.
More than one year has passed, since my last letter. The Governor’s two percent tax levy cap was enacted. We endured an arduous winter, and no less than one hurricane, one tropical storm and the ancillary tremors associated with Virginia’s earthquake. We continue to struggle under the weight of a volatile, global economy. We began a Township-wide property reassessment. We continue to make infrastructure assessments and improvements, where time and money allow. DPW Director Steve Hockman retired. A new school year started. Winter is fast approaching. And still, Lopatcong thrives.
There are, by all accounts, two ways to reduce residential property taxes: cut spending and attract non-residential taxpayers. We can forget about State and Federal aid, and shouldn’t rely on others to pay our bills anyway. The economy is too unstable to be anything other than as self-sufficient as the law and practicality allow. Thus, we have tried to be leaders in exploring and forming regional, shared services. It is not a matter of egos or empires, as some critics aver, but of sheer survival.
In the 1991 movie Other Peoples’ Money, NJ native Danny DeVito plays a corporate raider named Lawrence Garfield. There is a well-known and occasionally cited scene about halfway through the film, in which Garfield delivers a speech to a group of stockholders of the fictitious New England Wire and Cable Company. The imaginary Company makes copper wire, cable and conduit, is cash rich and debt free, and Garfield has set his sights on taking it over and breaking it up. Why? Watch this short segment and see. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62kxPyNZF3Q&feature=feedbul. At 1:51 minutes into the scene DeVito takes the Lord’s name in vain, and although I cannot speak to any other of the referenced links, there is no other profanity used in the segment.
Let me state unequivocally that I am no Lawrence Garfield, I do not aspire to be him, and I do not provide the reference for anyone to draw that inference. Still, by analogy and for literary purposes only, I propose that a parallel may be drawn between the stockholders to whom Garfield speaks and the taxpayer, that the company and employees he describes may be likened to government and the public sector generally, and that the money and profits he references compared to the tax dollars to be saved by taking money out of governments’ hands and putting it back in yours, where it belongs. The message he delivers is similar to the crossroads at which government and society stand today. It is the law of survival: adapt or die.
I have committed the last several years of my tenure to embracing that law, and if I may be perceived as being overly aggressive or painfully blunt, it is because I believe that we cannot leave our municipal fate in the hands of government bureaucrats to send us dwindling amounts of State and Federal dollars. Instead, only by reducing costs and increasing revenues can our community, or any other community, survive. It is for those reasons that I have worked diligently to focus our energy on shared and regionalized services, while simultaneously laboring to attract and embrace non-residential taxpayers who can reduce the already excessive tax burden each of us bears. Just as Lawrence Garfield speaks of “obsolescence” and refers to New England Wire and Cable as “dead, just not broke”, if Council and I are similarly short-sighted, our Township, like many others, will also wither and die. I believe that Lopatcong is still a preeminent NJ community, but we can ill-afford to be, and should never allow ourselves to become, what Lawrence Garfield describes as “the last buggy-whip company” in NJ. Watch the scene. You will see what I mean.1
Lopatcong Township already shares services on several fronts via inter-local agreements, through municipal co-ops, and with our local school district. Although recent discussions with Pohatcong Township for the creation of a regional police force were suspended, other partnerships, like our multimember, municipal court, have succeeded. Lest we fall victim to the sin of pride, we will continue to seek out new, effective and innovative ways to promote and engage in regional, shared services and, in doing so, perpetuate our survival, if not ensure it.
In early September 2011, the Express Times ran an ill-informed and generally obtuse editorial on the failure of our proposed, joint police force with Pohatcong Township. It is worth clarifying that, since both Lopatcong and Pohatcong Townships are Civil Service communities, Civil Service, not the Townships, dictates who is chief when there is more than one in a proposed merger. That was the situation in which we found ourselves in late August 2011, and under current, Civil Service regulations, both Townships are powerless to deviate from Civil Service's mandates. Thus, from Lopatcong’s perspective, this was not a matter of choosing who would be chief, since Civil Service made that decision for all of us. Instead, it became a question of goals versus priorities and, as above-described, it is our goal to move toward regional, shared services where cost savings are realized and levels of service maintained. That being said, as a result of time in title, Lopatcong’s Chief Marinelli would be Chief under Civil Service’s reconciliation. And even though I proposed to offer both Chiefs the option of submitting a buyout, since the Regional Police Commission was required by Civil Service to continue to employ both men in the new department, at the same salaries and with the same benefits they enjoyed pre-consolidation, Pohatcong representatives elected not to proceed except under their Chief's leadership. That ultimatum, one by which both Townships were powerless to abide as long as both Chiefs desired to work, ground discussions to a halt.
I will say, on our brief partnership with Pohatcong Township, that I fault neither Chiefs for wanting to work nor Councils for wanting to make it work, but point out Civil Service's innate ability to tie the hands of two public bodies that seemed to agree in every other respect. Still, I am as confident now as I was when discussions with Pohatcong commenced that regional policing and shared services are necessary for the fiscal survival of small communities everywhere. Therefore, I view the energy expended with Pohatcong not as time wasted, but rather as experience gained and, hopefully, a road map to the pitfalls to avoid in what I trust will be our next, successful attempt at regional servicing.
It was with that information in mind that I inquired of Phillipsburg Mayor Harry Wyant whether Phillipsburg was interested in similar discussions. And while it is far too early to know what road blocks may be encountered or savings had, if any, I do know we learn nothing by not asking. Of course, none of this presupposes that a regional department with Phillipsburg or anyone else is the right or best thing to do. What it does, though, is afford us the chance to ask questions and explore whether there aren’t better, more cost-effective ways to provide the same or similar services that we historically provided alone.
As above-suggested, attracting non-residential taxpayers is the other means by which we must seek to reduce our residential, property tax burden, and Council and I are hard at work where time, law and now lawsuits allow. That said, in light of the lawsuit filed recently against the Township and its subdivisions by Enzo and Yola Marinelli, and John and Gina James, I am unable to discuss some of the recent developments on the business front, except to point out the following hypothetical situation. The construction of a $5 million commercial tax ratable is the tax equivalent of twenty-five (25), $200,000.00, Lopatcong Township homes, or $102,000.00 in municipal taxes (that’s one cent in our municipal tax rate). That means that one, similarly-assessed, commercial taxpayer would pay as much in local, school and county taxes as one, $200,000.00 home, plus twenty-four (24) more just like it. Where permitted and consistent with the Township’s overall plan, Council and the Planning Board are aggressive in attracting such businesses and the jobs and revenue they create. I assure each of you that bare allegations and innuendo will not dissuade any of us from working to reduce your taxes or bringing jobs to our community. Truth, motive and machination are always unearthed, in time.
As a result of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, Warren County was included in the public and private federal disaster area designations. Although the destruction in Lopatcong as a whole paled in comparison to many NJ communities, the Township is requesting FEMA funds for road damage and other harm caused by local flooding, and for the cleanup and other costs associated with the storms and their aftermath. Individual FEMA inquiries and applications may be made to 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). You may also register online or inquire at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. There was no reported Township damage from the Virginia earthquake.
Regarding infrastructure and improvements, we continue to try to be guided by the sound practice of making only those improvements and investments for which we can pay presently, without borrowing beyond the life of the asset. For instance, Council and I have long believed it imprudent to borrow for ten years to pay for an asset or improvement with a life expectancy of only five years. In that way, you are still paying your debt long after you need to replace the asset or improvement securing it. Instead, we try, whenever possible, to pay for such items now and save our longer term borrowing for those items whose anticipated life exceeds the natural life of the loan. Examples include Lopatcong Park and our upcoming sewer system upgrades. Other examples include our solar panel installations and the pool complex, both of which offer the added benefits of revenue production, expense mitigation and expedited lien reduction.
For instance, the solar panels installed on the municipal building, DPW garage, pool pavilion, emergency squad and Delaware Park firehouse cost $697,340.00. The Township generates some 75,000 kw (kilowatts) per year from these installations, which results in some $10,783.13 in savings on our electric bill, at the current, $0.143755 per kwh electric rate. We received $313,644.00 in rebates from the NJ Clean Energy Program to help offset project costs and, so far this year, we have sold twenty-six (26) Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECS), at $600.00 per credit, for a total of $15,600.00. Lopatcong’s net cost to date is, thus, $368,042.00, which will allow us pay off our loan in just five years, instead of the originally anticipated ten years.
At the pool and pavilion, we increased the frequency of our summer dances and promoted our “Movies at the Pool” program, all toward the facilities' bottom lines. We also continue to rent out space during the winter to residents who want to store their boats, jet skis and other summer recreational vehicles, so that the pavilion receives year-round use. All of these things are added examples of sound business planning and asset management, which allow our municipal pool and pavilion to make money month after month and year after year, while communities like Alpha and others are forced to close theirs.
Last year Stelko Avenue and Enmore and Oxford Streets were slated to be repaired and repaved, but unforeseen soil and drainage problems, coupled with added funding limitations, only allowed for the completion of a portion of Stelko Avenue. This year, the Township budgeted funds to finish Stelko and received grant money from the NJ Department of Transportation to complete Edward and S. First Streets in Morris Park. The work on Edward Street is now complete, and S. First Street is being surveyed and designed. Construction should begin in Spring 2012. Meanwhile, we have applied for additional funding for the reconstruction of S. Third Street and are prioritizing repairs to the remainder of Morris Park. Enmore and Oxford Streets remain contingent on available funds.
After years of design and debate, Council sent Fox Farm Road out to bid, but the cost to perform that work was well above what was budgeted to complete it. Then, substantial damage caused by Hurricane Irene forced us to reprioritize, so we are addressing via immediate overlays and long term redesign the complete reconstruction of that road. Similar attention is being paid to concerns along Reservoir Road. Meanwhile, we are seeking grants from FEMA and the NJDOT to aid in funding these projects.
I am pleased to report that Lopatcong Township was the recipient of a $3 million award from the USDA to be used for upgrades to our sanitary sewer system in general and Baltimore Street pump station in particular. Of that award, $850,000.00 comes in the form of a grant and the balance in low or no interest loans. A special thanks goes to the Curtis family and farm for hosting the award ceremony at their annual Earth Day Celebration.
On September 1, 2011 DPW Director Steve Hockman retired after six, successful years heading that department. Steve came to us after the tumultuous departure of our former road crew and shepherded a more productive and efficient department. He is credited with bringing to the DPW a host of improvements and an ever-expanding efficacy that will be the foundation for continued betterment. Together with his wife Mary Lu, the Hockmans have each dedicated more than 25 years to Lopatcong Township, via the Lopatcong Pool, Lopatcong Athletic Association, Lopatcong School District, and now DPW. In 1995, Steve and Mary Lu Hockman were recognized by the Lopatcong Volunteer Recognition Committee for their years of service as Lopatcong volunteers. Steve is replaced by DPW Deputy Director Brian Weeks, and Jim Marinelli ascends to the Deputy Director’s title.
2011 also marked our first year operating under the Governor’s two percent tax levy cap law. It requires each municipality to stay within 2% of the previous year's "cap" forcing many towns like ours, which, in previous years had towed the line and entertained only sporadic and moderate tax increases, to go back to the budget drawing board and trim away at what were already bare-boned municipal budgets. Early assessments suggested a comfortable budget margin, but much of that was lost to record snows, emergency appropriations for a cavernous, Grandview Avenue sinkhole, overtime increases for injuries, absences and the like, sewer budget overruns caused by outdated rates, spills and much needed repairs, and increases in pension and benefit costs. Still, we were able to stay within the Governor’s 2% cap, and we have worked diligently all year to ensure that we continue to stay so.
There is no hiding the impact of the world economic crisis, not even in Lopatcong Township. Whether you call it a downturn or recession, real or perceived, and with a jobless rate hovering just under 10%, attention is being paid to bringing partners into our community who can increase our revenues, decrease our taxes and make jobs for you and your families. For any resident adversely impacted by these economic forces, the NJ Housing & Mortgage Finance Agency offers programs to help NJ homeowners experiencing financial hardship in these tough, economic times. NJ HomeKeeper is a federally funded financial assistance program for NJ homeowners who have a track record of making their mortgage payments on time, but are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure as direct result of unemployment or underemployment. Assistance is in the form of a 0% interest rate, deferred-payment, second mortgage loan. The loan proceeds may be used to cover arrearages and/or a portion of the homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment, including property taxes, property insurance, and mortgage insurance. Homeowners may be eligible for up to $48,000 in assistance for a period of up to 24 months. See www.njhomekeeper.gov/index.htm for more details. For Homestead Benefit, Senior Freeze and other property tax relief programs, you may also refer to the NJ Treasury website atwww.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/relief.shtml . Finally, Lopatcong Tax Collector Rachel Edinger is always available to answer questions and offer helpful, friendly advice. Her number is 859-3355, Ext. 230.
Plummeting real estate prices caused a spike in real estate tax appeals, which has a corresponding, negative impact on revenue collection and leads ultimately to inequity among like-taxpayers. To combat these forces, Council authorized a Township-wide, property reassessment in early 2011. Unlike the revaluation of several years back, the reassessment is performed partially “in-house” and for far less money than the previous reval. It also allows us to do yearly “maintenance” so we can ensure, as accurately as possible, that the Township’s overall value and resulting tax rate reflect current market conditions. Reassessed values will be reflected on and applied to the 2012 tax bills, in accordance with applicable law.
Ordinance No. 2011-13, pertaining to the discharge of weapons in a residential zone, was created in response to a legislative void identified after a recent neighborhood animal shooting. The case was dismissed, because there is no local ordinance addressing such circumstances. Even though I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, after consultation with and on the advice of our police department, Ordinance No. 2011-13 was introduced, the sole purpose of which is less gun control than public safety. Admittedly, such regulation demands a delicate balance and requires cautious deliberation, but the safety of each of us and our children in and around our homes is the paramount concern of this Council. As of this letter, we are still awaiting second reading and public hearing on this Ordinance.
The 2011 Volunteer Recognition Dinner was held on April 2nd at the Delaware Park Engine Co. No. 1. This year’s honorees were Scott Harper (Lopatcong Athletic Association), Stacey and Tom Fischbach (Lopatcong Fire Company No. 2), Mike Bambrick (Lopatcong Fire Company No. 2) and Jim Rosa (Lopatcong Athletic Association). Congratulations to each of you and to all the dedicated volunteers who give selflessly of their time and talents.
In January 2011, Lopatcong Township Police Officer Lou LaFord became our fire departments’ newest Chief. In addition to his police and fire service, Lou also serves as a member of the Lopatcong Emergency Squad. His father is a member of both the fire and emergency squads, and his mother serves as an associate member of the emergency squad too. Not to be outdone, Lou’s wife Kelly is currently Captain of the Lopatcong Emergency Squad, where she serves with Robert Morgan as the newest Chief of Lopatcong’s EMS. We applaud Robert, the LaFords and all of Lopatcong’s dedicated first responders.
Warren County Recycling Coordinator and Lopatcong Council President Victor Camporine reported that Lopatcong received over $39,000.00 in recycling rebates for our 2008 and 2009 recycling efforts. He thanks everyone for taking the time to make this program a Lopatcong success.
In 2013, Lopatcong will celebrate its 150th Anniversary. Under the direction of Clerk/Administrator Beth Dilts, we are forming a committee of volunteers to plan special events modeled after the 1963 Centennial Celebration program. Please contact the Clerk’s Office at 859-3355, Ext. 224, if you are interested in serving on this committee.
A reminder that dog licensing is required each January. Feeding feral cats is prohibited under local ordinance. Finally, Township Ordinance, Chapter 101 prohibits dogs and other pets in public parks, at public playing fields and at the pool. Please be respectful of your friends and neighbors.
The Lopatcong Board of Education advises that they recently refinanced $9.6 million of the balance remaining on the Lopatcong Middle School construction bond. As a result, $1,169,000.00 will be saved over the life of the loan. This amounts to a taxpayer savings of some $73,000.00, which will be returned to all of you directly as a decrease in the debt service tax rate. Superintendent Vicki Pede and the Board of Education received special permission to apply this savings to the coming year’s tax bills, and should be commended for taking affirmative, cost-savings measures that benefit the general good.
After twelve years in service to you, our residents, I am grateful each day for the opportunities your confidences have created. There is never a shortage of challenges or issues to face, but with each resolution comes a new lesson, and we are surrounded by dedicated residents, volunteers, employees and councilmen committed to harnessing the energy and insight each lesson offers, for the common good of our Lopatcong community. I assure each of you that I work as diligently today as I did twelve years ago to meet the expectations I hope you will set for this office. As I’ve written in every letter preceding, Township Council meets on the first Wednesday of every month, with every effort being made to start promptly at 7:30 pm. I hope you will come out and join us.
From Other Peoples’ Money (Released 10/18/91)
By Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by Norman Jewison
Screenplay by Alvin Sargent
Starring Danny DeVito, Gregory Peck and Penelope Ann Miller
Amen. And Amen. And Amen. You’ll have to forgive me. I’m not familiar with the local custom. Where I come from, you always say “Amen” at the end of a prayer. Because that's what you just heard - a prayer. Where I come from, that particular prayer is called “the prayer for the dead.” You just heard “the prayer for the dead,” my fellow stockholders, and you didn't say, “Amen.”
This company is dead. I didn't kill it; don't blame me. It was dead when I got here.
It's too late for prayers. For even if the prayers were answered and a miracle occurred and the yen did this and the dollar did that and the infrastructure did the other thing, we would still be dead. You know why? Fiber optics. New technologies. Obsolescence. We're dead all right. We're just not broke. And do you know the surest way to go broke? Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure.
You know, at one time there must have been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I'll bet the last company around was the one that made the best God damned buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stock holder in that company?
You invested in a business and this business is dead. Let's have the intelligence - let's have the decency - to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance and invest in something with a future.
“Ahh, but we can't,” goes the prayer. “We can't because we have a responsibility; a responsibility to our employees, to our community. What will happen to them?” I've got to words for that: who cares. Care about them? They didn't care about you. They sucked you dry. You've got no responsibility to them. For the last 10 years, this company bled your money. Did this community ever say, “We know times are tough, we'll reduce taxes, lower water and sewer?” Check it out. You're paying twice what you were 10 years ago. And our devoted employees who have taken no increase for the past 3 years are still making twice what they made 10 years ago. And our stock: one-sixth what it was 10 years ago.
Who cares? I'll tell ya. Me. I'm not your best friend. I'm your only friend. I don't make anything? I'm making you money. And lest we forget that's the only reason any of you became stock holders in the first place. You want to make money. You don’t care if they manufacture wire and cable, fry chicken or grow tangerines. You want to make money. I’m the only friend you got. I’m making you money.
Take the money. Invest it somewhere else. Maybe, maybe you'll get lucky and it'll be used productively. And if it is, you'll create new jobs and provide a service for the economy, and God forbid, make a few bucks for yourselves. And if anybody asks, tell them you gave at the plant.
And by the way, it pleases me that I'm called “Larry the Liquidator.” You know why fellow stockholders? Because at my funeral you'll leave with a smile on your face and a few bucks in your pocket. Now that's a funeral worth having. [End scene].
Senior Nutrition Program
Call Your Local Site for Reservations
St. Mary’s Church
408 Third St.
United Methodist Church
10 Stillwater Rd.
293 Main St.
321 Marshall St.
Faith Discovery Church
33 Brass Castle Rd.