Council Corner

 


10/22/2014 - Official Financial Documentation of the Township

Integrity around financial statements and documents is not only desired but mandated by law.  Only the financial documents issued by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO)'s office or the township's auditors are to be considered the official financial documents of the township.   It is important to note that any financial documents created by a lay person, even a member of Town Council, cannot be considered official and their authenticity and accuracy cannot be guaranteed.  
 
The official financial documentation for the township must be prepared by a licensed Chief Municipal Financial Officer (CMFO).  N.J.S.A 40A:9-140.2 outlines the stringent requirements necessary to be certified as a municipal finance officer.  Additionally, N.J.S.A. 40A: 9-140.6 specifically prohibits a member of the governing body from being the chief financial officer of their municipality.  
 
The township must follow all the rules, regulations and guidelines of the New Jersey Local Budget Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:4-1 et seq. to ensure the integrity, accuracy and authenticity of our financial accounts and reporting.   We must be audited by a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who is also a licensed Registered Municipal Accountant (RMA) on a yearly basis. Every third year, we must send our budget to the state for an intense examination.  These controls are in place to ensure that we are in compliance with the statutes of the State of NJ.  
 
We strongly encourage you to go to our website if you are looking for any official financial documentation or reports. We have many documents online. If you do not see what you are looking for, please contact our CFO at 908-859-3355 x248 
 
Also, if you are presented with any financial reports by the candidates during the upcoming election season and want to verify their authenticity, please contact town hall during regular business hours.

04/26/2014 - Judge Miller's Opinion dated April 21, 2014

concerning the validity of Lopatcong Township's

Ordinances 2011-07 and 2011-15.

We are posting Judge Miller's opinion dated April 21, 2014 concerning the validity of Lopatcong Township's Ordinances 2011-07 and 2011-15 so that you may read and review the judgement in its entirety:   
 
 
Please be patient for it to open as it is 118 pages.  We have added a Table of Contents to the beginning of the document, which highlights the main points of the Judge's opinion. The Table of Contents is interactive for your ease of use.  When you hover your mouse over one of the Section titles, such as "Preliminary Statement", your mouse pointer will change to the shape of a hand.  Click on the title and you will be taken directly to that portion of the document.  To aid your return to the Table of Contents, there is a button named 'Return to Table of Contents' in the top right hand corner of each page of the actual judgement.  Click on this button and you will return to the first page of the Table of Contents.  These functions will work within a browser and also in Adobe software.
 
If you are reading the document in Adobe, you will also be able to see a column of icons on the left hand side of the document. The second icon down is a bookmark.  Click on that, and the bookmark section will expand for your use.  Click on any one of the bookmarks and you will go directly to that part of the document.  
 
If you have any questions on navigating or accessing the pdf document, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
 
If you have any questions regarding the actual judgement, please email your questions to the This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and they will be directed to the appropriate person. 
 

 

04/19/2014 - The Duty to Defend

In response to anyone who may question why the Township expended any monies defending itself in the recent land use litigation, you must first understand that the Township defended only itself. It didn't advocate for the plaintiffs or for any other defendant.  It didn't defend or speak for any other side; it defended only itself and its procedures.  What the critics will say is that by the Township defending itself, the Township supported the asphalt plant. That is inaccurate, intentionally misleading and untrue.  

The primary focus of this case was the Township's notice and meeting procedures: did the Township provide proper notice and meet legally.  In order for any applicant, or resident for that matter, to have any confidence in the Township's procedures, he, she or it must know that the Township will stand behind its procedures, and that's all that the Township did here.  When the Township's procedures were questioned - notice and meetings - the Township defended them.  That should not - in fact, it cannot - be confused with being an advocate for either side. That is why each side had its own attorney. 

What these same critics are advocating - that we should have done nothing or "the minimum" - is disingenuous.  To better understand why, think about it in the reverse.  What if Lopatcong had turned down the asphalt plant application and 189 Strykers Road sued the Township claiming the Township didn't notice properly or meet legally?  By a critic's logic, the Township should do nothing and not defend itself or its processes, but, in doing so, the Township would all but ensure a reversal and the asphalt plant's ultimate success.  That would be improper, just as the converse is also improper.  "So, pick a side", these same critics say; defend it if you want it and don't defend it if you don't want it. 

But, therein lies the ultimate danger, a danger made all the more relevant in light of recent funding revelations and other motives.  It's not for the Township to pick sides and advocate for one party over the other.  It's not the Township's role to advocate for or against the merits of an individual or application, but rather to offer a standardized process that every resident and applicant can see, understand and aspire to follow so that he, she or it can be treated fairly.  

In this case, the decision to advocate for each side was up to each, individual party.  The Township's role was simple and singular: to defend the integrity of its processes; the same processes that are available to every resident or applicant so that each may know that he, she or it may rely upon them and, if those processes are ever questioned, that the Township will defend those processes, not the individuals or entities challenging them.  

Our critics are wrong, but they have the luxury of choosing sides.  The Township does not enjoy the same luxury. It has to offer the same rules to everyone and then, if those rules are to mean anything, defend them when they are questioned. That is all the Township did here. - Mayor Steinhardt

 

01/30/2014 - A Special Thank You to Victor Camporine 

Victor Camporine was first elected to the Town Council of Lopatcong in 1995, and was continually re-elected in each election up to and including his last in 2010.   For most of those years, he also served as our Council President.  This past year, Victor decided to retire at the age of 82 after completing an impressive 18 years on council. 

Victor brought to our town his broad range of experience as a corporate manager, a real-estate agent, and a member of the Naval Reserve Security Division, where he dedicated 30 years of service to our country. 

His business skills and talents were beneficial to our town as evidenced by his many accomplishments over the last 18 years.  He was instrumental in starting the Open Space Committee, which was in part responsible for funding and purchasing our well-used and beloved athletic fields.  He helped restart the Shade Tree Commission and was able to have all the trees and shrubs donated for our new municipal building.  In addition, he also was able to procure most of the furniture for the new municipal building through donations.  He started and managed for 10 years our very popular ‘Movies at the Pool’ program at no cost to the town, again due to the donations he was able to obtain.  He saved the town about $13,000,000 on school taxes over many years by contacting our Legislators and convincing them to amend the Abbott District Legislation that penalized sending districts, such as ours, to Phillipsburg High School.  He also helped start a brush and tree limb pick-up program at an affordable cost to our residents.  Very often over the years, when purchases went out for bid, he was able to bargain for an even lower price. 

 

Victor’s keen business sense and his wealth of experience as a councilman will be sorely missed.  We thank him greatly for his 18 years of service and dedication to our town, and all that he has accomplished for the residents of Lopatcong.  We wish him the best of luck in his retirement from public service, and hope that he will still remain a viable asset to our town. 

 

12/17/2013 - Proclamations Issued in 2013

Proclamations are official statements made by the Mayor and Council to citizens, organizations, sports teams and businesses in Lopatcong Township for recognition of their outstanding achievements, dedication, commitment, service, contributions to community, and more. Proclamations are usually read at a public meeting and presented to the person or group being recognized.

 

In 2013, Mayor Steinhardt and Council issued five proclamations.  Please click on the link below to read the proclamations on our Proclamation page.

 

We once again thank all of those recognized for their dedication, service and contributions.  They, along with so many others, truly make Lopatcong a "People Helping People" community.

 

Proclamation Page

11/01/2013 - Open Space Tax Referendum Issue

In regards to the Open Space Tax Referendum Issue, we sought to do by ordinance, for the sake of openness and transparency, what we could have done as easily by resolution. Where a resolution could have been adopted with NO public input, we sought to be more inclusive by employing a public participation process.  Unfortunately, a clerical error led to the referendum being printed on the ballot before we had a second vote to approve it. Rather than endorse the error we chose to remove it from the ballot and reserve its publication for another day. Nothing illegal or improper took place and recent representations to the contrary are false and intentionally misleading. The attached letter from Warren County Clerk Pat Kolb confirms that fact. - Mayor Steinhardt

Letter from Warren County Clerk

 

10/31/2013 - Salary Report Part One: The Laws

Decades ago, you may have heard the following statements by candidates on the municipal campaign trail in New Jersey: “My campaign promise to you is that I will fire our overpaid clerk!’ or “If elected, the first thing I will do is cut the tax assessor’s salary!”

In the past, a candidate might have actually been able to keep these promises.  Today, however, they cannot.  There are now state laws that absolutely prohibit such actions.

The CFO, Tax Assessor, Tax Collector and Municipal Clerk (the positions I like to refer to as the ‘Core Four’) are the lifeblood of a town.  Having to constantly train newcomers and go through the pains of acclimation as the political winds changed direction were not beneficial to the residents or the business of running the town.  The knowledge and experience lost when these employees were fired or quit were not easily replaced.

In order to stop destructive practices towards the municipal employees, the State of NJ enacted several laws to protect these four positions, and thereby protect the residents of the towns. These laws were specifically designed to protect these employees from political pressure and retaliation from their elected officials.

The document below goes into more detail on the laws. Violations of these laws by municipalities are not tolerated and the successful lawsuits filed by wronged employees are proof of this.

Many people have asked me about the salaries of our ‘Core Four’ employees and what can be done about them.  I have given them a summary of the laws that control what we as council can and cannot do.  I hope this explanation of the laws helps you understand the whole picture as well. I will be posting additional parts of my Salary Report in the upcoming months, so keep checking back for more.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email me anytime! 

Thank you, Councilwoman Ciesla

Salary Report Part One

10/29/2013 - Overlook Emergency Access Road Easement Information

In April 2005 a hostage situation at the Overlook section of town revealed the potential issues created with the limited ingress and egress to and from that development.  Specifically, as a result of law enforcement's need to close the singular entrance and exit to the Overlook complex residents and guests were unable to leave their homes and, as the event dragged on into the evening, return home to them after work.  Although the hostage situation ended safely and without incident, the event caused many Overlook residents to inquire of Council and me the likelihood of an alternate source of access and exit should they ever be faced with a similar disruption. 

I am pleased to report that last Friday, October 25, 2013, I was able to obtain from Solops, the company constructing the large, 80-plus acre solar field directly behind the Overlook complex an easement over its lands, for ingress and egress to and from Overlook, at no cost to the Township for the land or conveyance.  The easement is for an emergency, gravel roadway that runs along the common Solops/Berry Plastics border, back to the cell tower and then right along the rear of the Solops property, before it would turn left and connect with Overlook.  The easement is for emergency and private passenger vehicles (Overlook residents and guests) during any emergency incident where the primary route of ingress and egress to and from Overlook would be closed by emergency personnel.  Although the details of the easement, its final metes and bounds description, and the connection to Overlook have yet to be determined and decided among Solops, the Township and the Overlook community, it is a great first step to ensuring that such a disruption will never again effect the residents of the Overlook community. 

Councilwoman Maureen McCabe, with her legal, real estate background, has been assigned to task of seeing the improvement to fruition.  Meanwhile, a link to the Solops letter and map attachments is included below. - Mayor Steinhardt

Overlook Easement Letter

 

10/22/2013 - Our Commitment to Serve and Protect Our Residents

Sadly, it seems there is much misinformation being circulated recently affecting the Township, its business, decisions, finances, and officials, including Township Council. It is our duty as a Council to serve and protect our residents, even against misinformation and misrepresentations that have the potential to raise questions or cause widespread confusion.  It is a duty we take very seriously.  Accordingly, to help separate fact from fiction, please call any one of us with any questions or concerns you may have.   Also, we will continue to be hosting this month on October 22, 2013 and October 29, 2013 the extremely successful "Council Hours" program we started this summer. Please feel free to call ahead if there is a particular subject that you would like to discuss. Good government only works with open and honest lines of communication. Hope to see you then! - Councilwoman Ciesla

To contact a councilperson, please visit our page for our contact information.

 

 


 09/23/2013 - Additional Information on the Pool and Recreation Employee Issue

 

On Thursday, August 29, 2013, CFO Betty Dobes, Attorney Campbell, Councilwoman Ciesla and Mayor Steinhardt held a meeting with and at the request of three residents, Tom McKay, Pete Olschewski, and Martin Swim, in regards to their complaints about the Township's operation of the Lopatcong Pool. During the discussion, Messrs. McKay, Olschewski and Swim questioned who ran the pool and why we wouldn't sell or subcontract out its operation to a third party. It became apparent quickly that the issue wasn't really pool operations, but rather three or four people employed at it.

However, the facts are such: Lopatcong Township assumed ownership and control of the Lopatcong Pool in 2001 and, unlike surroundings communities whose pools have struggled to remain open or have closed all together, not only has the Lopatcong Pool been self-sufficient since the Township took control, it has also turned a profit for Lopatcong every year. Lopatcong will net close to $25,000 this year from the pool and all of its operations, which allows it to be subsidized only by those who use it instead of everyone who does not. This means that it is not a burden on the taxpayers of Lopatcong, but its profits do benefit all residents by increasing our town revenue.  

Most important, rather than cede control to and line the pockets of a third party pool operator at the expense of our residents and families, the Lopatcong Pool provides a safe and reliable source of summer income for the families of the more than 60 Lopatcong teens who work there year after year. The pool is staffed with hard working individuals who return annually, bringing their experience and knowledge to help us make the pool successful. 

Good management and community-mindedness have resulted in not only yearly profits and recurring jobs for hundreds of Lopatcong families and their children, but have also resulted in sustaining a wonderful community resource that has been a part of our township since the late 1960s. We thank these gentlemen for requesting the meeting and encourage any resident to contact us at any time about any issue.   - Mayor Steinhardt