New Year, New Term, Let's Go!
Shared Municipal Court Renewed
The shared service agreement that three years ago created the Municipal Court of Chester Township, Chester Borough, and Mendham Township was renewed last week. Whereas the initial agreement came as a result of extensive negotiation, this renewal was a breeze, not only because of our excellent partners in Chester Borough and Mendham Township, but also because of the professional way in which the court is administered. The shared court provides savings for each participating municipality, including around $30,000 per year for Chester Township. Every dollar counts when operating with such thin margins. Special thanks to Judge Glenn Gavan, who brings the right mix of discipline and compassion to the court.
Special thanks to the first graders at Dickerson School who last week shared a lot of good advice for improving our community. In a word: playgrounds! Just wait until they see the new playgrounds at Chubb Park and Highlands Ridge next spring (both playgrounds have been installed and we will soon have wood chips and borders in place).
It has been a busy month at the MacGregor Preserve, as the long-anticipated wildflower and native grasses meadow went in last week. Thanks to our Department of Public Works, the State's Bureau of Land Management, and volunteer Rich Prado for seeing this project through. The members of our Parks Committee are especially eager to see this field pop next spring.
Honoring our Local Veterans
Thank you to our local veterans from the Chesters and Long Valley, and to Morris County Commissioner John Krickus (a Marine Corps veteran himself) for recognizing their distinguished service. It was an honor for Mayor Janet Hoven and I to present our hometown veterans with the county's Distinguished Military Service Medals and Certificates of Honor. In the picture below is more than a century of military service - in Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq, and stateside.
Budget Preview: Fuel Costs Way, Way Up
At our first meeting in November, the Council initiated the year's first budget transfer - the standard practice of moving funds from one department's budget to another, to cover modest gaps that occur as funds are expended throughout the year. What made this transfer unique was its size and rationale: $77,000 to cover higher fuel costs. What residents are seeing at the pump, we at the Township are seeing in our police and DPW vehicles. These higher fuel costs will be a significant cost driver in our 2023 budget and have motivated us to think hard and creatively about other savings.
Thank you for the enormous vote of confidence on Tuesday night.
We ran for mayor unopposed this year not because there wasn't great interest (hotly contested races up and down the ballot attest to that), but because we built a coalition over many years that values hard work, responsible decision-making, and commitment to the taxpayers of our community.
Now the hard work begins. With sky-high inflation and ever-increasing mandates from state government, we have our work cut out for us. Budget meetings begin tomorrow and we will do everything in our power to control costs and hold the line on taxes.
Let's confront these challenges together.
Let's make Chester Township the best small town in America.
Thank you for your trust and confidence.
Trunk or Treat: Biggest and Best Yet
With more than 600 kids running around Chubb Park this past Friday, Trunk or Treat was a smash hit. Thanks to our intrepid Recreation Director, Ted Ernst, and the Recreation Committee who put a lot of heart and soul into this event. Thanks also to the many local businesses that donated prizes. And thanks, as always, to the Chester Police, Chester Fire, and Chester First Aid Squad who were well represented throughout the evening.
We've known since the summer that the State of New Jersey was considering (and ultimately adopted) a roughly 22 percent increase to the healthcare premiums of active and retired public employees. Controlling for all other spending, this increase alone would trigger an approximate 1% tax increase on Chester Township taxpayers. Now we have learned that the State will increase the rates for the Public Employee Retirement System a full percentage point. Factor in significant spikes in fuel and other costs and Chester Township faces a very challenging budget process.
We've been in situations like this before and we'll manage the budget in a responsible way, but it is a reminder that the decisions of our state and federal leaders have direct consequences on our municipal budget. Stay vigilant in how you expect your elected leaders to spend your hard-earned tax dollars!
Tennis Courts Lined for Pickleball
Last week, Chester's pickleball die-hards volunteered their time in applying tape to the tennis courts, creating two new pickleball courts. We gave the green light to this change so as to meet a growing demand. Pickleball is, after all, the fastest growing sport in America.
The COVID-era closures brought to light the importance of something as simple as pickleball in getting people outside, enjoying each other's company, and avoiding the creep of social isolation. If you haven't yet tried pickleball, there's still plenty of good weather left in the year!
Honoring Chester's 'Perfect' Voters
At last week's Council meeting, we had the pleasure of also recognizing Chester Township voters who have had perfect voting records since at least 2015. Thomas Jefferson said, “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” It was wonderful to join this group and I hope you join ALL of us at the polls on Tuesday, November 8th.
Congratulations to our new Chester Police Chief, Ryan McNamee! Sworn in tonight by Morris County Sheriff James Gannon.
Tennis court to be lined for pickleball
Tonight, the Parks Committee approved lining the tennis court in Chubb Park for pickleball, utilizing a specialty outdoor tape. They also approved the purchase of two temporary nets. This will double the number of available pickleball courts in town from 2 to 4. As part of this plan, we'll be updating the rules, making clear that if tennis players arrive and wish to play on the occupied tennis court, the court should be made available to them as soon as the pickleball game concludes. Currently, Chester Township has two pickleball courts and one tennis court in Chubb Park (Chester Borough has another two tennis courts in Grove Street Park). Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America and we see its popularity here in Chester. This is the right response to growing demand and has the full support of the Council.
Chester Fire & Police Remember 9/11
A privilege for Mayor Hoven and I to spend the night with our Chester Volunteer Fire Company, and Chester Police in Liberty State Park. These photos will soon hang at the Fire House and Police Station. Never forget.
Dedicating Turkey Brook Park
If you love Turkey Brook Park - whether your kids play there, or you’ve visited the splash pad, or you’ve run on the track - know that it didn’t get there by accident. It was because people like Paul Licitra had a vision, planned it out thoughtfully, and pursued it doggedly over many years. It was our family’s honor to celebrate this dear friend and role model. Congratulations, Paul!
Boosting School Security
Tonight the Council approved its share of funding for a third police officer to protect our schools. Once the Special Officer Class III is on board, each of Chester’s three schools will have one officer on site throughout the school day. This is a total collaboration among the Board of Education, Chester Borough, and Chester Township. Thank you to all participating organizations and, in particular, our Chester Police Department.
Morris County has lost 71 people - mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers - to fatal overdoses this year to date. Today, Morris County came together to mourn these losses, honor grieving families, and raise awareness of the opioid and fentanyl crisis around the world.
Thank you Senator Anthony M. Bucco, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, Morris County Sheriff's Office, and Commissioners Tayfun Selen and Deborah Smith for your words of comfort and hope.
Something's missing at Chubb Park
If you've been in Chubb Park recently, you may have noticed the small playground near the tennis and pickleball courts is gone. We are in the process of replacing this playground, utilizing a state recreation grant. Stay tuned for the debut of the new playground, which will be much larger and more interactive. We hope to have it open in late fall.
Sales Tax Holiday on School Supplies
It being the first day of school in Chester, most families are probably done with their back-to-school shopping. Nevertheless, Governor Murphy signed into law a 10-day sales tax holiday on school supplies that will take effect this coming Saturday. New Jersey Senate President Nick Scutari called the tax holiday a "direct attack on inflation". For the average back-to-school shopper who spends around $125 on supplies, the savings will be $8.
When you're running a budget surplus of $6.3 billion, offering parents a one-time $8 savings per student is not enough. And it's certainly not a "direct attack on inflation." It's a gimmick. The State can do a lot better, like rolling back the sales tax to 6% across the board as Assemblyman Jay Webber suggests. Doing so would still leave a surplus north of $5 billion and actually help working families.
Last night, the Council adopted a resolution strongly opposing extreme premium increases to the State Health Benefits Program, which would yield a roughly 1.5% property tax increase next year (before we even start the formal budget process). Specifically, we endorsed SCR-210 creating an investigative committee with subpoena power to investigate the provenance of the rate increases, and urged the legislature to appoint representatives from both municipal and county governments to the State Health Benefits Commission. This is critically important to public employees and taxpayers alike.
Final Salute Honor Guard
Our former Chester Police chief, Tom Williver, has been keeping busy since his retirement last month. I recently caught up with him and learned about his volunteer work with Final Salute Guard of Honor. Through this organization, Tom and other volunteers provide professional honor guard services to those who bravely served in the United States Armed Forces. There is no cost to families, funeral homes, or cemeteries. Based in Sussex County, Final Salute serves families throughout the region, including Chester. Click here to learn more or to contribute towards Tom's work.
Chester's three newest Eagle scouts
Congratulations to Chester’s three newest Eagle Scouts, Aiden Mulligan, Noah Golabek, and Tyler Parks of Troop 9. Aiden’s project was to provide first aid kits to seniors at Chester Area Senior Housing. Noah led repairs to cabins at the Hermitage, including filling more than 100 woodpecker holes. Tyler constructed and installed two wood benches and a stone landscaping wall at the American Legion. Thank you, gentlemen, for what you’ve done for Chester and what you will do in the future!
Moving Wall at CCM
Earlier this month, the County College of Morris was host to the Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial. Thanks not only to the County College for hosting this incredible display, but also to those who helped bring it all together: Senator Tony Bucco, the Morris County Commissioners, and VFW Post 7333. The opening ceremony included eloquent remarks from Morris County veterans, Gold Star mothers, Senator Bucco, and Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, herself the daughter of a Vietnam veteran. Chester's own Larry Maysey is included on the wall (pictured at bottom right) and can, of course, be seen on the original wall in Washington, DC.
Fixing the crumbling walls at Chubb Park
Sometimes it's the little things... like fixing the crumbling walls at the entrance to Chubb Park. The Parks Committee took on this project earlier this month and sought out a repair at minimal cost. Thanks to the Township volunteers who saw this project through. Left picture is before, right is after.
Chester's Annual Police Awards
A privilege to thank Chester Police Chief Tom Williver for his combined twenty-five years of service to our community and our country and to congratulate him on a well deserved retirement. A man of impeccable integrity, leadership, and good nature, we will miss him greatly. Congratulations to Chester’s officer of the year, Chris Cavanagh. And welcome to Chester’s newest police officer, Zachary Schiffman. We are fortunate to have such an exceptional, community-minded police department.