At its regular meeting on December 2, the Hopewell Borough Council recapped the triumphs and challenges of the past year and discussed goals and plans for the Borough moving into 2022.
Audra Tunison, EMT deputy chief, testified first. She said that recruiting volunteers during the pandemic had been a challenge, but that the Retention and Recruitment Committee used tools like the website Next Door and talking to neighbors to call back old members and recruit new ones. Now 11 people are in training to either become an EMT or ambulance driver, and the junior program for 14- to 17-year-olds has been a success. The EMT’s in Hopewell handled an average of 25 calls per month in 2021.
Council president, Sky Morehouse said, “You’re very kind and humble about the amount of work you’ve put in with the call out for response. We were floundering for a little bit and Audra and the rest of the crew stepped up.”
Will Mullen, fire chief, testified next, reporting that the Fire Department had responded to 301 calls so far in 2021. The Fire Department currently has 46 active members. The Department lost an engine this year, and are currently borrowing one from another fire station while looking for a replacement. The Fire Department assisted with several community events, including drive-by birthday celebrations, the Special Olympics, Memorial Day and 9/11 events, the Halloween parade, free public CPR classes, movies in the park, and COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
Mullen spoke about working dramatic rescues during a hundred-year flood and a five-hundred year flood within days of each other, and the damage it caused to the Borough. The Department lost one EMS vehicle and EMS Chief Mike Brown continues to recover after being injured during a water rescue.
Mullen ended by noting: “Sure, we may be noisy with our sirens, lights, and air horns, but we are headed out to help those in our community. Just remember we are heading off to help those in need. It’s a tough ‘give for families, especially young families like myself.”
Dennis Pollack, engineer, spoke about the road projects that were completed in the last year, including curb and driveway layovers around the Borough. The manholes in the Borough were inspected and sewer guards were installed in crucial areas to reduce the unnecessary cost of wastewater. The Borough has received a $238K grant for work on railroad place, and a $282K grant for work on North Greenwood to Hamilton Avenue with a planned construction in the summer of 2022.
Engineer Mark Kataryniak added: “We have gotten all the grants we’ve asked for. We’re tracking supply chain issues and construction cost material supply, and thinking about when to bid on projects. We’re trying to get the best price we can, and be strategic about the timing of bids.”
Library staff director, Anne Zeman, was called to speak next. “Thank you for inviting me before the Council to discuss the state of the Hopewell LIbrary,” she said.” Since I am retiring at the end of the year, let me say what a pleasure it was to work here. You absolutely see the best of Hopewell from the front desk of the Hopewell Library.”
Zemen listed the shortcomings of the current library building and urged the Library Board to consider a new building to house the library. She said that libraries are becoming real community centers. The current building does not provide space for meetings that the public desires and it is not handicapped accessible. Zemen pointed out that Cranbury had been able to raise the three million dollars for a new library and it is similar in many ways to Hopewell.
“Once we’ve emerged from the pandemic, the Board will take up the question of a new library. I do believe a new library is needed. The present building has limitations that prevent the library from serving the community as well as it should,” Zeman said.
Alan Fiel, acting director of Public Works, detailed the difficulties of cleaning up after each storm. Just as heavy clean-up from one storm was almost completed with 300 tons of debris removed, the second storm arrived, he explained. He added that the crew planted 16 trees this year, removed eight, and is currently in the process of leaf pick-up. The Department does not anticipate needing any big equipment purchases in 2022.
Water and Sewer Department Director, Dave Misiolek, said the Water Department had faced some challenges the past year. Most of the Borough manholes have been fitted with inserts, but because they require a flat surface, it was not possible to fit the manholes on Broad Street. Much of the work this year was routine maintenance.
“We all benefit from your experience and good work. Small water supply departments are dying because of over-regulation and we live it day in and day out,” said Morehouse
During public comment, Borough resident Henry Wittman asked the Council for direction on what next steps to take with proceeding in the redevelopment application of his property on Model Avenue. Council and Borough Administrator Michelle Hoven walked him through the next steps he would need to take to initiate the process.
The Council voted to establish a Hopewell Borough Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Committee by approving Resolution 852. The approved resolution does not grant the new committee authority to make changes to the Borough, but will advise Council on changes to improve safety in the community.
Krista Weaver, of 19 Greenwood Avenue and Mike Gray, owner of Sourland Cycles in the Borough, spoke in favor of the Resolution during public comments.
The Council brainstormed ways to reduce waste tonnage in the future after noticing that the amount of waste produced in Hopewell Borough had plateaued over the past decade. Councilmember Ryan Kennedy suggested offering food waste pick-up as a couple of local options now existed as a resource, though he noted such projects had failed in other communities. Morehouse suggested providing composting drums and education to Borough residents as an alternative. Councilmember David Mackie agreed that composting at home was a better alternative because waste pick-up creates more carbon emissions.
The Council discussed better publicizing that the public can purchase a tree that the Borough will then plant as a memorial to a loved one. The Borough will work with anyone wanting to buy a memorial tree with the location and choosing a tree type.
Mackie said he looks forward to moving forward in getting a new well installed. The project is still in its infancy, but once completed, the Borough could be completely water independent. Currently, the Borough gets a portion of its water from New Jersey American Water Company.
Kennedy said that the Borough has launched an email alert program that is available on the its website. Recipients who sign up will receive email alerts about what is happening in Hopewell Borough and information about any changes to garbage pick-up, road closures, or weather alerts.
The next Hopewell Borough Council meeting will be on January 4 at 7pm for its 2022 Re-organization and January Regular Meeting.
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