Council Comments on Recent Legislation

Ordinance #24-10 – An Ordinance Amending the Revised General 

Ordinances of the Borough of River Edge, Chapter 384, Entitled “Trees”

 

With regard to Ordinance #24-10, the Mayor and Council must adopt this ordinance because the NJ Department of Environmental Protection requires all municipalities to adopt the language concerning tree removal and replacement as part of the Municipal Stormwater Tier A permit by May 1, 2024.   This language does apply to both public and private property.  Also, we are subject to the same standards of replacing trees that are removed, but are not hazards, so there is no risk of deforestation in River Edge.

 

The current code does not enumerate the programs that the STC had mentioned at the 4/8 meeting.  Under 384-6(F), it only states to “encourage arboriculture”.  By having a Commission, it invokes the state statute of the regulation, planting, care and control of shade and ornamental trees (on public property) shall be exercised by and under the authority of the Commission. If you review the powers of the Shade Tree Commission in 384-6, the state statutory language indicates that the Commission exercises full and exclusive control over regulation, planting, and care; and regulate and control use of the ground surrounding the same.  Even Borough improvements affecting trees require consent of the Commission under these current regulations.

 

By changing the group of volunteers from a Commission to an Advisory Committee, the state language mandate is eliminated.  Control and accountability are placed in the hands of the Borough and the group will be required to coordinate with the Department of Public Works, Recreation and the Police Department.  The requirement to coordinate with Borough Departments is not part of the current code because as a Commission, they have exclusive control and the ultimate say.  Municipal language cannot supersede state language.  


The encouragement of arboriculture is not being eliminated.   If anything, the language is expanded to include annual advisement of policies, practices, procedures and actions for the replacement and preservation of shade trees; to be a resource for the Borough in protecting and/or replacing trees; to recommend and develop programs; and to act as a subject matter expert in preparing reports and grants.  If this or future Councils wish to grant the Advisory Committee other duties, it can be done so via resolution.

 

In summation, #24-10 must be adopted to meet the NJ Department of Environmental Protection stormwater permitting requirements and to transfer authority over trees to the Borough.  It neither eliminates this group of volunteers nor prohibits them from their programs, Arbor Day activities, working with the schools, or seeking grants.  If anything, it encourages the group to cooperate with various departments for the greater good of the Borough.

 

2024 Library Budget

 

This Mayor & Council has always supported the library for the programs they offer to all ages, the services they provide and the role it plays in enriching our community.  We provided funding during the years of COVID, even though the library was closed to the public, when other towns did not.  We have consistently funded the library above the statutory requirement.  This year is no different. As the Mayor previously stated, the statutory amount is $770,650.91 and they are receiving $865,943.00, which is an additional $95,292.09.  Therefore, when the library attributed their reduced hours due to budget cuts the governing body members were taken aback and even more alarmingly, the blame seemed to be directed at us.  This is not only disheartening but completely misleading.  Seeing so many residents at the last meeting express their concerns, frustrations and anger over the news was enlightening.  It showed how many residents value the library.  Although we, as Mayor and Council, always encourage the residents to convey their feelings and thoughts to us, we believe this has been misdirected in this situation.  As the Borough Administrator has said, the activities, hours of operation, programming and personnel of the Library are determined by the Library Board.  What the Library does with the provided funding is under their jurisdiction under state statute; but they cannot exceed their funding allocation.  The Library Board is completely aware of this fact. Again, to be clear, we did not cut their budget. The finance committee with our BA and CFO spent countless hours going through an extremely difficult budget this year – line item by line item for each budget account. Then the Mayor and Council, with all the heads of departments and the resident board spent another 8 or 9 hours combing through the pages of the budget book. It is an arduous process that seems to be getting more difficult each year with all the rising costs and increasing state mandates, but it is one that we do with having the best interest of our residents in mind. We as the governing body have fiduciary obligations to each one of you and failing to address this unfortunate issue goes against that mandate. With that said, we stand by the current budget that we have adopted.

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