Community Donation Drive
Annual Holiday Party
Harding Township/Green Village Bridle Path Association (HT/GV BPA) held its annual Holiday Party and membership meeting on December 7th at the Tunis-Ellicks House.
The business portion of the meeting was the election of the Leadership for 2015 with the following results:
Vice President Megan Finkle
Secretary Victoria Sroka
Treasurer Mare Olsen
Trusteees at Large:
Joanna Bleigh, Ingrid Johnston, Miriam Scully, Jamime Miller, Kathleen Young
The remainder of the evening, which was most of it, was spent celebrating friendship and the holiday spirit. The general purpose of the Bridle Path Association is to promote the retention, reclamation and maintenance of the network of trails throughout Harding Township. More information can be obtained by visiting the website: www.bridlepath.org.
On Sunday November 30, Kirby Hall, Harding's municipal building was re-dedicated. A much needed renovation of the building is nearing completion. The land and funds for the building were a gift from Marian and Allan Kirby to the people of Harding many years ago. Following in that tradition, the Kirby Foundation donated the money for the current renovation.
Mayor Nicolas Platt and Jefferson Walker Kirby, of the Kirby Foundation and a current Harding resident, made short speeches, both of which touched on interesting early Harding history. The texts are included below. After their comments, a couple dozen members of the Kirby family, led by Jefferson Walker Kirby, pulled a rope that unveiled the new sign which will grace the Blue Mill Road entrance to the municipal grounds.
“Much gratitude is due the Kirby Foundation and family for this gift which benefits us all.”
Remark by Mayor Nicolas Platt
Good afternoon. On behalf of my colleagues on the Township Committee, welcome.
It is wonderful to have such a nice turnout. As I look out I see many elected officials, families and friends and of course, our residents.
I always like to start out any event by making a few remarks about Harding Township’s unique history.
Over 92 years ago, the residents of this town, mostly farmers, watched what was going on in neighboring communities and collectively decided everything was moving too fast. Instead, they decided to embrace their agricultural heritage and go it alone. So, in 1922, they seceded from Passaic Township. Named their new town after the then sitting President (Warren G. Harding) and never looked back. If there are any doubts about the wisdom of this courageous move, just look around you. But the story could have ended quite differently if the new Township’s business plan relied primarily on only tax revenue to make it work. It didn’t. Instead, they anchored their independence on pay as you go and the concept of volunteerism and the generosity of its residents, which is why we are all here this afternoon.
During a critical stage in our development, it became apparent that the Town was in need of a place to conduct its business. Planning began in 1974 and in 1980, this magnificent building was dedicated. The Kirby family volunteered their time and the financial resources of the F.M. Kirby Foundation to make this happen.
We love this building. In fact, we love it almost too much. After 34 years, the interior spaces had become worn and tired and once again, the Foundation awarded the Township of Harding a grant to assist us in covering some of the cost of those renovations.
There are way too many people to thank. Whether it is Gail McKane, our Administrator who oversaw the project on top of an already healthy work load, or the sign maker outside of Buffalo, New York who worked over a weekend to make sure the sign arrived here on time. This project became a matter of personal pride for everyone. The spirit of volunteerism and giving is the core of what makes this town work and that was embodied in this entire project.
In a few minutes, the Township Committee will be inviting members of the Kirby family to grab hold of the rope that is on the floor leading out to the Atrium. It will unveil a new sign that will grace the front entrance for what we expect will be for at least the next 34 years. Before the family are asked to pull on the rope, I would like to invite Jeff, a grandson of Marian and Allan Kirby, a director of the F.M. Kirby Foundation and a Harding resident to say a few words and introduce all the members of the family that are here this afternoon.
Remarks by Jefferson Walker Kirby
My father, Fred Kirby, could never understand a wedding being scheduled for a Saturday during college football season. I am sure many here feel the same way about building rededications on NFL Sundays, so this will be brief.
Members of our family have lived in Harding Township nonstop for about 75 years. That makes us relative newcomers compared to some here, but it's a pretty good stretch nonetheless. Today, we have with us former, current or soon to be residents Allan Kirby (a son of Marian and Allan Kirby), his daughter Jessie Lee and her daughter Marian, and his son Coray with his son Brush; my mother, Walker Kirby; my cousin Wade Kirby, his wife Linda and their three boys Croft, Reed and Taylor; my brother Dillard, who is President of the F.M. Kirby Foundation, and his wife Adrienne and their daughter Lizzie; and my wife Karen and two of our children Jane and Sam.
Thank you, Nic, for allowing us an opportunity to celebrate today. This building is a tribute to a community and its civic heart, soul and mind. We are all indebted to the good women and men who work in these offices; who serve in the various departments and upon the many committees that administer and guide our common good; who within and outside these walls strive to protect us; who staff our polling stations on election day; who monitor, manage and steward our magnificent open space; and who serve the community in myriad other ways. This building is a beehive of activity among such officials and volunteers, not to mention the many, many citizens with whom they interface year round.
A few weeks ago, I was in the basement of Kemmerer Library donating blood. When done, I wandered through the stacks of books on the first floor and came upon a record of Town Council meetings for most of the 20th century. I was curious to see what may have been going on when my family first came to Harding. There was a single accounting for the period 1934-39, and it included the following information:
The Town Council consisted of Chairman Fred Mullen, John Quinn and Leland Baird. Harold Emery was appointed Patrolman half-time and road maintenance worker the other half. In an emergency he laid down his shovel and picked up his gun. The Police Station was the Emery kitchen where his wife, Edith, answered calls and, if needed, she turned on the porch light for Harold to see as he passed on his rounds using his own car, for which he received an allowance of $6 per month. Patrolman Emery was named Chief in 1936 and requested the Town Council to pressure the State for a "flashing beacon signal" at the dangerous intersections: Lee's Hill, Blue Mill, Glen Alpin and Village Roads. Four years later, the State complied. The municipal budget during those years was about $37,000 annually.
This is a vignette into the Harding Township to which Marian and Allan Kirby relocated from Wilkes-Barre, PA. And we are so glad they did. While a lot has changed in the intervening years, Harding has retained much of the charm that was attractive to them back then.
Our family and the F. M. Kirby Foundation are proud to have been associated with the original construction of this Municipal Building. Today, like the facility around us that pride is refreshed and sparkles anew.
A new program, Project Lifesaver, has been implemented by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office to provide enhanced support and assistance to Morris County residents who are primary caregivers for an individual suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder as well as families of children afflicted with Down syndrome, autism, traumatic brain injuries or cognitive impairments.
These individuals might be prone to wander away from home and become confused or lost. Project Lifesaver allows for a proactive response by law enforcement if this happens. This not only saves time and manpower but also, gives caregivers and families peace of mind and reassurance that all possible resources will be utilized in the effort to locate and return their loved one home safely.
Participants in the Project Lifesaver program wear a special wrist or ankle bracelet equipped with a small transmitter which emits a signal that law enforcement can track when someone goes missing. Search times have been reduced from days and hours, to minutes. Average recovery times are well under 30 minutes.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office serves as the lead agency for Project Lifesaver and in this role, it coordinates the overall operations and management of the program to ensure effective services. Other area agencies provide collaborative support, funding and programmatic assistance in the areas of participant referrals and application review.
For more information including enrollment criteria and application process, contact Patrolman Christel at Harding Police Department or visit: http://cts.vresp.com/c/?HardingTownshipCivic/ec6f0f1830/54a74e15d6/af955653d5
TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE MEETING
Township Finances: Projected Expenses Lower and Revenues Higher Than Budget
The finance committee delivered an update at the October 14 regular Township Committee meeting. With three quarters of the year complete, the projection is that revenues will be above plan $9.42 million, fully 10.3%, or $882K above the budget of $8.54 million. As well, expenses are projected to be 9%, or $754K, below plan.
Most of the positive variances appear to be the result of the budget that was constructed with a very conservative outlook. On the revenue side, projected tax intake is estimated to be fully 14% higher ($796K) than budgeted. Given the stability of the tax rate and the assessed values, it is hard to understand the source of this upside surprise. Similarly on the expense side, the biggest variance derives from $606.4K less (or 13%) in compensation. As there were no large pay cuts or layoffs, this positive variance also appears to be driven by conservative budgeting rather than belt tightening.
The presentation also reviewed the recent Agreement with the police union (see other article), engineering costs for three recent years and Affordable Housing costs. As we have highlighted in prior issues, Harding’s state mandated obligation (COAH) to build more affordable housing units could be “very costly”. The actual number of additional units is not clear at this time but it could be at much as 50 and maybe 80 additional units. To put this in perspective, Harding currently owns and manages 24 units - The Farm at Harding on Woodland Avenue (original cost was $3.8 million). One township committee person said that Harding can handle the current requirement, but he is “not so sure that Harding can handle 3 to 4 times” that number. It is clear that COAH requirements are the largest financial unknown for future Township finances and taxes.
Other Items from October 14th Township Committee Meeting:
The EMT squad was recognized for saving the life of a resident with CPR.
The Board of Adjustment made its annual report presentation. The representatives said that most business was routine with two important exceptions: Hurstmont development proposal and the proposed cell tower.
The TC heard from the Historical Preservation Commission and the Planning Board on changes to a township ordinance which regulates demolitions of historical structures – aka the Demolition Delay Ordinance. The TC will consider the input.
Energy Savings: Richard Steel of Commercial Utility Consultants presented a plan whereby townships can purchase generation capacity in bulk – Morris County Cooperative. Importantly, under this plan, residents are automatically enrolled unless they proactively opt out. This unusual coercive structure is a feature of NJ State regulation. Fortunately, the scheme is supposed to save residents 5-10% on the generation portion of their bills. Generation can be about half of a residential electric bill. According to the presentation there is not risk to the consumer.
Tennis Courts – They’re Back…. It appears that there is support from the TC for repairing or replacing the town’s tennis courts after all. The change of thinking is the result of a tour of the new multi-purpose courts at the school. These were supposed to be suitable for tennis and obviate the need for dedicated tennis courts at Kirby Hall. Upon inspection however, the court surface is not correct and the fences are too low. The options to repair the Kirby Hall courts are $75K (“slip-sheet) and $125K (mill and lay new asphalt). The contractor recommends the less expensive option given the state of the current surface.
In addition, the TC was updates on road repairs, paid bills, released escrow, approved best practices inventory, authorized online auction of old vehicles, accepted revenue from state fund for body armor, etc. etc.
New Police Contract
The Township’s contract with PBA Local 340, the union of Harding’s police force, has historically been one of the most important financial decisions the Township Committee can make because of the relative size of the PD payroll and the long term implications due to the post-retirement benefits covered by the contract. After about a year of negotiations, the Township and the PBA concluded an Agreement to cover the term from 1/1/13 to 12/13/16.
The contract calls for a 1.95% annual increase in salary. The prior contract had increases of 3.75 to 4.1%.
In 2014, a patrol officer with seven years on the job will have a base salary of $112, 347. All of Harding officers, except two are at this top step. However, going forward, it will take 15 years for an office (hired after June 1, 2014) to reach the top step. Probationary officers (in their first year of service) have a base pay of $45,219.
In addition, officers get a “longevity increment” for time of service. As an example, an officer with 5-8 years of service receives and additional 3% ($2.8 to 3.4K). The prior contract’s longevity increment was $775. These longevity increment percentages rise 0.25% every 3 years and cap out at 4%.
In addition, a patrolman who is the senior officer on a shift will be paid an increment because they are “acting in a supervisory capacity”. In this case they are paid as a sergeant for those hours.
In addition, the Township reimburses eligible tuition cost and then pays an annual “stipend” (salary increment) to a member who earns an associate ($1500) or bachelors ($2500) degree. Prior contract called for stipends of $300 and $600.
Officers are entitled to vacation. For 1-4 years of service - two weeks (actually 80 hours). For 5-9 years - 3 weeks (120 hours). For 10-14 years – 4 weeks (160 hours). For 15 years – 5 weeks (200 hours). A new provision versus prior contracts says that a maximum of 48 hours of vacation can be carried over to the next calendar year and time carried over must be used not later than May 1 of the following year.
As under the prior contract, there are 14 paid holidays – New Year’s Day, MLK Birthday, Lincoln Birthday, Washington Birthday, Good Friday, Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Friday after Thanksgiving, Christmas.
Sick Leave: Officers are entitled to paid sick leave of 144 hours per year, cumulative to a max of 2400 hours. “Sick leave is to be used exclusively for sickness”. Doctor’s certificate shall be provided if requested. A new provision in the contract allows PBA members to transfer their accrued sick leave (up to a max of 96 hours) to another member who has exhausted their entire bank of time. Sick leave (up to max of 48 hours) can be used to care for sick family immediate members. Upon retirement, officers will receive payment for unused sick leave at a 1 to 3 rate up to a maximum of 144 hours.
In addition, the contract allows for funeral leave and personal leave. No reason need be given for personal leave for up to 24 hours per year.
The so-called 4/4 twelve schedule is unchanged. Officers work 12 hour shifts for four days and then have four days off. Overtime is earned if the shift goes beyond 12 hours.
Big Change to Health Insurance: Perhaps the most important change in the agreement is all active members will be enrolled in a “high deductible health insurance plan.” Data shown at prior TC meetings over the years showed that health insurance costs was the area where Harding was paying much more than surrounding towns – over $40K per family covered due to having no deductible. The new plan has a $1,500 for a single member and $3,000 for a family. The plan for the PBA is the same one that all other fulltime township employees use.
Importantly, in terms of future financial impact, there will be no retiree healthcare benefit for officers hired after July 2013. In 2014, Harding will pay $316K for retiree healthcare – officers and their families. This number will continue to grow as officers retire (eligible after 25 years of service) but will flatten out after about 10 years given life expectancy and the new policy.
As in the past there is a dental plan covers which orthodontia with a $1000 deductible.
A new feature of this contract is that members can establish a Health Savings Account. Harding will provide a 50% match to the maximum allowable by federal law.
The contract made no change to benefits, pensions or healthcare, for retired officers.
Stepping back and looking at the impact of this contract over the long term it appears that the agreement does a number of things: (1) brings current healthcare costs more in line with neighboring towns; (2) pays more to current PBA members ; and (3) “bends the curve” downward of future retiree healthcare costs, IF future Township Committees don’t backslide.