Borough Briefs: Council meeting Tuesday July 7, 2015

Police Dispatcher sworn in as a police officer.

Next year Patrick Keogh will be on the other side of the desk when a call comes in.

For the past 16 months, Mr. Keogh has been working full-time as a police dispatcher for the Highland Park Police Department. People would call with a situation, and he would send a squad car out to investigate. No more. On Tuesday, July 7, 2015 at the Highland Park Borough Council meeting, Patrick Keogh was sworn in as a police officer in the company of his wife, while his parents, grandmother and brother looked on.

A longtime resident of Edison, Mr. Keogh now lives in North Arlington, Bergen County. He began working in Highland Park as a volunteer firefighter in June 2006. By 2012, he had become a part-time paid firefighter, when Police Chief Steve Rizco met him and saw his potential.

“He just seemed like a nice, respectful individual that I would like to have with our department,” the chief said.

In March 2014, Mr. Keogh became a full-time dispatcher with the Police Department. Now, he is headed off to the Morris County Police Academy for six months of training.

Borough officials will go digital and save paper.

 The Borough Council and Planning Board are set to go digital under a measure approved at the July 7 Council meeting.

The resolution calls for purchasing Samsung tablet computers for members of the Borough Council and Planning Board. With the devices, council and board members could review agendas, applications and pertinent correspondence without needing personal copies. Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler described the initiative as part of a larger green initiative to reduce paper costs and consumption.

The tablets are not intended for personal use, Borough Administrator Kathleen Kovach reminded council members. Anything the tablet is used for would be subject to the Open Public Records Act, which means that personal use could turn up embarrassing or personal information if someone files an OPRA request to review the tablet’s contents.

If a tablet is lost or stolen, the borough is considering purchasing a $300 program that would enable officials to delete its contents remotely, to protect confidential information from unwanted disclosure.

PSEG grant would bring more solar power. 

The Borough Council is angling for a grant that would place solar panels atop roofs and in unused public spaces around the borough. The grant, offered by Public Service Electric and Gas Co., has a July 17 deadline for applications.

Where should the solar panels go? Given the focus on sustainability and earth-friendly energy, the Eugene Young Environmental Center on River Road might seem like an ideal location. There’s just one problem: The trees on-site make the site unworkable.

Not one to be dissuaded from a good idea, Councilman Philip George was quick to suggest a workaround: “They can cut down be tees, and they’ll have enough space for the solar panels,” he said.

Wherever they go, the solar panels “may not” provide a new source of revenue, said Council President Susan Welkovits, who is leading the effort to procure the grant; but in the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, they would provide electric power to the building where they were located.
Looking to learn Hindi?
If you want to learn to speak another language, the only way to do it is through immersion, according to Startalk, the language program that for years has been bringing growing familiarity with the Chinese language to children who attend the borough’s summer camp program. And if it’s good for Chinese, why not for other languages as well?

Someone with ties to the Indian consulate recently approached Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler with the prospect of bringing a Hindi language program to the borough, similar to the Chinese Startalk program.

The mayor handed responsibility for the Hindi program off to Councilman Joshua Fine, the council liaison to the Human Relations Commission. Councilwoman Elsie Foster-Dublin, who has experience with setting up the Chinese Startalk program, will assist.
Hindi is one of the official languages of India, where it had an estimated 180 million speakers in 2009.


Thanks to Middlesex County Freeholder Polos, Highland Park gets a mobile command center.  

James Polos, the director of the municipal Office of Emergency Management, has offered the borough possession of a mobile command center that Middlesex County is now looking to get rid of. Mr. Polos, in addition to being a former mayor of Highland Park, is also a longtime member of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

The command center, essentially a trailer, can be outfitted with solar panels for emergency situations and can serve as a hub to coordinate relief services during a state of emergency. It has no mileage and is about 10 years old, Councilwoman Foster-Dublin told her colleagues. The total cost would be transportation, plus about $50 to replace the Middlesex County logo with one of Highland Park’s.

The county in the past has used the command center as a mobile classroom.

Mr. Polos also has offered to let the borough store the center on a property he owns, along Raritan Avenue.


Property tax bills are about to be mailed out

“Property tax bills should go in the mail next week,” Council member Jon Erickson reminded residents.

It was Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler who shared what every homeowner thinks of such news: “Thank you for that bright note,” she said.


National Night Out Against Crime is taking place on August 4, 2015.

It’s almost time for the annual National Night Out Against Crime.

Held the first Tuesday of each August, the National Night Out is a community-policing event. In Highland Park, it’s an opportunity for children to meet officers, see their equipment and get to know the police in a non-threatening environment. It also can include good-natured shenanigans, like the old-fashioned dunk booth.

“We’ll take volunteers from the council,” Chief Steve Rizco said Monday night, with a good-natured tease.

The Highland Park event this year will run from 5 p.m to – 9 p.m., Aug. 4 at the Police Department, with special accommodations for special-needs children at 4 p.m. that evening.


Municipal offices are on summer hours.

If you have anything important to do at Borough Hall, get it done by Thursday.

Municipal offices and the Highland Park/Senior Youth Center are operating on summer hours, which means offices are closed on Fridays. Borough offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. Regular hours will resume after Labor Day.


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