Municipal Editor David Learn will be doing a Highland Park Borough Council Quick Takes column after each Highland Park Borough Council meeting. It will highlight the various items on the municipal meeting agenda. However, some of the topics, such as the municipal budget and tax increase, will become topics for full news stories. As always, we welcome your input regarding those items meriting more extensive coverage.
Summer help wanted
If you are a teen looking for something to do this summer, the Recreation Department is looking for counselors for its summer camp program.
Counselors are sorted by age. Volunteer counselors-in-training must be between 14 and 17 years old, while junior counselors are 16-18 years old, and regular counselors are at least 18. Certified head counselors must be college-educated. For specific job requirements or for more information, see the employment section on the borough’s web site.
Applications are due by April 30.
Federal grant sought
A walk in the woods could get a little longer under a federal grant the Borough Council is now seeking.
The grant would support efforts to maintain the trails at The Meadows in Highland Park, a small plot of preserved land just past the eastern tip of Donaldson Park. It also would allow for additional signage at the site and additional pedestrian trails, as well as potentially an added bike rack by the entrance to the trail.
According to Council President Susan Welkovits, there is enough land to expand the current trail.
Administered by the state Department of Environmental Protection, the $6,500 grant would require the municipality to match the equivalent of 20 percent of the grant’s value in labor hours. Funding for the grant comes from the National Recreational Trails Program.
Now that the weather finally is warming up, it may be time to start thinking about next winter! The Borough Council announced that residents can take advantage of energy home audits in the fall of 2015. The comprehensive audit identifies energy and money saving home upgrades including insulation, equipment, and controls. The program qualifies homeowners for the State of New Jersey program that provides cash rebates and zero interest loans.
The borough will mark Earth Day with an event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.on Sunday, April 19, at the Eugene Young Environmental Education Center.
The event will feature a new mural at the environmental center recently completed by local artist Jon Horowitz, and will include a number of environmentally themed activities. Among these are the planting of trees provided by the Native Plant Society, including two river birches and 12 silvery dogwoods.
Other activities include a walk on the nature trail, tips about vermicomposting, and discussion on keeping bees and chickens.
The center is at 20 River Road.
If you thought the winter was rough on your spirits, it was even harder on the roads.
Winter weather is notoriously hard on asphalt and other paved surfaces. During the day, the snow melts beneath the traffic and the warming sun, and the water works its way into cracks in the surface. Then night comes, the temperature plummets; and as the water freezes, it expands and makes those cracks worse.
As a result, work crews from the Highland Park Department of Public Works have been repairing the damage Old Man Winter left in his wake. To date the DPW has filled a reported 1,105 pot holes with some 24 tons of asphalt.
The Borough Council unanimously passed an ordinance allowing it to exceed the cap on municipal tax hikes. The forces driving the tax hike, according Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler are cuts in state aid, state failure to meet its property tax rebate program – as outlined in a previous Highland Park Planet article, and cuts to the Transportation Trust Fund (pushing more infrastructure maintenance responsibility onto the municipality). (The Highland Park Planet will do a more in depth story on the municipal budget.)
Property tax increases under state law are capped at 2 percent, but municipalities are allowed under certain circumstances to exceed that cap with an exception ordinance. The tax hike this year is 4.61 percent. Council unanimously approved the ordinance.
Borough Councilman Joshua Fine expressed his dissatisfaction with the hike, which he attributed to obligations inherited from previous administrations and councils, and to cuts in state property tax relief.
The borough is pursuing the possibility of using space in the Trinity United Methodist Church for a municipal teen center.
Details are not yet final, but council members discussed possibilities such as pool and foosball tables, and arranging visits from outside professionals to discuss careers. The church is at 417 Montgomery St.
The borough will recognize local volunteers for their service to the community in an event at the Highland Park Senior/Youth Center. The event will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday, April 22.