Good evening, Happy New Year, and welcome to the Borough of Essex Fells’ Re-Organizational meeting of 2017.
Once again, I am very pleased to tell you all that the State of the Borough of Essex Fells is strong, vibrant, and very healthy and sound. 2016 was a year in which we as a Council were faced with some of the same year in and year out challenges, such as balancing the budget with the ever increasing state budget mandates on spending, always trying to do more with less when the costs of operating our Borough are ever increasing; operating the Essex Fells Water Utility, which provides water to not only Essex Fells, but also three surrounding towns, in an economical and efficient manner; providing the resources and training for our Police and Fire Departments so that our commitment to public safety remains of the highest priority; properly maintaining our roads, sewers, and borough facilities and properties, efficiently operating our Recycling Center; and providing recreational facilities and programs for our Borough’s residents.
The year also provided unique challenges as well. By order of the New Jersey Department of Taxation, Essex Fells has been ordered to undergo a tax revaluation and we were very busy preparing and updating the tax maps and retained a revaluation company to assist us in accomplishing this goal. As of today, almost 70% of the town’s residences have been visited and inspected for the revaluation. The re-evalauation will be accomplished in 2017. Council President Wahl will provide us with a more detailed report on the activities of the Finance and Personnel Committee.
The Essex Fells Water Utility was able to successfully conclude negotiations with customer towns so that now, under the new requirements of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, all of our wholesale contracts are signed and fully compliant. Of course, continued upgrades to our system remain ongoing so that the residents of Essex Fells and our wholesale customers can rest assured that the Utility provides the safest and cleanest water on a cost efficient basis. I would like to thank Jack Pohlman, Superintendent of the Essex Fells Water Utility (a/k/a “Aquaman”), and Steven Banchi, Water Operator, who has stepped in magnificently over the last several months, for keeping the Essex Fells Water Utility one of the premier water companies in the State. Jack Pohlman, who has brought the Water Utility so far in terms of its service to the customers of the Borough of Essex Fells, is to be commended for his love and commitment to not only the people of Essex Fells and the surrounding towns, but also to the Water Utility itself. There is not a day that goes by that this Mayor does not think of Mr. Pohlman whenever I think of the operations of the Water Utility. For through his foresight, planning and training, we have Steve Banchi in full operation ably assisted by Brian Schatzel. Thank you gentleman, all. We continue to wish Mr. Pohlman a speedy recovery. Councilman Sullivan will speak in greater detail as to the activities of the Water Utility.
Our Department of Public Works, under the command of General Roger Kerr, did their usual outstanding job in battling the snows of the beginning of the year, the ever growing grasses on our fields and flowers in our gardens in the Spring, the potholes and storm drains in the summer, and the leaves in the Fall and Winter without fanfare or fuss. I cannot begin to tell you all that this amazing department does for the citizenry of the Borough of Essex Fells. Roger Kerr has such a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of the residents of Essex Fells. His guidance and leadership has also led to the warm relationship we all have with his entire department, from Roger on down to Vin (“the Coffee Cake” - credit goes to his lovely wife Gina) and Mike. Where on earth does a town get so blessed with such wonderful people? As always, I am very happy to report that we began 2016 with 36.2 miles of Essex Fells roadways, and that we closed 2016 with 36.2 miles. Well done Roger and the guys. Councilman John King will provide more details on the activities of the Department of Public Works.
In the area of Public Safety, The Essex Fells Police Department, well, to the outside world, we do live in Mayberry. Under the leadership, guidance and mentorship of our Police Chief, Vincent Kulik, the Essex Fells Police Department is one of the finest in the State, one that keeps us all safe, and one that always deserves our support and respect. It was a “quiet” year for the residents of the Borough of Essex Fells, and that is because it was a very active and busy year for our Police Department. We do not always hear about all that the personnel of the EFPD deal with, and honestly, we do take you for granted many times. But please know that we do very much appreciate your efforts. On behalf of the entire Borough, Chief, please extend our thanks and appreciation to you and your Department. Further, the members of the Essex Fells Volunteer Fire Department, our neighbors and friends, continue to answer the call of neighbors in danger and distress. The talent and commitment of these members is at an all-time high and Essex Fells is blessed to have each of them ready in a moment’s notice. Thank you to Chief John Kauffman and the men and woman of the Fire Department. After five years of serving as Chief of the Essex Fells Fire Department, John Kauffman is stepping down and Jim Kearney will be assuming that role. Let me tell you some words about John Kauffman. John is a superb firefighter. Pure and simple. He knows what he is doing, and I know that I can speak on behalf of every firefighter in the Department when I say that I would trust John’s judgment with my life. We did. We have. And we would do it again. It was never judgment misplaced. It was a trust earned. John and I and seven others responded to the call of the FDNY 15 years ago. It was not only my privilege, but also the privilege of the others in our squad, to be with John those terrible hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center. The Borough of Essex Fells owes a great debt of gratitude to John Kauffman for his leadership of our beloved EFFD. A simple “thank you” John is not enough, but please know that our hearts are filled with thanks. We wish, and support Jim Kearney as he takes the helm of the EFFD. Councilman Davis will provide more details on the activities of the Essex Fells Police Department and Fire Department in 2015.
As I have often stated, Essex Fells is “the town that time forgot” in large part because we keep alive the memories and wonderful character of our town with events like skating at the Pond; holding our Memorial Day Remembrance for our fallen heroes; the Fire Department’s Memorial Day Picnic; the Garden Club Christmas Eve Carol sing; the van Brunchers gatherings; the Senior’s Coffee with the Mayor - and I would particularly like to thank Council President Wahl and Ms. Judy Beck for the rejuvenation of this lively group of folks; The Veterans’ Day Remembrance where now our veterans are joined at Borough Hall with the Essex Fells School’s Sixth’s Grade who afterwards invites them back to the school for a question and answer period; and all sorts of recreational activities, now under the leadership of Lauren Lombardy Moussab, who works alongside the wonderful volunteers of the Essex Fells Recreation Committee; to name only a few. Councilman Cecere will report on the activities of the Public Affairs Committee.
Sadly, and very personally, our dear friend, and special friend of the Borough especially to the many kids of Essex Fells, Rob Lombardy, passed away after a brief illness. We were truly blessed to have Rob as our Recreation Director for 17 years, during which time he was instrumental in getting our recreation program to the first rate level it is today. I remember meeting with Rob 15 years ago, at what are now the “Essex Fells Fields." Looking at the ruins of several buildings of the Northeast Bible College and field space that looked like Fallujah, I said to him, “Well Rob, what can you do with this mess?” In the way that is so "Rob Lombardy," he quickly said, “This will be great” and simply went to work. And he worked hard, like he did every day, without fanfare or fuss, to make sure that the kids of Essex Fells had fields and programs that were of the first order. Today, the magnificently beautiful fields, filled with kids every weekend playing soccer, lacrosse, and even pick-up games and the Field House are a tribute to this wonderful man’s vision, dedication and hard work on our behalf.
Make no mistake, Rob Lombardy gave his heart and soul to our children, and Essex Fells is a much better place for having had his care and his love. After his years of being the Recreation Director, he even worked in our town’s administrative office dealing with the questions and concerns of our residents. As many of you know, Rob loved our recreation program so much so that he only trusted it to his daughter, Lauren, who runs the program today, beautifully I might add, as she was trained and inspired by the best.
On a personal note, I was extremely privileged and proud to have Rob as part of my circle of trust, for I trusted him and his judgment completely and without reservation on all matters involving the Recreation program, the Borough as a whole, and personal matters, for he was a very good man, a righteous man, and a man of great judgment. He was also, very importantly, quick to smile. So, when you look upon our fields, whether they are filled with the laughter and excitement of the hundreds of kids playing there or they are just beautifully quiet and serene, please take a moment and give thanks to Rob.
In his honor and for his service and commitment to the Borough of Essex Fells, particularly the children of Essex Fells, I directed that our flags be lowered on Thursday, November 17, 2016. Councilman Hindy will provide us with more details on the activities of the Essex Fells Recreation Department.
I would like to take a moment to publicly thank the many, many volunteers who not only make so many wonderful things happen in our little town, but also truly demonstrate that volunteerism is one of our Borough’s greatest and unique qualities. Volunteering takes tremendous sacrifice, time, and commitment, and most often, with little or no thanks, but the heart of those who do so is tremendous, and I know that the entire Council joins me in thanking each and every one who gave of their time and of themselves in 2016 to the committees or organizations for which they served. Essex Fells is a much better place for having each of you care about her, her residents, and her unique character. Thank you.
Tonight is a rather unique night too. This evening, I will administer the oath of office to two Councilpeople who are returning to this “glorious burden” in serving the people of Essex Fells: Greg Hindy and Patricia Wahl. I am proud to have each of them join us on this dais and proud that each of them has answered the call of public service to our little town. Each brings unique perspective and talents to the challenges and tasks at hand, and we all look forward to continuing to work with them in 2017. As I remind everyone who takes the oath of office, You have been given a wonderful gift; a gift of trust from your town to do the very best you can for the benefit of all of the residents of Essex Fells. We sit here as trustees of a very precious stone and it is indeed an honor; and with that honor comes tremendous responsibility. Remember that, remember to be faithful to that trust, and you will be successful in the tasks that wait. Also know that serving with you as fellow Council members are extremely talented, dedicated and caring neighbors who, I am happy to say, love this blessed Borough as much as I, and all of us look forward to working with you, together, on those challenges.
I would also like to take this opportunity to publicly thank our Borough Administrator, Francine Paserchia, for all her hard work in this challenging year. Francine and I have worked together on a daily basis for more than the last 15 years, and I once again look forward to working with you on the challenges this year. She has assembled a superb team of very talented people that work in the front office of the Borough and deal with a wide and vast array of issues and provide solutions. I truly believe that the Borough is extremely fortunate in having such wonderful, caring, and extremely qualified individuals in Administration. So much goes on every day in the operations of the Borough and this very talented team deserves the thanks and appreciation of Essex Fells and all her residents. Sadly, we said farewell and adieu to our Brittany Thunnel, who has been the beautiful and cheery face of the Borough for many years. Like birds who have to kick their chick from the nest, we let our Brittany go and wish her only the best, as she begins her new life in the City of New York. She will always have a very special spot in the hearts of us in Essex Fells - especially since her father, Carl Thunnel is our Construction Code Official! Godspeed and keep in touch Brittany!
Lastly, I would like to thank all of the residents of the Borough of Essex Fells for their confidence and support in this governing body. I am truly proud and honored for the privilege to serve as your Mayor of this wonderful town.
Alright then, let us to the task at hand. Our well established goal – our mission – has always been to bring Essex Fells’ services and programs up to date and to establish a plan for our future, while honoring our past and preserving the unique character of our town. So it has been, so it is, and so it shall continue to be.
God bless these United States, God bless Essex Fells, and God bless you all.