Not even four full months into our new administration, you’re already seeing a lot of the changes that we campaigned upon. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and undoing the layers of confusion over the past ten years takes some time.
You find a lot more out when you’re in the majority, and the biggest disappointment I’ve experienced since January is learning just how little policy our administration developed to address challenges and issues that take place within the borough. Issues were handled as they presented themselves, rather than through development of procedure and policy that created clarity and standardization that is readily accessible to businesses and residents.
Our decisions these last several months have attempted to reverse this trend.
We’ve appointed a business administrator who is ready to implement operating protocol to give our residents a better understanding of the various town offerings and ensure that it is standardized and fair for all. Handling matters on a case by case basis is inefficient, confusing, and unfriendly. We’re taking steps to remedy this.
We’re heard dozens of complaints that filing forms, applications, and permits in town is confusing, slow, and at times frustrating. We’re addressing this in a variety of ways. We are developing solutions that simplify the registration process, working to allow online form filing and payment, which we anticipate will begin to come online in the coming months. In addition, we’re evaluating our code and fire prevention enforcement departments, areas that have led to much frustration by businesses and residents looking to obtain permits, COs, and other approvals in a timely manner. Doing research, we learned that a number of other towns enforce the fire code through the county, which we believe results in a better incentive structure for our businesses and residents. With the budget crises experienced throughout the country, many towns have cut enforcement department budgets and told them to “find that revenue in some other way”. That has led to perverse results that only end up costing residents more. Outsourcing fire prevention eliminates that incentive since the county gives the town back half of all fines it collects. In addition, inspection fees stay the same for practically everyone.
We’re also evaluating ways to improve our code enforcement, discussing ways to eliminate red tape and fees where possible and requiring that all citations actually cite to the specific code violation.
That’s only one side of the friendliness equation. Our parks need a lot of updating and we’re currently developing ways, both modest and more large-scale to give our public spaces the love they deserve. We have walked the various parks in South River and have plans to address many of projects that have not received maintenance investment. We are discussing the possibility of a dog park, and the feedback thusfar has been great. Updating our parks is the first step towards new entertainment opportunities in town.
We also see tremendous opportunity for improving the way residents receive information and provide feedback in South River. We’ve created a new communications committee which has a variety of challenges to explore and is already implimenting some of those ideas. We’ve begun a plan to make our website more user-friendly and accessible. We also recently launched a Borough Feedback hotline at (732) 570-4548. In April, we published the first issue of the “Monthly Buzz” a monthly insert in your electric bill to keep residents informed of town information. We see the “Monthly Buzz” as an incredible opportunity and working to develop policies for how it will work. We’ll continue to role out ideas and are looking into many obvious and not so obvious ways to reach you.
There are a variety of other changes coming in the months ahead and we’ll be sharing them with you as they come online. We joined Sustainable Jersey to develop policies in the borough that will make us more energy efficient, more cost effective, and a more welcome town to raise a family. We entered into a contract with GovPilot to start a borough Geographic Information System (GIS), that will allow us to begin visualizing, analyzing, and collecting data of our many assets and their usage, so that years down the road, we will be more nimble and robust.
We’re excited for this new era in town and believe that these cost effective ideas will celebrate our past, embrace the modern day, and make South River a friendlier all-round place to live and do business. It’s only been four months, but we think we’re off to a great start. And in the coming months, you’re going to see a whole lot more.