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  • Writer's pictureAmalia Duarte

Special Meeting 11/19 on DPW Proposal

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

Dear Mendham Friends: Tonight, Thursday, Nov. 19, the Township Committee will hold a special workshop meeting at 7:30 p.m., to discuss a proposal to drastically downsize the Department of Public Works (DPW) and outsource its operations.

The proposal was presented at our Nov. 9 meeting by Committeeman Jordan Orlins and included entirely outsourcing core functions, such as snow plowing, to private companies.

The proposal had some holes. It was devoid of actual detailed quotes from landscapers and other contractors, so the cost savings are hypothetical. It was based on DPW work during the past nine months, which have not been "typical" because the department is already down several positions, and we are in a pandemic. Also, the plan relies on the DPW supervisor and three remaining staff members to supervise the outside contractors to ensure that work is being completed. If these experienced staff members, who intimately know our town, decide to leave, it's unclear how this proposal could proceed.

This topic has piqued the interest of residents and raised concerns. It was one of the top topics in my conversations with residents during the campaign. And, every resident I spoke with expressed worry about privatizing the DPW. The chief concern is a decline in the quality of service residents have come to expect from the DPW. They also cite the insensitivity of the town laying off employees during a pandemic.

As I have previously made clear, I do not support outsourcing that will lead to slower response time and diminished services. At our last Township Committee meeting, DPW Supervisor Dave Read was in attendance. I thanked him and the entire DPW staff for their hard work and service to our community and emphasized that they deserve our respect and should be treated accordingly.

I encourage you to participate in the meeting either in person at Town Hall or via Zoom. Get the call-in information.

Discussion Items - Also on the agenda are a number of items carried over from the previous meeting: Combining the Board of Adjustment (zoning) and Planning Board into one body; recruitment of new volunteers; the makeup and management of standing sub-committees; and construction schedule for the town hall/police station project.

Personnel Matters - Prior to the regular meeting, the Township Committee will hold a closed, executive session to discuss replacing two key staff positions: the Township Administrator Debbie Bonano, who resigned last March, and Chief Financial Officer Karen Fornaro, who resigned effective last Friday.

Volunteers Sought - Residents can apply to join a new sub-committee that is being formed to provide guidance on the exterior design of town hall and the planned new police station. The committee has openings for three residents from the Brookside Historic District and one resident who lives elsewhere. Please submit a resume and an e-mail of interest to the Township Clerk Maria Coppinger.

Also, I encourage anyone who is interested in joining the finance sub-committee to send an e-mail to the entire Township Committee. There has not been any public process for appointments to this sub-committee in the past, but it's time to open up the process. The Township Committee e-mails are available online.

New Record Set! - With today's vote count, I have received 2,146 compared to my opponent's 1,842.

I was excited to learn that this sets a new record for votes received by a candidate of any political party in a contested race for a seat on the Township Committee! I deeply appreciate your support and trust in representing the community for another three years! Thank you.

Unfortunately, there was a technical problem that caused the cancellation of the Mendhams Stigma-Free Task Force Community Webinar on Monday, Nov. 16, featuring speakers from Minding Your Mind.

The program has been rescheduled to Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. Pre-register today to receive the Zoom participation link.

The program is called "Just Talk About It" and will feature a clinician and a young adult speaker, who will talk candidly about his mental health struggles and how he turned his life around. The goal is to educate participants to look beyond stigma and notice warning signs of stress, anxiety, depression, and crisis and learn how to support loved ones in need.

Finally, with Thanksgiving approaching, I hope you and your loved ones remain healthy and safe, while celebrating the holidays during this difficult time!

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