Borough Council Meeting 4-10-23: Council Resignation, Green Madison, and Downtown Vitality

The headline of this week’s meeting was the announcement that 2-time Council member Deb Coen was resigning from the Council effective immediately, for personal reasons. More on that below. The meeting also featured Madison officially adopting the 2023 Climate Recommendations, a detailed report from the Department of Community and Business Development, and proposed changes to make it easier for solar installations. Plus, hear about a resident’s request from the Council to improve financial transparency from the Madison Pool Board.

Watch the meeting hereView PresentationsSee past meeting recaps
View Agendas hereView Ordinances hereView Resolutions here
*Note that there was a problem with the audio for this meeting and it was difficult to hear throughout. The Mayor said it would be resolved for future meetings and apologized for the inconvenience.

Mayor’s Update

  • Mayor Conley announced the resignation of Deb Coen and read a letter from Ms. Coen where she expressed appreciation for her colleagues on Council and shared that while she regretted having to step down, she would continue to support two key initiatives, the Dodge Field Playground renovation and her work on the ad hoc Diversity Committee that she initiated.
  • Mayor Conley expressed his appreciation for all the work that Ms. Coen has done on the Council for the residents of Madison and wished her well.
  • He then shared an outline of the steps to appoint a replacement:
    • Since Madison has partisan elections, the Madison Democratic Committee will have 15 days to nominate three candidates as a replacement. The Council will then select a candidate, likely at the May 10 meeting, who will be sworn in immediately and serve until the November General election.
    • Since the filing deadline for the June primary has passed, local parties will have until Sept 7 to nominate a candidate to run for the remainder of Ms. Coen’s term (ending Dec 31, 2024). Whoever wins that election would be sworn in at the next meeting after the election.
    • You can read more about this and the appointment process on the Madison Eagle.
  • The Mayor shared that a meeting with the Drew administration and Board of Trustees on the Drew Forest was productive.
  • Under the Earth Day theme of “Invest in our Planet”, the Mayor talked about and demonstrated the need to take personal responsibility for our planet. He showed his garbage picker tool that he uses around town and encouraged everyone, especially smokers, to put their trash in receptacles and to not litter.
  • The Mayor also read a Proclamation recognizing April 22 2023 as Earth Day, which was accepted by the Friends of the Drew Forest. The proclamation acknowledged that since the first earth day in 1990, challenges and threats persist and that we all have an obligation to current and future caretakers of our planet to do better. The theme of “Invest in our planet” is meant to get businesses, government, and citizens to come together and get involved in having a positive impact on climate change.
    • Upon accepting the Proclamation, the Friends of the Drew forest representative commented that support of Mayor and Council has been so important to their efforts since their group formed in 2021 to advocate for a conservation sale of the Drew Forest. This land area matters beyond the town of Madison for aquifer recharge and it’s an important resource for surrounding towns.  The group has gotten support from many different environmental groups and most recently Mountain Lakes environmental commission sent an email of support.

Committee Updates

Below are highlights, please watch the video for complete details.

  • Community affairs:
    • Many upcoming events were shared including the April 24th Taste of Madison,  Ladies night May 11th, and Green and Clean (formerly May Day) on April 29th.
    • April green events are on the Rosenet website and include: EV Expo April 19th. This “Drive Electric Earth Day” event sponsored by the Environmental Commissions of Madison, Chatham Borough, Chatham Township, and in partnership with Sunday Motor Co. Café, will be from 2:00 to 5:00 P.M. in the parking lot and on Kings Road between Green Village Road and Madison Avenue.
    • A Green home energy forum that will take place at the Community Arts Center on April 20th which will include strategies for businesses and homes to be more green. Expert advice will be available. And there will be a Town wide yard sale Apr 29th. There is a digital map that residents can sign up for through the Great Swamp and there will be a native plant sale. Arbor Day events happening are happening the same day. 
  • Finance:  Bonds proceeds payment coming from 2008 bond issue as scheduled and a user friendly budget is being worked on, which is due at the same time as the hearing on the 26th. More on the budget and how residents can review it in detail are found on the annual budget process section of Rosenet.
  • Public works:  A sewer failure happened recently that is completely preventable. It was caused by three main culprits: Dental floss,  latex condoms, and plastic tampon applicators.  We were all asked to spread the word that these items cannot be flushed down the toilet.  Also, Spring sports fields are ready to go thanks to the hard work of the Public Works staff. 
  • Utility: Solar installation: 3 ordinances coming up tonight for vote which were covered in a subsequent presentation, see below.
  • Public safety: Two recent incidents required action from the MPD: Citizens Bank and also St Elizabeth request for mutual aid. These required the Madison Police to take quick action.  The officers did amazing job and should be applauded for their efforts. Also, a Blue Envelope program is coming for drivers with ASD.  More info can be found on Rosenet.
  • Health. Interviewing interns for animal census, which will be a paid role.

Community and Business Development Presentation

  • A presentation by Lisa Ellis. Director of Community and Business Development followed with a look back at accomplishments, sharing of the budget, and a look ahead. Many of the things that make Madison a wonderful community to live and work in are impacted by the work done by this department. View the presentation here. Some highlights:
    • Increase in the budget is related to investment in the Community Arts Center, which is a priority.
    • Gateway and Wayfinding project is also a priority. This project will improve the signage around the town to welcome people to Madison, help them park and get around. The plan is done and now needs to be implemented.
    • Making Madison “film ready” to attract the film industry to Madison is important and a growing opportunity. Ms. Ellis wants to work to make town ordinances more film friendly.
    • METC landscaping and beautification plan would be to use to apply for grants for landscaping improvements near the building.
    • Looking to create a Madison promo video. Marketing is important to attract people and businesses to our town.
    • Considering moving Farmers Market to Saturday in 2024.
    • Parking permits is a lot of work with many calls and emails to respond to. Seeing a shift in usage as people are moving from annual permits to daily.
    • Also working on grants for EV charging station. Madison will be a Destination Electric community, just 4th in the state.
    • Got a $200k grant for fast charging EV station. Eyeing the Kings Road lot for installation.
    • Council comments and questions: Bob Landrigan spoke to remind us of the importance of downtown to keep Madison thriving and vital.  Tom Haralampoudis asked about sign sponsorship for the gateway and wayfinding project  Ms. Ellis responded that this is not the intent, that the signs should be clean and Madison focused.  Rachel Ehrlich requested park signage be included in the scope since many visitors come for parks. Council member Haralampoudis also voiced urgency for new trash receptacles around town with recycling capabilities. 

Select slides from the presentation can be viewed here:

Solar Ordinances Presentation

  • Jim Burnet and Jim Trimble presented on the proposed solar ordinances.  View that presentation here.
    • Most are minor updates to make the application process clearer and streamlined and they noted the solar website will be updated as well.
    • As noted in the presentation, the main goal is to permit solar installation on the Borough, Board of Ed, and Housing Authority properties. Changes are needed for the MRC carport to proceed and to allow for “Remote Net Metering” for crediting of accounts related to larger solar installations who have an excess in energy creation.
    • One of the goals also is to advance some of the Climate Action Resolutions. The presentation provides great detail and commentary on the changes.
    • Questions: Council member Ehrlich asked how many solar customers does Madison have? There are currently 98 and 7 in process. Expect 20 to 30 a year will have excess credit from surplus energy. And there was a question on larger installations and the response was that the Board of Ed could decide to install solar at schools, but it would be up to them and buildings may need to be improved.

Select slides from the presentation can be viewed here:

Other Meeting Details

  • Public comment Period 2:
    • David Duran spoke of Madison Community Pool concerns around potential insolvency and a lack of transparency, which goes against their stated bylaws. He recognized that the pool is not run by Council, but expressed a desire for the Council to lend support to engaging with the Pool Board to better understand the financial situation. The Mayor agreed to talk with Ray Codey and liaison Hoover about what they can do. Mr. Duran shared his remarks, which can be seen below.
  • The remainder of the meeting was straightforward with Ordinances for introduction read, and Consent agenda items approved. A key highlight was this:
    • RESOLUTION OF THE BOROUGH OF MADISON ADOPTING 2023 CLIMATE ACTION RECOMMENDATIONS. This was an exciting moment for those who have worked for years on this effort. The resolution can be viewed here and highlights are below.

Next Council meeting will be on Wednesday April 26 (moved from April 24 to not compete with Taste of Madison).