Borough Council Meeting 5-8-23: John Forte Appointed to Council, MRC Solar Carport Advances, Affordable Housing Funding Boost.

Madison will have a new council member, John Forte, to fill the open council seat through November 7, following a unanimous vote. Other highlights included a presentation on the planned MRC carports, which will not only be good for the environment, but also generate a surplus of electricity and be profitable over time. And new affordable housing planned on Walnut street got a boost from significant federal funding and will feature innovative climate-friendly features.

Watch the meeting hereView PresentationsSee past meeting recaps
View Agendas hereView Ordinances hereView Resolutions here

Mayor’s Update

  • The Mayor fondly remembered former council member George Hayman, who passed away in December 2022 and was celebrated recently in a memorial service. He was remembered for the work on the planning for the public safety complex and Hartley Dodge Memorial building renovations. More can be read here in the Eagle.
  • Patrolman Alex Cardenas was recognized as Employee of the Month for exceptional service following his quick action to respond while on his way to work to extract a driver from a car crash on 287.
  • May 11th will be Fire Chief Lou DeRosa’s 40th anniversary
  • Drew Forest update: Letter of support received from Wildlife Preserves for saving the Drew forest was read by the Mayor. The letter closed with a comment that while we have gotten used to seeing open spaces developed all this time, it’s almost incomprehensible that this land would be developed.
  • Rocco Iossa Sr. was recognized with a Proclamation for service to Madison via Rocco’s pizza, which recently closed after 63 years. The Mayor noted that he lives out the Rotarian motto of service above self with all the support to the community including during Hurricane Sandy when their pizza truck was dispatched to bring needed food to the community.  Read more in the Eagle.

Committee Updates

  • Community affairs
    • Farmers Market opens May 25 for its 31st season at Dodge field from 1 to 6 pm through November.
    • Chamber of Commerce, DDC, and Madison Library have partnered for a program called StoryWalk, a way to promote read while visiting stores in Madison. Apr 29 to May 13th. More info here.
    • DDC Ladies Night, May 11 from 5:30pm-8:30pm. More info on the Chamber website.
  • Finance, Borough Clerk, Public Works and Engineering
    • To support voters in the upcoming June 6 primary, the Clerk’s office will be open late May 16th until 8 pm for voter registration and voter services.  Early voting is at the HDM courthouse June 2 to 4.
    • Though our sewage shared services agreement with Chatham, there was a meeting recently to issue an RFP for solar development on the property.  Listen starting at minute :20 for more details. Savings for operating the plant will benefit taxpayers.
    • Trunk radio system has rolled out and Public Works says it’s a big improvement.
    • Storm sewers did well in rain, except Dodge field had to be pumped.
    • Green and Clean big success. Native plant sale had 275 orders. Lots of tabling at the event, including Wind of the Spirit, who spoke about climate justice.
    • Yard sale had 90 families participating
    • Plant sales via the Great Swamp for Madison and Florham parks came out to 1,850 orders.  Over 15 towns purchased 25K plants, thanks to teams of volunteers who made it all happen. Why does it matter? These native plants support the insects that bird depend on to feed their young. “No bugs. No birds.”
  • Electric
    • Time of Use service coming where you pay more for electricity consumption when it costs more to buy. The goal is to be revenue neutral and reduce stress on the system and costs.  This will start off as a volunteer program and the end of year is the target for launch. Testing is underway now.
  • Public safety
    • MPD and SROs, along with community relations unit, will assist CAS school with a Bike rodeo on June 5th.
    • Dare graduation at community pool coming on June 6th with 5th graders. It has been taught for over 20 yrs.
    • May 18th anti-bully and cyber crime presentation by Morris County Prosecutors office to Junior school students and parents.

Resolution on affordable housing financing R-145

  • Affordable Housing Trust fund in the end will use $1M instead of the $2M earmarked due to $2M in federal funding received thanks to Rep. Mikie Sherrill. The new Walnut Street development will be climate friendly, with 44 low income housing units that features enhanced energy efficiency.  This development will be the first multi-family affordable housing development in New Jersey meeting Passive House and Dept. of Energy ‘Zero Energy Ready Home’ standards.

Council appointment.

  • The Council voted unanimously to appoint John Forte to fill the open council seat through November 7, 2023, following the resignation of Deb Coen. The Mayor stated that John “brings a wealth of experience, dedication, and a passion for serving the Madison community.” Read more about that here.

MRC carport presentation

  • Solar Carport Project Presentation  by Jim Burnet shared details about the solar carport, which will generate enough power for 95 homes and provide shade for cars. An online portal will show electricity generation which will be viewable in real time.
  • The presentation can be heard starting at minute :44 and some highlights are below.
  • First is the timeline:
  • Financials can be seen in the slide below.
  • The project is projected to generate an estimated $4.3M in revenue and savings over 20 years.
  • The recommendations for the funding ordinance included appropriating $1.3M from the Electric Utility Project Reserve and authorizing $700K in debt.
    • It was noted that a bond is not actually going to be issued, it’s just a requirement for approval.
  • The timing was also shared in this slide:
  • Question/comments from the Council followed:
    • Bob Landrigan commented that Madison has always been forward thinking to save money in the future. For this project, we are paying upfront, but in 7 yrs it starts to be profitable.
    • Tom Haralampoudis if consultant fees are included and the answer was yes for the upfront part, and the rest is baked into the developer fees.
    • Eric Range asked if time of use rates will be voluntary to start and the answer was TBD if it will be required later. This will be up to the Council.

Public comments.

  • One resident spoke twice about concerns around the solar carport, implying that the Council and experts working on the plan had not done their homework. Instead, it was evident that the speaker was simply repeating easily refuted mistruths. As the Mayor commented, this is the direction we have to go in and we have to get started. Details seen above on the project show the level of research and planning that has gone into this solid plan.
  • Another resident spoke about their support for solar panels, which they have installed at their home, and how on days they don’t use much power, they deliver it to back to the grid. They spoke again in their capacity as a member of the Friends of Drew forest.  With Wildlife Preserves, they have 15 organizations endorsing their effort.  Caldwell is latest to pass a resolution of support.

Misc. Other Business

  • Introduction of ordinances (see agenda for list)
  • Various ordinances read at the last meeting will have their hearing at the May 22 meeting (since it has been less than 2 weeks from last meeting).
  • Consent agenda items were voted on and approved, including R 145 for the solar carports and summer interns.

Next Council meeting will be on May 22