Hot topics for this meeting included an update on efforts to save the Drew Forest and improve public safety with the lowering of the speed limit on Kings Road and a new policy to enhance the ability to recruit and hire quality police officers to Madison. There was also a heartfelt remembrance of those lost on Sept 11 2001 and of the more recent losses in the community.
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Mayor Conley began by acknowledging September 11th and remembering those lost both recently and 22 years ago. Also acknowledged was the the recent loss of Madison residents Jennifer Lyle, Rick Brouse, Shade Thomas Cronan, and Sandy Kolakowski.
The Mayor went on to remember the six Madison residents lost on September 11th, 2001, sharing their names and stories: James L. Crawford Jr., Timothy Robert Hughes, Patrick J. McGuire, Peter M. West, Donald Arthur Peterson, and Jean Holley Peterson.
A moment of silence was observed to honor all those lost on September 11th, including the recent Madison residents.
In other updates:
- Thanked organizers of the recent cultural diversity celebration, which was a success and the first in what will hopefully be many more
- Acknowledged former council member Pat Rowe, who has moved away after serving Madison for several years. Pat was praised for his dedication and fiscal insight during his time in office.
- The demolition of the historic Wingate House on Woodland Road was mentioned. It was noted that attempts were made to preserve it, but structural issues made it unsafe and costly to restore. The importance of preserving heritage homes was emphasized.
- Bonnie Mulcahy was recognized as the employee of the month for her contributions at the recycling center and in cleaning out old files at Hartley Dodge. Mary Murano was celebrated for her 25 years of service to Central Avenue School.
- Finally, two proclamations were read for cancer awareness months, one for ovarian cancer awareness and another for prostate cancer awareness. Jonathan Sackett accepted the ovarian cancer proclamation and shared his sister’s battle with the disease. The importance of early detection and awareness was stressed, emphasizing the need for increased awareness and screenings for this common cancer among men.
Public Safety: Improving Path to Hire High-Quality Police Officers
An ordinance was introduced that would amend the Borough of Madison’s police department procedures. The changes will allow for flexible hiring of police officers, including hiring candidates first and then sending them to the police academy, a practice that has been done in the past. Councilmember John Forte noted that when his grandfather was hired as a Madison police officer, the town actually hired him and then sent him to the police academy.
This amendment aims to provide an additional avenue for recruiting high-quality officers for the Madison Police Department.
Drew Forest Update: Moving Forward with Efforts
The Mayor provided an update on the efforts to purchase and preserve the Drew Forest. In June, a $10 million grant application was submitted to the Morris County Open Space Committee, which would represent one of the largest grants ever given by the county. Additionally, federal grant proposals by Senator Booker and Congresswoman Sherrill could bring in an additional $7.5 million for the project.
He emphasized that while an agreement on the purchase price with Drew University has not been reached, they remain optimistic, especially with the potential funding in place. The County Open Space Committee met on September 6th, but discussions were held in executive session, and there is no update on their decision. The Mayor thanked the Friends of Drew Forest for their support and shared that the committee will vote on the application in October. The final approval will come from the county commissioners.
The Mayor closed by noting the widespread community support for preserving the Drew Forest, including resolutions from municipalities, signed petitions, and more.
Kings Road Speed Limit: Safety is a Priority
Next was a presentation by Captain Longo in which a lot of details were shared and then a discussion took place on the topic of improving road safety on Kings Road. He first acknowledged the council and praised Lieutenant Plumstead and Joe DiRocco of the Traffic Safety Unit for their work on this proposal, mentioning they handled the complaint from start to finish.
- Purpose of the Proposal: The proposal aims to lower the speed limit on Kings Road, particularly from Prospect Street to the town line, from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. This proposed reduction aligns with the existing 25-mile-per-hour speed limit in Chatham Borough.
- Historical Perspective: The last speed limit adjustment in Madison occurred in 2009 when the limit on Ridgedale Avenue was reduced from 35 to 30 miles per hour. Most of Madison’s municipal roadways already have a 25-mile-per-hour speed limit, so this proposal aims to maintain consistency.
- Speed Studies: Two separate speed studies were conducted, one in August and another in 2020. The results indicated that the 85th percentile speed (the speed at which 85% of vehicles travel at or below) on Kings Road was around 29 miles per hour, suggesting that many drivers were exceeding the 30-mile-per-hour limit.
- Traffic Volume: Kings Road is a heavily traveled street with approximately 21,000 vehicles passing through it during a six-day study period. This high traffic density contributes to the justification for reducing the speed limit.
- Additional Measures: In addition to lowering the speed limit, the presentation highlighted other traffic calming measures that could be implemented, such as improved signage and potential installation of electronic speed signs and mid-block crosswalks. These measures aim to influence driver behavior.
- Enforcement: The presentation mentioned that enforcement of the new speed limit would involve active policing. Madison’s police department plans to make Kings Road a focus area for traffic enforcement, especially when the new speed limit is enacted.
- Future Plans: The presentation suggested that uniformity in the type of electronic speed signs used in Madison is desirable, and plans to replace outdated signs were discussed. Additionally, it was mentioned that mid-block crosswalks would be considered as part of the traffic calming efforts.
- Community Engagement: The presentation also acknowledged the community’s role in raising concerns and advocating for safety improvements on Kings Road. It emphasized the importance of ongoing collaboration between the community, the police department, and local authorities.
Timelines were discussed towards the end and next steps include a vote on the ordinance on Sept 27 and the intent is to have action taken by Halloween.
- Community Affairs Committee: Updates on various events and activities in the community, such as Bottle Hill Day, the Madison Farmer’s Market, Madison Car Show, Scarecrows display, Halloween Parade, and more.
- Public Works and Engineering: Updates on ongoing projects, including multipurpose courts, pedestrian crosswalks, trail construction, library renovation, drinking water facility improvements, and utility building roof contract.
- Utilities: Updates from the electric department, including responses to emergencies and repairs. Water department updates, including fire hydrant and water main flushing program.
- Public Safety: Updates from the police department on back-to-school preparations and traffic safety. Updates from the fire department on calls and incidents, including storm-related incidents.
- Health: Updates from the Board of Health on various community health initiatives and programs.
- Finance: The start of the 2024 budget process and updates on tax collections and the annual tax sale process.
Additionally, there was an acknowledgment of first responders who participated in the response to the 9/11 attacks, and a reminder to residents to obey traffic rules and regulations in school zones.
The first public comment period was limited to agenda items and resolutions. Topics open for comment included:
- Updates on Drew Forest
- Amending Borough Code for Kings Road speed limit
- Several resolutions, such as appointing a municipal court administrator, an agreement with Madison Long Ambulance Corps, establishing a change fund for utility billing, an electric utility easement agreement, awarding a contract for building roof repairs, a developers’ agreement with Angelica properties, and appointing substitute crossing guards.
- Mayor Conley also mentioned the purchase of a zero-turn mower, replacement of a textile donation bin, and approving licenses for Grace Episcopal Church and Hickory Tree Chorus.
A resident expressed his support for collaboration with the police department regarding the ordinance for the Kings Road speed limit, mentioning that the road is heavily traveled and often used as a bypass for Main Street, resulting in excessive speeding. Also noted are the significant number of children under the age of 10 in the area. He thanked Captain Longo and the police department for their responsiveness to his concerns and appreciation for the item being on the agenda. The council acknowledged the importance of a lower speed limit for residential areas.
In the second comment period, a resident speaking as the representative of the Friends of the Drew Forest, provided an update to the mayor and council. She mentioned the recent Open Space Committee meeting, which was attended by 40 supporters of the Drew Forest, included Democratic candidate Christine Clark for the New Jersey State Senate. The meeting focused on highlighting the environmental and economic significance of the forest, such as its role in supplying water, carbon sequestration, and preventing heat islands. Several towns and environmental organizations have expressed support for preserving the forest. Additionally, a Drew University alum shared her positive experiences studying environmental sciences in the forest, which influenced her career in environmental organizations. She expressed strong support for Madison and the Open Space Committee’s grant application.
Consent resolution items were voted on and the next meeting is September 27