I’m writing to update you on a number of things.
1) Council will meet in an advertised special session on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 7:30 a.m. to hold a hearing and vote on an ordinance that would allow the borough to borrow $700,000 for the Nishishackawick Creek restoration project and the repair of the pedestrian bridge in Borough Park. Most of the money, 75% of the construction costs and 7.5% of the cost of engineering, legal, etc. for the Nishishackawick project will be refunded by a grant from the USDA. Some of the cost will be borne by property owners along the creek affected by the repairs. Under other circumstances Council would wait until our first meeting in October, (Oct. 3, by the way), but the grant requires that the work be complete by the end of the year and every week counts. We have already received 75% of the estimated cost of the pedestrian bridge repair (about $20,000) from FEMA. The law requires that we have the money in place before we can award a bid for these types of projects, which is why we have to “borrow” the entire amount, even though we’ll be reimbursed for the majority of it.
If you have any questions about this, don’t hesitate to call (908-229-4822) or email (email@example.com).
2) On Sept. 13, Council President Brad Myhre and I met with George Michael to discuss problems at the River Mills construction site, including the damage to Third Street, early starts, inspection conflicts and other things. Also on hand were borough professionals Ken Rogers (construction official), Bob Clerico (Planning Board engineer), Mike Reino (DPW manager) and Brenda Shepherd (Borough Clerk), and members of Mr. Michael’ team, his engineer, project manager, and contractor.
The discussion was very frank. We made it clear that Mr. Michael would be strictly held to the terms of the redeveloper’s agreement, that River Mills is a Frenchtown project first and a George Michael project second, and that we trust and rely on our professionals to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents and business people and intend to follow their lead in any conflicts that may arise.
Mr. Michael agreed to be responsible for the repair to Third Street and any additional damage that might occur there or elsewhere as a result of the construction. His project manager agreed to strictly enforce the 7 a.m. start time for machinery and to hold the workers to a high standard of conduct on site. With just a few days left before the “ground disturbance” phase of the project is to be complete under the River Mills DEP permit, I’m confident that all will go well.
In separate action, Borough Council agreed at its last meeting to reduce Mr. Michael’s performance guarantee to reflect the amount of work that has been completed. The original performance guarantee was $610,405 — 120% of our engineer’s estimate of construction costs. Mr. Clerico determined that 40% of this phase of the project remained incomplete. Accordingly, Council agreed to reduce the performance guarantee to $247,583 — that figure includes what would be required for the Third Street repairs. We continue to protect the community’s interests by requiring Mr. Michael to post a new performance guarantee (again, determined by our engineer) before he can begin the next phase of construction.
3) Although it has been posted on the website and an article appeared on nj.com (https://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/index.ssf/2012/09/planners_recognize_downtown_fr.html) you may not have heard that downtown Frenchtown has been designated a “Great Place” by the New Jersey chapter of the American Planning Association. This is the first time the group has named neighborhoods, downtowns and individual streets “great places” and it is a very great honor to have the planners recognize what we in Frenchtown have always known.
The group will hold a special meeting here in October and tour the downtown area. I’ll let you know when that’s set up. Kudos to Green Team chair Dominikija Prostak and Councilman Seth Grossman, chair of the Downtown Revitalization Committee, for their efforts to call the APA’s attention to the merits of Frenchtown’s downtown.
4) Several upcoming events of note:
On Saturday, Sept. 27, Frenchtown holds its first Green Fair. Please come to Old Frenchtown Field between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. to learn how what we as individuals can do to help Frenchtown become a more sustainable community, how we can better live in harmony with the environment and how we can save money in the process. There will be demonstrations, presentations and about 70 vendors on hand to help us do just that. And don’t forget the pie contest to benefit the Frenchtown Volunteer Fire Company.
In coming weeks we’ll have a Townwide Yard Sale (Oct. 5, 6, 7), borough Cleanup Day (Oct. 10) , and begin leaf pickup (Nov. 1-30). Somewhere in there we’re likely to have the annual Halloween Parade as well. Please check the website for details on each of these events.
5) I’m still collecting the email addresses of residents, business people, property owners and anyone else who wishes to receive notices from me about meetings and other goings on in town. Please spread the word. The better our contact list, the better informed the community can be.
Hope to see you at the Green Fair on Saturday, at the Oct. 3 Borough Council meeting in Borough Hall at 7:30, and around town anytime.