Mayor's Message

STATE OF THE TOWNSHIP

January 22, 2018

First and foremost, I would like to thank the residents of this great Town for providing me with the opportunity to serve as your Mayor. This is easily one of the highest personal honors that I have ever had.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Councilman Chris Vancheri and Councilwoman Tanya Seber on the success of their election this year, and I wish them well as they serve their term - the residents of Little Falls have chosen wisely. I would also like to congratulate Councilman Anthony Sgobba on his selection to serve as Council President. I would also like to acknowledge Councilman Bill Liess, who brings years of supervisory and financial background to this Council, as well as Councilwoman Maria Cordonnier for her endless hours of work that she spends making this Town the best place to live. This Council works tirelessly, day in and day out, on behalf of all of the taxpayers in this Town. I would first like to acknowledge all of their accomplishments over this past year, and discuss some of the things that we have to look forward to in the year ahead.

Over the next several minutes I hope that everyone will humor me as I present my first State of the Township.

I am proud to announce that in 2017, after close review of the budget, this Council and I were able to reduce spending for the municipality, while setting aside an additional $500,000 for improvements to our Town Center. Unfortunately, due to poor planning of prior administrations, the revenue streams that the township had previously become accustomed to no longer existed, and taxes had to be slightly increased, resulting in an increase of approximately $5 per month on the average home in Little Falls.

It is my goal over the next several years to continue to reduce costs and expenses incurred by the municipality, while continuing to provide the same, or better services to our residents.

Over this past year, there have been an incredible number of accomplishments here in Little Falls. Let’s face it; while many of us LOVE this Town, it can use a modernization, and continuing to strengthen the curb appeal in Little Falls is one of my primary goals. In 2017 we launched our new and improved website which launched just a few weeks ago. While we continue to make improvements to the site daily, it is just the beginning of Township’s modernization.

We have revised our outdated Ordinances which now permit minor Municipal Court Violations to be paid online, rather than requiring individuals to appear in Court, missing a day’s work, just to pay a minor parking ticket. Again, just one of the many ways this Council and I are looking to modernize this Town.

This year, for the first time in Little Falls, we have also successfully introduced our online payment of everyone’s favorite thing, Taxes, by ECheck to assist our residents with an instant, and hassle free payment of their taxes right from the convenience of their home.

This Council and I also remain dedicated to our promise of Transparency, and have reinstated the second public comment portion of meetings, which now allows residents two separate opportunities to address this governing body with questions. We have also reinstated two meetings per month throughout the entire year to ensure that municipal business is completed as efficiently, and effectively as possible.

I am pleased to report that in 2017, both the Teamsters and PBA contracts have been settled, both of which come at a substantial savings per future employee to the Little Falls Taxpayer.

The Little Falls Debt Service was down $400,000 in 2017 due to the renegotiation of our previous bonds, while the Assessed value of the Township was up almost $7 Million in 2017, and up an additional $16.5 Million dollars as we head into 2018, the first increases the Town has seen in almost 10 years. This mean the Town continues to grow despite all of the houses having previously been demolished.

I am also happy to report that this year, an engineering firm was retained to perform a structural study on the site of the former municipal building, after sitting vacant for the past 10 years.

The Township has also engaged a new Joint Insurance Fund, which provides better coverage, and now includes environmental and most importantly, cyber coverage, especially in light of all of the recent cyber-attacks.

We have also partnered with our businesses who have expressed concerns over the parking issues in our Town Center. This Council has instituted 3 hour parking in the Town Center, and is looking to move towards metered parking so that residents and customers alike do not take the Town Center Parking spaces in the front of our stores for extended periods of time, causing harm to our businesses. We have also persisted in addressing our Town Center parking by entering into negotiations with PNC Bank and Verizon to acquire their property to create additional parking for our Town Center.

In 2017, the Township has continued its partnership with the Clifton Health Department who continue to provide exceptional health and animal services to our Residents.

With respect to safety – the council finalized the truck route ordinance, which will require transient trucks to stay off of many of our local and county roads.

We have also installed most of our State of the Art flood gauges along the Peckman River which will not only monitor storms as they occur, but will assist in predicting the severity of the anticipated storms so that we can properly, and effectively advise the residents of how to ensure their, and their families safety.

In the upcoming months with the warmer weather ahead, soon Duva field will be displaying its new, state of the art LED athletic lights which will not only more adequately light the fields, but will do so at a cost savings to the town with the new LED lighting. This project was largely funded with grants from Passaic County Open Space Trust Fund dollars, which this council and I will continue to pursue to assist in providing upgrades and improvements to our parks and open space, at no increased cost to the taxpayer.

The Council also approved lighting upgrades with state of the art LED lights throughout Wilmore Park so that Summer Concerts will have some additional light in the early evening, and to enhance the Morris Canal Greenway that runs parallel with the park.

Inwood Field has also recently seen a complete makeover, which it was in such desperate need of, and has been improved to a point where baseball and softball games can actually be enjoyed by both the players and the fans.

In 2017, the Township has continued its road resurfacing program, which was previously suspended under prior administrations, allowing our roads to fall into disrepair. This Council and I are dedicated to ensuring that our damaged roads are repaved, and that our infrastructure does not fail us.

This year, the Township has also seen the first of many anticipated redevelopment projects that will assist in bringing the curb appeal back to Little Falls, and moving forward with the modernization of our streets and our landscape.

With respect to our Police Department, we have continued to diligently work on our accreditation. Becoming an accredited department means that the Township can soon look forward to reduced insurance costs, in addition to a reduced liability. This is achieved by performing continuous research and adopting policies which will assist in best preventing and defending the potential for future lawsuits.

In 2017, the Police Department also introduced its first ever Junior Police Academy, which lasted five days, and provided the children of our community with educational and exciting insight into how Police Officers spend their hours on the job.

The Police Department has also continued its efforts with Community Policing, and the Township now has one full time Community Policing Officer. The success of this program can easily be measured by new and continuously improving partnerships that have been formed with the youth, schools, seniors, and businesses throughout the community, and these relationships will continue to grow in 2018.

By way of statistics, in 2017, the Little Falls Police Department traveled 145,044 miles. To put that into perspective, that’s enough miles to travel around the earth 6 times. They have made 619 arrests, issued 4,705 summonses, responded to 967 crashes, made 138 DWI arrests, walked through our schools on 386 occasions, and checked our parks 1,251 times. Just an incredible job by our Police Department.

In 2017, the Fire Department has also continued its Full Time Paid EMS Service, which has substantially reduced response times for our Emergency Medical Responders. Previously, response times were often upwards of fifteen to twenty minutes, and have even been as long as forty-five minutes. When the issue is a matter of life and death, that is entirely unacceptable, and since the implementation of our full time paid EMS, response times average well below the five minute mark.

In an effort to ensure that our residents remain as safe as possible, the Township purchased two new ambulances in a package deal with Paterson which greatly reduced the cost of each ambulance due to the large quantity ordered.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize Chief Jack Sweezy, as I am proud to announce that The State of New Jersey has recognized Little Falls’ Paid EMS program, and recently announced that municipalities throughout the State should utilize Little Falls as a template on how to effectively commence a full time paid EMS program.

While we have had much success in 2017, there have also been some shortfalls; for example, the Street Scape application where we requested Federal Funds to improve our Town Center was rejected. Rather than beat ourselves up, this Council and I have learned from our letdowns, and have continued to research how to maximize the possibility of receiving funds in 2018. We will actively pursue a new grant in 2018 with the hopes of receiving funding.

Finally, after two years, I was able to have a meeting with NJTransit to discuss our Transit Village application which was submitted in October 2015. While I am frustrated that it took two years to schedule a meeting, I am hopeful that the results of that meeting will be telling as to its success and the completeness of the application submitted. This Council and I will continue to pursue the Transit Village designation that this Township so rightfully deserves.

The Council and I have also learned the need to better communicate with residents of projects that will directly affect their homes and properties. While I am active on Facebook, I acknowledge that many residents are not, and sometimes the good ole hand delivered letter is the best way to advise residents of the towns’ doings that may affect their homes, and I vow to adapt to resident comments and concerns.

2018

In the year ahead – the Township has many things to look forward to, the first of which is the final round of home buyouts in our flood prone areas. The remaining homes which were approved dating back to the SRL 2015 program will be demolished. This will allow for a complete plan to be formulated for future improvements to Louis Street Park, and will permit adequate parking in close proximity to the field. The Council and I will pursue funding for improvements to Louis Street Park so that it becomes a more viable field for all sports and extracurricular activities.

Speaking of our flood prone properties, this Council and I remain dedicated to ensuring that any action that can be taken to minimize flooding will be, and within the next several months, Little Falls, along with Woodland Park and Totowa, yes, I said Woodland Park AND Totowa, will work together to memorialize the new and improved Passaic Valley Regional Flood Board so that flooding issues pertaining to both the Peckman AND the Passaic Rivers can be spearheaded in an effort to minimize, and god willing eliminate the possibility of flooding once and for all.

In 2018, I look forward to continuing to improve our parks, civic center, and recreation facilities by installing modern audio systems at Duva Field, the Recreation Center, Wilmore Park, and the Civic Center. No more will a bingo number be missed by our Senior Citizens at the Civic Center. No more will our Star Spangled Banner be played at our recreation facilities with people not paying our Flag the respect it deserves, not because they are intentionally doing so, but because they cannot hear the song playing over the inadequate speakers.

This Council and I will also address the heat issues at the Recreation Center, and install an Air Conditioning system there to provide cooling during the warm months for our sports and camp programs.

I am also excited to announce that this Council has approved a new Grant Writing Firm that will work full time to secure grants for Little Falls. I have already discussed with them new and exciting grants over and above the regular run of the mill grants such as fully funded electric car charging stations for our municipal lots, in addition to so many more.

I look forward to working with the Grant Writers to secure funding to assist our Township in making strides to become more ADA accessible as we continue on our theme of modernization.

I am proud to announce that no longer will residents put out their cardboard on the fifth Wednesday of the month without it being picked up, because this year, recycling will be picked up every single Wednesday on an alternating business – the best part, this comes at no increased cost to the taxpayer. Better services, without any additional burden on the taxpayers.

This Council and I will continue to ensure the safety of our residents, as soon as tonight, where this Council will vote to introduce a speed limit Ordinance which will reduce the speeds on our busiest streets, which border all of our school districts, to 25 MPH. The safety of the residents always remains in the forefront of our minds.

With respect to our Police Department -  in response to the increased traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, I am happy to announce that starting just this year, the Township now has a full time traffic officer whose sole job is to monitor and address traffic, parking, and pedestrian safety issues. Not only will this make Little Falls a safer place to live, but it will also generate revenues for the township, at no additional cost to the taxpayer.

The Police Department will also be extending the Junior Police Academy to 10 days to allow for more children to participate based upon its tremendous success in 2017.

As many of you may recall, the Police Department purchased Tasers in its 2017 calendar year budget. The Department is also currently concluding its Taser training and awaiting confirmation from the Prosecutors Office to become the first department in Passaic County permitted to carry Tasers.

I am also excited to announce that our Police Department will be Going Green in 2018, based upon a fuel savings study conducted by the Chief in 2017. The results were impressive, so much so that the Chief has instituted a “no idle” policy in 2018, and has properly fit the vehicles with batteries capable of maintaining all of the vehicles electronics for extended periods of time. It is anticipated that fuel usage will be cut nearly in half, resulting in both a cost savings to the Township, as well as a reduction of pollutants being released into the air.

I would like to thank Chief Post for all of his hard work and dedication to this Township and this Police Department, as well as all of our officers who come to work each day to keep us safe.

In 2018, I also look forward to continued smart and appropriate redevelopment which will assist the Township in generating additional revenues which we are so desperately in need of after suffering the loss of what will likely total upwards of 140 homes, while minimizing the burden on our schools. This redevelopment will not only relieve some of the tax burden from the existing taxpayers, but it will stimulate our local economy and our local businesses, bringing the buzz back to our Town Center and the streets of Little Falls that we so desperately desire.

I would like to take this opportunity to publically thank all of the employees of this Township who work so hard each and every day to keep this Town up and running. I would also like to thank all of the First Responders, not only in Little Falls, but in this County and State.

Finally, I want to thank all of you for placing your trust in me, for without your trust I would not have had the privilege of sitting here before all of you today.

I believe that leadership is more than just good management. It is more than staying true to yourself.  It requires inspiration, creativeness, and most importantly, trust. For this town to be a better place to live when I am done serving as Mayor, I believe that my leadership requires me to conjure participation from all around me, larger than the job description.

As I have stated in the past, if you ever have any issues, no matter how big or small, no matter day or night, I invite you to contact me by phone, email, text, Facebook, or even Snapchat for the new generation.

I hope I have made everyone proud of the 2017 that we have all had here in Little Falls, and I look forward to continuing to serve as your Mayor in 2018.

Thank You.

James Belford Damiano

-Mayor, Township of Little Falls