Thursday, April 29, 2010

Select Borough Public Meetings

There have been many new additions this week on the video site.

4/27 Joint Land Use Board Meeting

4/28 Ordinance & Resolution Board Meeting
        Part 1 - Revised Rent Leveling Board Ordinance, Park and Playground Ordinance
        Part 2 - Campaign Finance Reform (Pay-to-Play) Ordinance

P2P Ordinance is the subject of a recent editorial and the meeting received some press attention.

Happy viewing!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Finally, some good news!

Motivated by Board Member Ken Melamed's letter to action, I attended the Joint Land Use Board Meeting on Tuesday April 27.  Do you find it interesting that the board meeting could not be located on the borough calendar for any month in 2010?  I hope this oversight is rectified soon.

Anyway, at the meeting it was announced that T-Mobile, the cellular operator applying for a variance to erect a tower on 75 Armour Place (Block 203, Lot 19), is in active discussion with the borough of Dumont to see whether the carrier can relocate the tower application to place it on borough property so the borough could earn some revenue and (possibly) offset future property tax levies.  Do you see the ring of antennas on the radio tower about three-fourths the tower height?  Currently MetroPCS is leasing that space from the borough and is paying $2500 monthly, their own utilities and a 3% yearly raise for the 5-year term.

Video is available here.

Please refer to this earlier post for background.  Stay tuned for (hopefully) further progress and eventual success!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Free? How about $15,000? Just Say No.

Back in 2008 and again in 2009, when folks asked why the council decided against televising council meetings, they responded that their "research" indicated the cost was too prohibitive.

As gentle readers like you know that I have been providing recordings of select council and other public session meetings since December 2008, accessible by anyone, anywhere in the world reachable via the internet 24/7/365 and realize that I have been doing so spending less than $300 to date, would you like to know why the council has not done so yet? 
While I remain uncertain as to why, I have found the following that make the reason economic unlikely.  In Dumont Borough Codes Chapter A546 and adopted on March 19, 2002 as Ordinance 1269, aka Cable Franchise Agreement.  In part, the borough receives the following free of charge:

  • One high-speed cable modem and monthly Internet access service, including a standard installation to one municipal location designated by the Borough;
  • Network up to three additional personal computer terminals in the designated building (four computers total) to the cable modem;
  • One high-speed cable modem and monthly Internet access service, including a standard installation to all state-accredited primary and secondary public schools within the Borough;
  • One high-speed cable modem and monthly Internet access service, including a standard installation to the municipal library;
  • A noncommercial public, educational and governmental channel for the Borough use, upon request by the Borough. This channel may only be used for noncommercial programming.

So what does this cost?  In this ten-year agreement, Dumont receives 2% of gross receipts, which for 2010, the borough anticipates this revenue to be $189,214, almost double from 2009 of $95,000 anticipated.  The contract continues:

In consideration for the rights granted by this ordinance, Cablevision shall provide the Borough with a one-time grant of $15,000 to be used by the municipality for cable and/or other telecommunications-related purposes, including to supplement PEG access related production and programming efforts in the Borough.

So where did the grant go?
Who is to blame this time?

Why is the Mayor of Englewood so intent on having council meetings streamed live and archived for anytime access?
Excerpted from the article:
He added, "I want to make it as easy as possible for residents to get information about their government so they can participate in critical issues."

Huttle said the current economic crisis meant that the council needs transparency "more than ever." The city, he said, is at a critical stage in the budget process and transparency is essential in order for the residents and taxpayers to be informed.

"It’s past time to show the people who elected us that we are serious about running a transparent, open government on their behalf," Huttle said.

I guess we will just have to do with lip service here in Dumont and completely trust our elected officials.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Open Letter to Joint Land Use Board Member Ken Melamed

Dear Editor:

I read Mr. Ken Melamed's Letter to the Editor on April 8 with interest as I recall attending the hearings in 2007. In fact, I agree with Mr. Melamed to the extent that residents should attend the upcoming Joint Land Use Board (JLUB) hearing. They should also be asking Mr. Melamed and our elected officials the following questions:

1. During the hearings, both variance applicants Verizon and Voicestream, aka T-Mobile, had representation from relevant technical experts. Why did the adjustment board, as it was known back then, seem to be silent when it came to challenging the technical presentations? Did the board not retain a radio expert to challenge the applicants? Will the JLUB have a radio expert on board at the upcoming hearing?

2. Mr. Melamed indicated that if T-Mobile were to return to Dumont, "they would... put equipment on Verizon's tower". How does Mr. Melamed know that T-Mobile is not planning to co-locate at the Sunset site in addition to the proposed Armour site? I am also curious as to how Mr. Melamed is qualified to conclude that the Sunset location provides equivalent cellular coverage area as 75 Armour Place, almost a mile away even though the hearings have not yet started?

3. Mr. Melamed claimed that the Dumont Board of Ed “dragged their heels” resulting in "the zoning board had no choice", presumably denied the variance applications. Why did the adjustment board fail to take leadership and left the BOE effort to languish without an alternative of their own?

4. Was the adjustment board, as it was known back then, aware that cellular carriers had a responsibility to provide coverage to populated areas and that carriers could be penalized by the federal government for repeated failure to comply?

5. Why did Mayor McHale adopt an adversarial stance with the carriers as reported in a February 2009 Record article? Were the town’s coffers too flush to turn away badly needed revenue? Another recent Record article indicated some nearby towns receive annual revenues in excess of $200,000 for leases on municipal property. For Dumont, that would have nearly offset the aid cut by the state this year. Currently the borough receives residual revenue, if any, from Sunset and the same would be for Armour if approved because the site lies on private property. If so, then would it not be in Dumont's best interest to adopt a cooperative stance to try and accommodate all concerned on borough property? How would things be different if cell towers were located just past the border in a neighboring town; residents would see the same eyesores yet the borough earning no revenue? Can we afford to turn T-Mobile and other carriers away again in a mission proven ultimately futile?

6. Mr. Melamed repeatedly uses the term "adjustment board" in present tense. As a board member then and now, is he aware that a referendum was passed in 2008 and adopted in 2009 that merged the boards of zoning board of adjustment and planning into the JLUB? While I applaud Mr. Melamed's service to the board, I hope that this is an oversight as we need active members who are in touch with current events on the board in which they serve.

But there is hope in renewed opportunity. The DPW facility is only feet away from 75 Armour Place. A relocation to borough owned property may be able to achieve win-win by all: Dumont residents will have better cellular coverage and the borough will have recurring revenue. If the borough negotiates wisely, they may also be able to gain a professionally maintained backup facility for our police, fire and DPW radio systems at no cost to the borough. Do we not want robust and reliable radio coverage for our first responders?

As a Dumont resident, I agree with Mr. Melamed that we do not want cell towers all over town. On the other hand, we cannot blindly turn away revenue opportunities that save jobs and lessen the blow of tax increases. We have learned that taking an adversarial stance resulted in a net loss for the town in wasted resources and fees. We must turn out to the April 27 JLUB hearing at 7:30PM in borough hall and demand that attorneys, engineers and planners on both sides put their heads together and come to an agreement that benefits cellular carriers, municipalities and ultimately residents.


Kai Chen
Operator, and

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Math in BOE Budget?

The following article on the revised budget appeared on Sunday with some revised numbers.  I should be able to locate the revised numbers and plug them in, right?  Start with the budget spreadsheet.

For example, the 2009-2010 Tax levy appears on revenue sheet, cell D9.  Substitute revised 2010-2011 Tax levy into E9. Check.

Now on to the 2009-2010 Budget.  Where is the matching number on the revenue sheet?  D32?  D59?  Why is it not there?

How about 2009-2010 state aid?  Is it on revenue sheet, cell D22?  2010-2011 state aid number provided seem to match E22.

Why could some numbers be matched and not others?

Good question.  According to the Record article's author, the information was supplied by Business Administrator Kevin Cartotto.

Could it just be misplaced data or the new math being taught that I missed?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

BOE Budget Meeting

The Dumont Board of Education held a special meeting to discuss the 2010-2011 budget on Wednesday March 31 at Dumont High School Auditorium.

Technical difficulties were encountered in posting the videos online but those issues have been resolved.  Here are the videos for your viewing pleasure:

Part 1 - Powerpoint presentation of changes to budget first proposed on March 25
Part 2 - Public discussion Q&A
Part 3 - Voting on modified budget and closing

I hope this is helpful in your understanding how the Dumont BOE operates.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

SPECIAL REPORT: Residents flock to join new finance committee

The Dumont Borough Council's outreach to financially savvy residents in advance of its 2010 budget process was "almost too successful," according to a source reportedly close to Mayor Matt McHale.

Nearly a dozen residents have already signaled their desire to join the council's committee, which will shape the borough's finances for this year.  A source reportedly close to Councilman Carl Manna, the chair of Dumont's finance committee, had announced at the March 11 council meeting that he was soliciting advice from residents with backgrounds in finance for help with the budget.

The committee will meet throughout the spring, with the objective of finalizing a budget for the council's approval by the end of June.

The source for McHale, at the March 25 council meeting, credited an article that ran in local press as helping to generate publicity for the project.

The source for Manna had previously said that he expected around six residents would join the committee, but that the council would make accommodations if that projection was exceeded.

"You don't want to turn anyone away," said Manna's source.

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