Six-Month Mayor’s Report from Mayor Aaron Lipsen
On behalf of the governing body, I would like to thank our neighbors for the honor of entrusting us with the responsibility of running your municipal government. Over the last six months, your elected officials, Borough professionals, and community volunteers have been working together to help Stockton become an even finer place to live, work, and visit. We are focused on building the community spirit, involving the community in decisions and events, and practicing transparency and good governance. We look forward to continuing to work with you to reach these goals.
All but one of the current governing body are in their first terms of their current offices. In an effort to serve you better, Councilperson Tom Hunt and I attended a full-day training session on good governance for elected officials hosted by the League of Municipalities. Councilpersons Bill Brown, Tom Hunt, and I also attended a full day training session on finance and governance hosted by the League of Municipalities.
On a number of fronts, our Council has begun to forge stronger relationships with nearby municipalities, Hunterdon County representatives, and state- and federal agencies.
Later this summer, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) will be making repairs to the small bridge that crosses the canal before the main bridge to Pennsylvania. The construction work will be taking place over a few nights. Residents should be prepared for detoured traffic and some noise while these important repairs are made. We will post an announcement of the dates on the website when they become available and will alert Bridge Street residents specifically. The long-awaited Rt. 29 repaving project is scheduled to begin in 2027 or 2028.
Later this fall, the NJ Water Supply Authority will begin its Phase I work on the canal bank. During this project, all tarps will be removed, and the canal-side slopes in those areas will be restored by planting native grasses. The areas of historic stonework on the river side slope that were damaged by the tropical storms will be rebuilt. The crest of the embankment will be leveled out in an attempt to remove local low spots along the roughly one-mile stretch.
Last year, Stockton Borough and all small municipalities in the state were notified that we will be required to meet more stringent stormwater management and reporting requirements as part of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Tier A program. More information can be accessed here: https://www.nj.gov/dep/dwq/pdf/Tier_A/Tier_A_Guidance.pdf These requirements will necessitate additional engineering investigations, increased reporting, and management of stormwater runoff. We will have to sweep our streets tri-annually and inspect/clear our storm drains more frequently. There are also requirements related to salt/de-icing material cleanup, roadside and ditch erosion and waste control, construction site management, pet waste enforcement, public information, and record keeping. To offset the costs associated with this program, the Borough Grants Committee and CFO applied for the Municipal Stormwater Assistance Grant and received an initial $25,000 in funding; we will receive an additional $50,000 when we submit our Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan in the upcoming months.
The Infrastructure Committee and other members of the Borough Council have been working with our water operators and the New Jersey Water Association to help us plan for the future of our water and sewer systems, which are self-liquidating utilities. That means that the utilities do not aim to make any profit or build a surplus but simply collect fees to sustain themselves. Our staff are paid small salaries and the utilities must estimate expected costs for the year and then attempt to provide services for the year. Over the last few years, we have incurred increased costs related to drinking water management and required water treatment. The Infrastructure Committee has also begun an evaluation of the rest of our roads and other infrastructure. We had hoped to have more of our roads repaired and to have our street lines repainted this year, but that may not be possible this year, due to budgetary constraints.
The Infrastructure Committee and other members of the Borough Council have also been following up on the progress of the Worman Road restoration project. The road has been closed since Tropical Storm Ida washed it out in September of 2021. Our Borough engineer is finishing the final plans for repair. Once the plans are received, we will follow the bid process to seek and hire a contractor, and we must obtain the appropriate permits. It it is our goal to have the road reopened by the end of 2023. Due to extended road closure, we have contacted JCP&L and requested that they expedite the removal of dead and dying ash trees to protect access for residents from the Delaware Township side of the road.
Due to residents’ complaints about traffic safety and a petition that was presented to the Borough Council, we have been working with law enforcement and the NJDOT to investigate ways to improve pedestrian safety and control traffic along Rt. 29. The NJDOT will be performing a traffic study, and we are looking to have improved pedestrian crosswalks installed.
One of the biggest initiatives for the Infrastructure Committee has been an attempt to mitigate stormwater flooding such as that caused by Tropical Storm Ida. Last year, the Committee held multiple meetings with the NJDEP and the Borough applied for two different grants for assistance. This year, we met with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which is part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and have submitted a formal request for assistance in addressing the stormwater problem. We have also contacted Hunterdon County and Delaware Township to ask for their cooperation and support and are in the process of scheduling larger-scale meetings this summer to discuss our options.
In April, our Community Outreach Committee (Council members Mike Mann, Peter Folz, and Ken Kozuhowski), along with other members of the governing body, held a meeting at Prallsville Mill to build community spirit and involvement. This meeting helped us to gather information about residents’ concerns and to build a network of volunteers for Borough projects. The Buildings and Grounds Committee (Tom Hunt, Mike Mann, and Peter Folz) was then able to organize a number of clean-up/work days in the Stockton Playground play area. Dozens of volunteers came out to help clean up, spread certified playground mulch, paint an existing swing set, and install a new swing set. Following donations in previous years by Lorraine Smith of benches and native plants, another round of philanthropists has supported the Stockton Playground. This year, a new swing set and the majority of the certified playground mulch were generously donated by a local family who have asked to remain anonymous. Concrete for the project was donated by Niece lumber. Installation assistance and machine use was provided free of charge by Stockton resident Charles McDaniel through his company, HT Services. In honor of his mother, Dr. Cheryl Ann Kennedy, Ian Kelly donated a new electrical panel for the Playground. Safety mats are being donated by Hollis Bauer and the owners of the Woolverton Inn. We thank all of them for their generous contributions that are already being enjoyed by our residents and visitors. We hope to keep this community spirit growing. If you would like to be added to our Community Outreach email list, please contact Councilmember Mike Mann (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Speaking of community events, the Borough Council designated April 2 as Gloria Garefino Day. Gloria was the proprietor of the popular and successful business, Gloria’s Beauty Shop, in Stockton Borough for more than four decades. She was one of the founding members of the Stockton Playground Association, and she was a past-president and one of the longest serving and most active members of the Stockton Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary. Gloria now lives with her son in Pennsylvania, but she came to celebrate Gloria Garefino Day with the community at the Stockton Firehouse on April 2.
In June, the Borough Council recognized the contributions of recently deceased Borough resident Cheryl Ann Kennedy, M.D., who served the community of Stockton Borough as a valued member of the Board of Adjustment and Planning Board and served the people of New Jersey as Professor of Psychiatry at Rutgers University and New Jersey Medical School and on the Board of Trustees for Integrity House for over three decades.
In June, the Council also decided to consider the acquisition of the former Stockton School property. A separate report addresses the issues involved in this matter.
Please help our Stockton Fire Company celebrate its 115th Anniversary by attending their fundraising car show on July 21 from 5:30 to 8:00 pm, and by patronizing their Grab-N-Go dinners in the fall. More information can be found here: https://stocktonfireco.com/grab/
A new law will require many rental properties to have inspections for lead paint registered with the Borough. More details will be shared soon. In addition, new legislation requires all people selling properties to disclose flood histories with potential buyers.
Stockton has been experiencing more thefts of street signs and has experienced damage to the fields of the Stockton Playground caused by vehicles driving in circles on the lawns. If you observe any illegal behavior, please call 911 immediately, and they will route your call to the appropriate dispatcher at the New Jersey State Police.
Please attend our Council meetings, which are typically scheduled on the third Monday of every month, to share your ideas and to help Stockton’s governing body understand the needs of the public.
Mayor Aaron Lipsen
8/15/23 Update: The Borough engineer has informed us that Worman Road will likely reopen mid-2024