Byram council complains about state mismanagement and overreach

Byram. The council also discussed the Route 206 tunnel project and approved new wage and salary ordinances.

| 14 Dec 2021 | 08:33

The Byram Township Council expressed displeasure with the New Jersey state government at its Dec. 7 meeting, especially pension increases and the blocking of unvaccinated legislators from entering the state capitol if they did not show a negative Covid test.

Deputy Mayor Raymond Bonker said state health benefits for early retirees went up 32 percent, and that the public employees’ retirement system went up 16.4 percent. That mean an additional $30,000 outlay for Byram Township, which must keep within the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap.

“This is exactly what I said last year,” Bonker said. “This is unconscionable fiscal mismanagement by the state of New Jersey.”

He also said it was “a screaming example” of why defined benefit systems, pensions, must be replaced with defined contribution systems, 401Ks and IRAs. Residents are being gauged and fleeced by New Jersey to make up for past promises that should have never been made, he said.

Councilman Harvey Roseff noted that last Thursday, members of the state Assembly were denied entry to the statehouse, by “not complying with displaying their medical history.” State police blocked the legislators, he said, but the Assembly members ended up moving through the police line after a few hours.

A hearing before a judge on Dec. 13 will decide if this is legal, Roseff said. The Assembly next meets on Dec. 16, he noted.

Furthermore, he said, instead of just the state police being at the state house, the National Guard was called.

“That is the current state of democracy in New Jersey,” Roseff said.

According to the Associated Press, troopers initially blocked lawmakers but later allowed them to enter the chamber without showing proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test.

Little Paint Way: The council unanimously approved a Kulpeksa Land Improvements bid for proposed improvements to Little Paint Way, not to exceed $432,025. Township Manager Joseph Sabatini said the project should help ease flooding problems. Deputy Mayor Bonker said the pipe under the road cannot be replaced because the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said “it fragments bobcat territory,” and that the population of bobcats needs to increase. He said, “You can’t make this stuff up. This is all total nonsense.” Bonker added that it was not all Byram money, but also Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money.
Wage ordinances: The council unanimously approved salary and wage ordinances, effective from 2022 through 2026, for public works, police, and clerical employees. Sabatini said new contracts were negotiated with the three groups, and established minimum and maximum ranges for each title. The contracts start in January.
Administration and hourly ordinance: The council unanimously approved administration and hourly position salary and wage changes for 2021 through 2026. A public hearing will on the changes will be held Dec. 21.
Tomahawk Lake: The council unanimously gave the police Title 39 powers at Tomahawk Lake, in order to direct traffic along Tomahawk Trail when necessary. A public hearing will on the change will be held Dec. 21.
Non-conforming parcels: The council unanimously approved selling non-conforming township-owned parcels not needed for public use to contiguous property owners. A public hearing will on the ordinance will be held Dec. 21.
2022 budget: Township manager Sabatini said the proposed 2022 budget is posted on the Byram Township website ( under the quick links section.
Conference: Many council people attended the New Jersey League of Municipalities conference. They attended training regarding recycling, cannabis, and the American Rescue plan and spoke with businesses and engineering firms.
Arthur Bowles proclamation: The council unanimously recognized Bowles for his township service of over 44 years as a firefighter and fire chief. Bowles is also an Army veteran. Deputy Mayor Bonker quoted Matthew 25, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Municipal award: Mayor Alexander Rubenstein said Byram won a municipal award from Sussex County Economic Development.
Route 206 tunnel project: Mayor Rubenstein said there is a lot of work ahead regarding detours and impact on local roads coming in 2025. Councilman Roseff said Senator Steve Oroho’s office contacted him in order to meet with the three affected towns to discuss the project on Jan 19. Councilwoman Cris Franco and Roseff will represent the council at the meeting.
Cranberry Lake: Mayor Rubenstein said the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) oversees the health of Cranberry Lake and ecosystem and will determine how often and how much the lake will be lowered.
New municipal building: Mayor Rubenstein said the Nader Group will present an alternate floor plan and finish the construction document by the next council meeting.
Construction permits: Deputy Mayor Bonker said electronic permitting is now a state requirement, and that Byram will have electronic access to construction permits beginning in 2022.
Recreation Committee: Councilman Jack Gallagher said the Recreation Committee is looking for an additional $1,500 in their budget to provide more senior citizen events, like shows and bus rides next year.
Santa’s coming: Councilman Gallagher said “Santa around Town” will be on Dec. 18 and 19. Also, he said, the tree lighting on Dec. 5 was a big success.