Replacement of lead service lines OK’d

NEWTON. Town Manager Thomas Russo Jr. says the town will pay for the work and will seek grant funding to cover the cost.

Newton /
| 07 Jul 2024 | 10:43

The Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance requiring lead or galvanized-steel service lines to be replaced at its meeting June 24.

Officials pointed out that the replacement is required by the state and federal governments.

Town Manager Thomas Russo Jr. said Newton will pay for the work and will seek grant funding to cover the cost.

”This is a six- or seven-figure commitment on the part of the municipality, but we’re doing it because we know it’s a health issue for a lot of people potentially,” he said, adding the some towns are not offering to pay for the work.

He estimated the cost at $10,000 to $15,000 for each property.

If property owners want to do the work themselves, they may apply for reimbursement from Newton, he said.

The proposed ordinance requires property owners to tell the town whether they have lead or galvanized-steel lines. If they do, the property owners must show that those lines have been replaced.

Deputy Mayor Helen Le Frois called the proposed ordinance “more than fair.” “Compliance is very simple.”

The council also approved a bond ordinance providing a supplemental appropriation of $80,000 for installation of a new heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) system at the municipal building.

Russo said the building had to close early one day the previous week and employees worked remotely on another day because of the excessive heat.

”No use of fans and blinds and other things prevents the town hall side of the building from going dramatically up in terms of temperature,” he said.

”We’ve gotten as many years out of the system as we can because we are frugal and we are penny-wise.”

Most of the money for the new HVAC system was approved in the municipal budget. It is expected to be installed and working by next summer, he added.

In-house auto shop

The council voted to continue a public hearing at its meeting Monday, July 15 on a proposed ordinance to reappropriate about $52,000 to create an in-house auto shop to maintain and repair vehicles owned by Newton.

Police Chief Steven VanNieuwland told the council that the new owner of Boonton Tire & Auto Repair is not as accommodating as the previous owner on prices or the speed with which police vehicles are repaired.

Because police vehicles are used continuously, “I don’t have the luxury to sit and wait for somebody to make a repair on the car,” he said.

”I can afford to go down one car. Two cars we have a problem.”

Most nearby towns have an in-house mechanic, VanNieuwland noted.

Newton is expected to save money on labor costs and on the cost of parts, which the town could buy at wholesale prices, he said. A former mechanic at Boonton Tire has been hired by the Department of Public Works; he is familiar with the Police Department’s vehicles.

Mayor John-Paul Couce and Councilman Matthew Dickson said they wanted more information about whether a shared services agreement with another town or the county might be possible. Couce said he also would like to see if Newton could arrange a relationship with another local garage similar to the one it previously had with Boonton Tire.

Four council members would be needed to approve the ordinance.

Council members introduced two proposed ordinances:

• Amending a 2023 bond ordinance to finance water/sewer improvements. That $1.1 million bond ordinance would increase to about $1.5 million.

• Appropriating about $21,000 for improvements to the water supply and distribution system at the water treatment plant.

Public hearings and final votes on those will be held July 15.

Russo and the council thanked chief financial officer Monica Miebach, who retired at the end of June, for her hard work.

Garbage, recycling service

In a presentation to the council, Wayne DeFeo, principal and founder of DeFeo Associates, said most residents of rural or semi-rural areas in New Jersey have subscription service for garbage and recycling pickup while those in larger towns have municipal service.

Municipal service is the same for all residents while residents may choose what they want and pay for it with subscription service.

In the past five years, the cost of municipal service has increased from 34 percent to 150 percent in every town going out to bid, he said.

Fewer companies are bidding because some are leaving the business and because finding workers is more difficult, he noted.

Garbage pickup is hard work and injury rates are high, he explained.

Three companies serve Sussex County although one may be closing when its owner retires, DeFeo said.

Waste Management is not bidding on contracts that include manual collection or bulk-waste pickup, he said.

If Newton moved to a municipal contract, it would have to include all apartments and condominiums or the town must reimburse those communities at a rate comparable to what it is paying for other properties, DeFeo said.