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Summit Welcomes New Council Members

Dr. Robert Rubino will serve as council president for 2014.

Councilman Mike McTernan is sworn in.
Councilman Mike McTernan is sworn in.
A standing-room-only crowd welcomed new Summit Common Council members Mike McTernan and Sandra Lizza at the council's organization meeting Tuesday evening. 

Dr. Robert Rubino was chosen to serve as common council president for 2014. Rubino thanked his fellow council members for their faith and trust in him. He also expressed his gratitude to outgoing president Richard Madden for his "great work and leadership." Rubino said Madden achieved his goal of elevating the level of discourse and ran a crisp meeting while adhering to his characteristic high ethical standards. 

Councilman-at-large Gregory Drummond, who begins serving his second term, was elected president pro tem and will act as common council president in Rubino's absence. 

Rubino recognized Union County Freeholders Bruce Bergen, Alexander Mirabella, and Vernell Wright as well as Sen. Tom Kean, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, all in attendance. 

In her State of the City address, Mayor Ellen Dickson thanked the City's numerous volunteers and welcomed the council's new members. Dickson pointed to upgrades made to the Village Green and additional downtown parking among improvements made during 2013. To enhance city-wide communications, a temporary, part-time specialist, Amy Cairns Harrison, has been hired to evaluate the City's existing communications program and recommend improvements. Other responsibilties entail updating the City's website and social media sites, which include a Facebook page and Twitter feed. 

Dickson also thanked former Board of Education president George Lucaci for his service. James Freeman was appointed to fill the Board vacancy by Dickson, who said he brings a "a fresh perspective." 

In 2013, the Board of School Estimate approved a $17 million spending plan which will fund improvements to science labs, Franklin, Jefferson and Lawton C. Johnson schools.

"The projects have gone out to bid and are expected to start soon," Dickson said.

The mayor also addressed why the Board of School Estimate voted down full-day kindergarten, saying while there are many pressures on the school budget, the decision was not just a financial one. Dickson said Summit offers many alternative programs that are "part of the fabric of the community." 

The Summit library's new director, Susan Permahos, completing her first year, has restored Thursday evening and Sunday hours and re-established the Friends of the Library, among other accomplishments, Dickson said. 

The Summit Conservancy, which recently attained 501(c)(3) status, was also established in 2013 to support the Summit Free Market in its effort to build a permanent structure at the Transfer Station. Dickson said the Conservancy will also contribute to the Passaic River Trails project in the future. 

In closing, Dickson implored the Union County Freeholders to stick to the two-percent cap. 

"Since 2000, Summit's taxes to fund county services have more than doubled while inflation has gone up about 40 percent," she said. 

The mayor said she looks forward to a great 2014. 

Rubino paid a poetic tribute to outgoing councilmen Dave Bomgaars and Tom Getzendanner. Referring to Bomgaars as "Gentleman Dave," Rubino read an original verse highlighting the longtime volunteer's many attributes. Though Getzendanner was absent from the meeting, the new council president read the poem he wrote in his honor which showcased the three-term councilman's encyclopedic knowledge of the City's ordinances. 

Bomgaars said it was a privilege to have served and credited the City's staff and volunteers collaborative efforts for Summit's many improvements.

Both Dickson and Bomgaars pointed to Tuesday morning's successful sale of a $9.6 million General Obligation (G.O.) bond consisting of $7.4 million of general bonds and $2.2 million of parking bonds at a net interest cost of 2.498771 percent as an indicator of Summit's positive financial outlook. 

Dickson and Rubino presented outgoing committee members, all volunteers, with silver bowls in gratitude for the service to Summit. 

For more on the meeting, view the attached video. 
Robert Steelman January 08, 2014 at 10:06 AM
Mayor Dickson’s State of the City comments did mention downtown parking improvements. I believe her comments addressed the changes made to the Deforest lots and the possibility of adding additional parking inventory in the future. The Deforest lot improvements are hopefully not finished since the 3-step system of taking a ticket at the entry gate, paying at the kiosk and validating at the exit gate is difficult to use and costly to administer. The additional inventory discussion is ongoing and the focus is on building a parking structure. The mayor did say that recent development approvals factor in the decision to move the parking deck along. Mayor Dickson mentioned the 466 Springfield Ave commercial building now under construction and the Franklin Place residential project. I’m hopeful that the new urgency for more parking does not redirect the discussion from urgently needed improvements in parking policy that can begin tomorrow. The combination of a poorly planned parking system and aggressive ticket enforcement is not user friendly. A parking system that is not user friendly puts downtown business at a competitive disadvantage. Summit’s newly organized Common Council is capable of making downtown parking a promotable City asset.

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