Livingston may be more than a week removed from the rare October snowstorm that swept through the township, resulting in numerous homes losing power, but the effects are clearly visible as tree limbs still line several streets.
In response to the massive amount of tree debris left over from the storm, the council voted Monday night to authorize an emergency contract with Nature's Choice Corporation for the removal and disposal of tree debris.
Normally the township is required to publically advertise bids prior to awarding a contract, however a clause in the Local Public Contracts Law allows them to bypass this in order to expedite the process "when an emergency exists affecting the public health, safety or welfare which requires the immediate delivery of goods or the performance of services."
According to the resolution, Nature's Choice was selected due to the fact that they submitted the lowest quote of $8.50 per cubic yard of debris removed. The total amount of the contract is not to exceed $100,000.
According to Township Manager Michele Meade, the estimated total cost of damage from October's storm stands at $462,000. "Unfortunately this is a very costly enterprise," she said.
Of that amount, $150,000 will be funded from one of the township's snow reserve accounts with an additional $12,000 coming from a recycling grant. That leaves a total of $300,000 in emergency appropriations that must be taken into account in next year's municipal budget. The township will be able to apply for FEMA disaster relief, which could cover up to 75% of eligible costs associated with the storm, Meade said.
Final hearings were held on the amended tree and alternative energy ordinances. Initially, the council intended to vote on the tree ordinance on Monday night, however given the recent storm cleanup, they opted to leave the hearing open until the next regular municipal meeting on Nov. 21.
The idea behind the extension is to lessen the burden on residents, many of whom are currently in the process of dealing with tree cleanup following the storm.
All indications are that the ordinance will pass, as each member of the council voiced their support Monday.
"It's been a very challenging week with the storm with trees and wires down all over the place," said Mayor Rudy Fernandez.
The Livingston Environmental Commission plans on using the added time to reach out to the community and better inform them of what the ordinance entails, said LEC member Walter LeVine.
Twenty days after the new ordinance is officially passed, residents will have to pay a permit fee of $150 for each tree that they intend to remove, plus an additional $500 in the form of an escrow deposit to make sure that the tree is replaced.
There are exemptions to the new rules, however. A permit is not required for the removal of the first three trees (only one of which can be taken from the front yard) per every 12 months, nor is it required for the removal of a tree whose trunk is located within five feet of a home or one that is terminally diseased and poses a safety hazard.
"This isn't something that is going into place to raise fees. This is here for a purpose, it's here for environmental reasons and the bettering of the community," Fernandez said.
In addition, the council introduced two new ordinances on Monday night. The first of which would mandate that all lots within the township be classified by a single zone type. Earlier this year, numerous residents their concerns with regards to various pieces of property in town that shared both residential and commercial zoning, including the old Saturn car dealership on Route 10.
The second ordinance would see the township vacate a roundabout piece of property on Preston Drive to the homeowners in which the property passes through.
Final hearings on both ordinances will be held at the council's next regular meeting on Nov. 21.
Lastly, the council passed a resolution to officially signify their support for the state-wide "No Idling" initiative, which looks to reinforce existing state laws that prohibit the unnecessary idling of vehicles.
The council meets again next Monday, Nov. 14, for a Listening Post beginning at 7 p.m. followed by a Conference meeting at 7:30 p.m.