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Mayor's Notes

Messages from Our Mayor and Committee

Statement from Mayor Jonathan Morris:

On behalf of the Township of Wantage, I want to provide my heartfelt sadness to the owners and employees of the Airport Diner. This type of hatred is not tolerated and I have faith that the NJ State Police will find the individuals responsible for this heinous act. Wantage is a close-knit community and I ask that we come together to not allow these types of views shape our community. If you have any information regarding this incident please contact the NJ State Police Sussex Barracks at 973-383-1515.

Wantage First Aid Squad Update

Mayor Jon Morris has issued a letter to residents concerning the status of the Wantage First Aid Squad. Click here to read PDF.

How Does Wantage Township Inform Citizens About Emergencies And Other Important Public Notifications?

The Mayor and Committee utilize a variety of methods to get the word out.
One way is through the Township Facebook page, so feel free to share our posts and encourage others to follow us.

Another way is by posting the information on the Wantage Township website at www.wantagetwp.com.

Wantage also maintains a "Blast E-mail chain" to send out notifications. If you are not already on this list, you can send an E-mail to administrator@wantagetwp-nj.org and ask to be included. HOWEVER, please understand that placing your E-mail on this distribution list renders your E-mail address a matter of public record, which must be disclosed by the Township if any one requests the list. For some people, that is not a concern. But if you wish to keep your E-mail address private, you should not join this distribution list, and instead check the Facebook and Website pages for notifications.

Wantage Township will also distribute Press Releases to media outlets (NJ Herald, WSUS, Star Ledger, Advertiser North). These notices may not reach you in a timely manner for time sensitive emergencies, but they are included as a matter of due diligence.

A new feature being rolled out by Wantage Township is called the CodeRed emergency notification system, which has been organized by the Sussex County Office of Emergency Management under the supervision of Sheriff Mike Strada. In situations of emergencies, your home telephone will receive a recorded message alerting you to the situation and offering information available. If you do not have a land line telephone, or if you would like to receive these notifications by E-mail, text message, or cell phone contact, you can visit the following site and register:https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/EC48B6E1819C
Please note: you do not have to register for CodeRed notifications on your telephone land line. These notifications are automatic and require no action from you to receive them.

During regular office hours you may contact Wantage Town Hall at 973-875-7192 for further information as well.

Please share this information! Thanks!

Ongoing Points of Interest

We at Wantage Town Hall often are asked the following questions, being ongoing points of information the general public is interested in knowing: This and other information is available through the County of Sussex, by using the following link: http://sussex.maps.arcgis.com/home/index.html We always welcome your phone calls, but in some cases, the local government is not in a position to have the data or information you are seeking. In those situations, we would direct you to search the above resource. Try out the above link, and keep it handy for the future in case you have questions on these topics. We hope this is helpful to you!
Continued best regards,
Wantage Township Mayor & Committee

Snowplows and Mailboxes

It's an unfortunate fact that, in rural towns with lots of snowfall, snow plow operators may hit your mailbox and cause damage to the mailbox and/or post. It happens all over Sussex County and, in fact, all over rural USA.

Please accept our promise: we are not aiming for it. We didn't want to damage it. The last thing we want is to do something that will anger the public and cause possible criticism toward us. There is no upside to annoying the public.

Read complete notice

Trimming Trees/Bushes on Public Rights of Way

From time to time, the Township must trim hedges, bushes, tree branches, shrubbery and other forms of landscaping planted along the public right of way. If you have trees or bushes planted along the public right of way, and you do not want the Township to trim them, for fear that we may damage the plant or tree, please contact the Administrator's office at 973-875-7192. We will have a member of the Public Works Department come out and explain our needs, and if it is necessary to improve sight distance, we will allow you the opportunity to trim and prune the plants yourself, in a way that you find acceptable and will at the same time meet the needs of the public for safety along the roads. Please work with us on this issue! If we do not hear from you, and the public's safety is being compromised by sight distance problems, we will take appropriate action to prune and trim the branches and shrubs. Take a pro-active stance now to protect your curb-side landscaping, if you think this will be a problem or issue for you.

Wantage Township Now Owns Lake Neepaulin

Wantage Township now owns the body of water named Lake Neepaulin, the dam which supports that lake, and the beach property along South Shore Drive. Read notice

Mayor's Statement of August 15, 2013

I want to take a moment to respond to a good amount of criticism received by this Committee recently.  These have come in the form or emails, phone calls and letters to the editor.

For those of you who know me, you know I am always up for a good debate.  You also know I am honest and forthcoming in my views.  It was the way I was raised – it is who I am.

But the efforts of some individuals are not to enter into a public debate with me or this Committee, but rather take the path of public ridicule and bullying.  I can assure everyone here tonight that this Committee will NOT succumb to same.  We will continue to stand for the rights and benefits of all the taxpayers of Wantage, and not bend to the desires of specific individuals with personal agendas or vendettas.

For the record, the individuals serving on this Committee all have the best interest of Wantage at heart!  The amount of time and effort we put in on public business far outweighs the small monetary compensation we receive.  Since we are all small business owners, I think it is fair to say none of us are here for the money.  We are here as a result of a desire, at this stage of our lives, to give back to our community.  We each give up a great deal of our personal time in an effort to serve the public.

I urge those who truly want to serve to do the same:  run for office.  Make a commitment to your neighbors and fellow citizens that you are prepared to do more than second guess others who have already done same.

In spite of what a few would have you believe, this particular Committee has done a great job in my opinion:

To name a few.

But, there are those who will seize every opportunity to undermine all the good we have done for reasons only those individual know.

To this point, I actually received an email only this morning which includes these words:  “…decisions that are frequently defended with what I have come to find are half-truths and omissions”.  What a great lead-in, as it is in this vein that I want to address several recent Letters to the Editor and articles.

Gettler – June 2013

Mr. Gettler writes”  “… since by using his title, Deputy Mayor DeBoer made it an official letter from the Wantage Township Committee”.

The facts:  Mr. Gettler knew this was not the case, as Deputy Mayor DeBoer publically stated in a Committee meeting that his remarks were NOT those of the Committee, but rather his own.  Mr. Gettler was at that meeting, and then wrote his Letter to the Editor claiming otherwise.  Why did Mr. Gettler purposely mislead the taxpayers of Wantage? Perhaps at the next meeting he attends he will share same with us.

He later attacks a Wantage taxpayer (Jable), apparently feeling that because Wantage is not his primary residence, that he is not as valued a taxpayer. I did not get this comment; others did not either.

But his greatest misrepresentation, in my opinion, is when he states:  “Tom, if you really want to see what had Ann Smulewicz so upset, just look at a mirror; she doesn't want to be forced to pay even one penny of your property taxes, nor does she want to be forced to pay even one penny toward the repair of your privately owned dam! Nor do I!”

The facts:  Mr. Gettler knew that the proposed plan to repay the DEP loan is a special assessment limited to the R2 zone (Lake Neepaulin).  It does not include Ms. Smulwicz, nor Mr. Gettler.  This hit its mark as I had several taxpayers ask me for clarification surrounding this article, believing they were going to be taxed for the dam.  Once again, Mr. Gettler went out of his way to create confusion and concern – to what end?

To wrap this one up, Mr. Gettler states “In closing, we don't want Wantage to ever become the owners of Lake Neepaulin and its damn dam.  For most of us Wantage taxpayers, Lake Neepaulin would just be a totally useless, bottomless pit for our tax dollars.”

I have asked Bill this in the past:  once again, who is "we"?   I am not aware of the citizens of Wantage having solicited Mr. Gettler as their spokesperson.

Smulwicz – "Sweetheart deals at Lake Neepaulin"

Ann sees fit to state “the Jables are enjoying a $1,114 reduction on their property taxes for two years in a row on their Lake Neepaulin summer home, compliments of the slow-reacting Wantage Committee, who were more bent on trying to make Bill Gettler look bad in his heroic efforts to stop the Tax Compliance Plan than protecting non-Lake Neepaulin Wantage taxpayers from a plan that would put a financial hurt on them.”

The facts:   “slow reacting?” This Committee went to great lengths to stop the Compliance Plan, to the degree where our then-Mayor was cautioned to cease further efforts as we were encroaching beyond our legal bounds.  Agreed, Mr. Gettler took his individual claims and accusations of “illegalities” to the State... a luxury he, as a taxpayer, has over the Committee.  This resulted in a lengthy investigation by the State – and we all know the State found no evidence to support Mr. Gettler’s claims – no arrest, no legal action.

"Heroic"?   What some may not know is the actions of Mr. Gettler’s efforts likely cost a 1 year delay in our active reassessment.  This extended the benefits of the very Compliance plan both Ms. Smulwicz and Mr. Gettler complain.  Ms. Smulwicz fails to state the efforts that the Committee DID do to stop the Compliance Plan, limiting her words to "slow-reacting".  I would consider that a great omission!

New Jersey Herald article (7/9/13)—Wantage Clerk’s Actions Upheld In OPRA Dispute.

Article quotes Mayor Bassani "….still  saddened by the fact that the taxpayers of Wantage were forced to once again foot the bill for almost five years of ongoing litigation at a cost of over $14,000. I am confident we could have put the monies to better use than respond to what I believe to be a flagrant abuse of our legal process."

I stand by my position.  Even if Mr. Gettler had won his suit, I feel it was a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. 

This suit revolved around access to a personal email address - in the end, as far as I could tell while attending the hearing for this case, - Clara Nuss’ individual personal email address.

Some might remember the meeting when Mr. Gettler announced in Open Session that the Wantage Committee needed to budget monies for our legal defense for same. 

Legal Fees

In recent weeks, a small number of residents have expressed concern with the extent to which legal fees in Wantage Township are reviewed, and whether or not our legal fees are too high.   There have also been several residents who have expressed concern with an exchange of opinions which took place at the July 18 meeting between our municipal attorney and a member of the public.

First, with respect to the legal bills of Wantage Township, I have already explained previously that all bills – be they legal or otherwise – are reviewed by our Chief Finance Officer, then double checked by our Administrator, and finally presented to the governing body for review and consideration.  This is done every month.  Where details are lacking or concerns exist, any one or more of these review agents investigate and resolve the concern before the bill is presented for approval of payment. Out of respect for those residents who have expressed concern about the legal fees of Wantage, I reviewed the budget for legal bills of all towns in Sussex County.

The facts:  Wantage Township’s average Municipal legal fees are well below many of our surrounding neighbors.  Our 3 year average legal fees come in at $89,000.
Sparta – over $145,00 annually
Vernon – over $250,000 annually
Frankford – over $110,000 annually
Andover – over $89,000 annually
Franklin – over $90,000 annually
Newton – over $140,000 annually
Hopatcong – over $120,000 annually

The county-wide average per capita cost for legal bills is over $11 per person.
We are under $8 per person.

We could reduce this number even further – but that would require less lawsuits by those very people who are raising this issue.

This brings me to wonder what prompted the questioning of legal fees to begin with.  What I find is that the person who has brought this “concern” to the public is Mr. Bill Gettler, the individual who just lost three lawsuits to the Township, and is now taking the position that the Township spent too much money in handling its defense against his lawsuits.

At best, this accusation presented by Mr. Gettler is self-serving.  At worst, it is insulting to the intelligence of the Wantage public.  By the way, Mr. Gettler’s attorney is still seeking his fees from Wantage Township.  I have come to understand that this is how this particular attorney works:  he does NOT charge his clients, but rather seeks payment from municipalities.

Letter to the Editor – Gettler (7/12/2013) – More questions in Lake Neepaulin case.

In this Letter to the Editor, Mr. Gettler goes to great lengths to defend his actions, basically making accusations against me, the Committee and again he attacks the details surrounding Mr. Garofalo’s bills.

In the essence of time, I will simply say that in my humble opinion, ANY taxpayers monies spent on this suit was a waste of taxpayer dollars, no matter how hard some will attempt to justify same.  This Committee goes to great lengths to remain transparent to all – regardless of the claims by some.  Which bring me to the July 18th meeting.

I believe the open public sessions of our meetings should rightly be an opportunity for members of the public to speak their mind on any issues which affect the general good of our community.  This includes listening to their opinions, even in situations where we may not necessarily agree with what is being said. I feel that process was interfered with at our last meeting, and I have spoken with our attorney about this. I have explained to our attorney where I believe he lost focus in his role and my rights as Mayor to run the open public session. Mr. Garofalo has expressed an understanding of my protocols for public input, and has agreed to honor this process in the future.

I could go on to address many emails / letters / articles surrounding this meeting.  I will not.  I will simply say that I feel it is a shame that a select few feel the need to take the steps they have over these last few weeks to undermine this Committee as a body committed to serving ALL of Wantage Township.

I consider these issues closed as they relate to the involvement of the Wantage Township governing body, and I intend now to return our focus to the legitimate and important issues facing our community.

I urge all to do the same as we enter Open Session:

And for those who truly feel this Committee is not “your” Committee, I urge you to run for office, get your message out to all, and let the voters decide.

Thank you for listening.

Ron Bassani
Wantage Township

Thank you, Veterans
Wantage Township joins Sussex County in expressing our gratitude to the men and women who served, and continue to serve, our great nation through its armed forces. We want to take this opportunity to alert both the Veterans and the general public of a program being run by Sussex County Clerk Jeff Parrott, in collaboration with Sheriff Michael Strada and Senator Steven Oroho, which offers our local U.S. Veterans a courtesy Veteran I.D. Card.

The card affords participating businesses in the county an opportunity to say "thank you" to our military veterans by offering them a special discount on various goods and services. Any Veteran who wishes to obtain a Veterans I.D. Card may go to the website of the Sussex County Clerk and see how to apply.

Download this list of the current businesses participating in this program, so that our Veterans may be aware of this opportunity, and so that the general public may know those business locations within Sussex County who are doing their part to honor our Veterans.

Ron Bassani, Mayor, Wantage Township