Category Archives: Meeting Minutes

Highlights From The Sewerage Authority Board Meeting Of November 10, 2011.

by guest blogger Linda Baum

I attended my first Township of Middletown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA) board meeting on Thursday night, November 10th. I got there about ten minutes early. There was a conversation going on that promptly ended. The moment I walked in, Pat Parkinson jumped up to introduce himself and get my name. I felt set upon. I shook his hand because he caught me off guard, but gave him only my first name. It took him about a minute to run out of the room to inquire, and I heard my full name mentioned in the hall by someone I didn’t see, and who didn’t see me, when I walked in. So I had to wonder how that person knew who I was. The front gate took a long time to open when I arrived, so it appears someone is watching. In fact, the gate remained closed for so long that I thought I had come to the wrong place and had begun to back up to leave when it finally opened.

Chairperson Chantal Bouw also came over to introduce herself and get my name — she wasn’t there for the Parkinson maneuver. At that point I was annoyed and admit I was impolite.

When it was time for public comments at the end of the meeting, I said that never before had I attended a public meeting and had so many people in a tizzy to know who I was. I said that it was a public meeting and I was a member of the public and expected to just come in and sit down. Ms. Bouw said they rarely had visitors and wanted to make the public feel welcome and part of the process. I said a better way to do that (besides leaving the gate open!) is to make more information accessible easily and at no cost, and mentioned all the information they could be providing via email and on their website like the Town does — financial documents, agendas, resolutions, etc. (And by the way, even the documents the town offers are just the tip of the iceberg.) Parkinson said that people are welcome to come in during office hours and review documents, and I said no they aren’t because not everyone is free during the day and some people are disabled and can’t easily make the trip.

I also said TOMSA’s copy fees are unreasonably high and further deter people from obtaining the information. (Per their OPRA form, the first 10 pages will cost you a hefty $7.50, and 100 pages will cost you $32.50. Compare that to the Town’s charges for paper copies, for which 100 pages would cost you $5 for letter size or $7 for legal. However the Town typically emails material at no charge. TOMSA does not.)

Parkinson said that they are a small operation and that copy fees are to offset their costs. I can’t recall if I mentioned the $750K surplus gifted to the town over the last two years, which shows TOMSA doesn’t need the additional source of revenue. Parkinson said that most people are not interested in financial documents, anyway. The fact is he has no way of knowing that — maybe they just don’t want to pay the $50 bucks for them! I said it didn’t matter how many people were interested in the information, that TOMSA is a public entity and should be providing it. Then someone whom I believe may be their attorney stated they are in full compliance with the Open Public Records Act. (A very Brian Nelson-esque comment.) I said the Act didn’t preclude them from providing information and wasn’t meant to be a guide as to what they should be providing.

There was no notebook with copies of resolutions and ordinances for me to look through like there is at Town Committee meetings. There should be that at least since TOMSA doesn’t list the documents on their website. This is something else they could do to make “the public feel welcome and part of the process”, as Ms. Bouw put it.

They were all pleasant at first but started to steel themselves during my comments. Parkinson finally launched into talking points that reminded me of what we hear at Town Committee meetings. He offered familiar comparisons about operating at lower cost than other towns. I let it slide but next time may point out the $750K surplus and excess benefits, without which operating costs would be much less. He also said something about providing services they don’t charge for, like timely response when a resident is having a problem. I said those aren’t free services, that residents already pay fees for that.

There was mention that the solar bids are due December 1st from the County. Currently, TOMSA is paying about 12.5 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, which includes the delivery charge.

Aside from the professionals in attendance, board members there were Chantal Bouw, Emil Wrede, Tom Stokes, and Charles Rogers. Absent were Joan Smith and James Hinckley.

I learned that Emil Wrede and Joan Smith are actually alternate members, even though Joan Smith is listed as Secretary/Treasurer on the TOMSA website and Emil Wrede is listed as Commissioner. There is no mention of their “alternate” status. According to Ms. Bouw, the TOMSA board is actually a five-member board that currently has one empty seat that was vacated by Cliff Raisch earlier this year.

It will be interesting to see if that empty seat is filled because any new board appointee would not receive pension and medical benefits, which were stripped per a 2009 Town ordinance. That ordinance also “grandfathered in” those benefits for existing board members, whose compensation was never meant to include them.

When I had no more comments, Ms. Bouw stated that business was concluded and that there would be no executive session. No one said otherwise. Yet, with the exception of two staffers, no one was leaving and they were clearly waiting for me to leave. I did, only to realize afterwards that there was no formal vote to close the public meeting in line with Robert’s Rules of Order. And today I noticed that the last page of the meeting agenda does list an executive session as the last item.

I was in my car but hadn’t left yet when I realized I should pick up a copy of the OPRA form before going because it’s not on the TOMSA website. I went back in to find the conference room door closed. So, was that an executive session or a continuation of the public meeting, which was never formally closed? And will there be minutes for that non-public discussion, I wonder?

A woman was in the office when I came back in and she provided me the OPRA form. Per quick glance at it, I saw no information for submitting it other than a street address, so asked for the fax number. I asked a few other questions about the process, but the woman said she didn’t know and that Mr. Parkinson was the person to ask. She then went into the conference room to let them know I was there.

Parkinson came running out, happy to help. As long as I had the opportunity, I pointed out to him that the fees listed on the OPRA form were much higher than what he quoted during the meeting – the starting price is 75 cents per page, not the 25 cents he quoted. He said he didn’t know those details exactly. That struck me as insincere. The policy has been the same for years, and there has been plenty of criticism of TOMSA’s fees and overly burdensome records request process, enough that he should be well familiar with all the rules. He’s the executive director, so he set the policy, didn’t he?

What’s interesting to note is that Mr. Parkinson made a habit that evening of rushing over to help. In one instance, as two TOMSA staffers were leaving at the end of the public portion of the meeting, I stopped them to ask their names. In a flash, Parkinson was between us, offering to help. It was ridiculous. He was clearly running interference. I think the question is, why did he feel the need to?

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Filed under guest blogger, Linda Baum, Meeting Minutes, OPRA requests, TOMSA

>Meeting Minutes From Library Board’s January 19th Meeting Contradicts What Was Said By Township Committee Members At Last Wednesday Night’s Meeting

>Over the weekend I took the time to read through the January 19th minutes of the Middletown Library Board of Trustees meeting which are posted on the Middletown Library’s website.

Having sat through most of last Wednesday night’s Trustees meeting and now subsequently reading through the minutes of the January 19th meeting, it is extremely hard for me to believe that Middletown’s acting mayor, Tony Fiore and the rest of the Township Committee members that were in attendance, including Kevin Settembrino who is now sitting on the Library’s Board of Trustees as the Mayor’s representative, weren’t being honest or sincere about Middletown’s budget situation, the amount of money that the Township expected the Library to hand over, the threat to make the library pay market value rent to the Township for the 3 township owned builds that house the Library system or the future of the library.
In his comments to the Board of Trustees, Tony Fiore stated the Township wasn’t asking for specific amounts of cash from the Library’s perceived surplus and that their were no plans to make the library pay rent or turn over it’s operations of the library to the County. However, based on the minutes from January 19th, Kevin Settembrino made it very clear to other members of the Library’s Board of Trustees that this wasn’t the case.
At one point during the meeting Board President Randall Gabrielan, felt it necessary to “reminded Mr. Settembrino that the Library is a separate board and that it has been so designated for 130+ years to specifically keep libraries out of politics. He also mentioned that the first and utmost role of a Library Trustee is to be advocate of the library.“, when arrogantly told that Library Trustees were appointed by the Township Committee and that the Library should be working toward township goals.

Below are the excerpts from the January 19th meeting minutes that pertain to what Committeeman Settembrino stated to the Board of Trustees that night. I highlighted the passages that I see as contradicting from what we heard at the February 16th (last Wednesday night) meeting:

…Ms. O’Neal handed out the 2011 organizational chart as well as a cost analysis for Sunday operation at the library that had been requested by Ms. Miloscia.

Ms. O’Neal mentioned the newly revised “Budget Reduction Worksheet” had now about $160,000 in potential savings to be applied to the 2011 budget and beyond.

Ms. O’Neal reported that her 2001 Budget meeting with the Township Administrator, Asst. Administrator and CFO went well. She said that she and Mr. Trasente had a productive meeting and that she was confident that they could reconcile some of the budget issues.

Mr. Settembrino spoke candidly to the Board and told the Trustees that it is the Township Committee elected officials that have appointed them and that the Library Trustees should be working together with the Township to achieve the Township’s goals. Mr. Gabrielan reminded Mr. Settembrino that the Library is a separate board and that it has been so designated for 130+ years to specifically keep libraries out of politics. He also mentioned that the first and utmost role of a Library Trustee is to be advocate of the library.

Mr. Settembrino told the Board that the Township sent a letter of appeal to DCA in regards to the rate-ables for Middletown. Settembrino said that the Township Committee wants the Library Board agree to take a $333,000 cut in its budget before the reassessments are completed. He said that the impact is inevitable in 2012 and that they would like to see the Library buy into this reduction to help contribute to reducing the budget deficit. He will come to February 16th meeting and reopen this issue for a vote from the Board of Trustees so that the Township can introduce its budget for the March 15, 2011 Township Committee meeting. Mr. Settembrino detailed the situation.

  • • Tax appeals in 2010 cost the Township 1 million dollars

  • • The revals were done near market peak so tax appeals were expected to continue to be high in number

  • • Reassessment will more accurately reflect market values

  • • The 2011 Township Budget will not exceed 2% cap


Ms. O’Neal replied that since DCA hadn’t yet agreed to the lower evaluation amount it stands currently that the library will receive approximately 3.7 million dollars for its budget. Mr. Gabrielan said that the library will operate under the State’s formula. Mr. Settembrino replied that even if the formula doesn’t change for 2011, the Township would like the library to send those funds back to the municipality and that there is no restriction on the amount of money the board votes to provide to the municipality. Ms. Cavalier said that if the 1/3 of a mil goes down considerably the library board is going to have to study what its options are and the procedures. Mr. Milne said that the board needs to know the outcome of the appeal on the published October equalized valuation or the new numbers before any decision can be made. Mr. Milne added that he needed to review all the material before making comments on a budget reduction or giveback of that magnitude.

Ms. O’Neal said that $333,000 is a large sum of money to add to the already known 4.5% reduction for 2011 and that the lower rateables in 2012 will make it very difficult for the library.

Ms. Breen asked if this completed Mr. Settembrino’s agenda with the Library Board and he said “No”.


Mr. Settembrino brought up the debt service payments of Main. He said that the library was bonded for 7.243 million dollars and that 3.1 million dollars is the balance that has to be paid by 2022. Mr. Settembrino said he speaks for the entire Township Committee that the Township expects the library to start paying for the debt and expects a payment of $543,000 per year from the library. Ms. Miloscia asked if any other Township buildings are paying their own debt for Township buildings specifically the Arts Center. Mr. Settembrino responded “No” and that the Arts Center is generating revenue to offset its operational cost. Mr. Gabrielan said that this is a significant impact to the library.

Mr. Settembrino also informed the Board that the library should be paying market value rent for the three town-owned buildings in which it occupies. Mr. Gabrielan and Ms. O’Neal said that NJ Administrative Code specifically prohibits libraries from paying rent. Mr. Settembrino said that he would forward the payment schedule and all information that he was discussing with the Board for them to further review and help them make a voting decision during the February meeting when he expects to re-introduce these issues. [See document attached]

Ms. Cavalier said that the library board would have to explain to the community why library services have been cut. Mr. Settembrino said however you decide to communicate that to the community is up to the Board. Ms. Cavalier asked if the Township Committee will accept the responsibility for these cuts. Mr. Settembrino didn’t answer her question. He restated that it is the Board’s decision on how they chose to inform the community of such cuts should they take place. Ms. Miloscia asked Mr. Settembrino if he used the library; does he had a library card? His response was no.

Mr. Settembrino informed the Board that he will be meeting with County Freeholder Lillian Burry to gather information about the County Library system. He said that his intention was to have the library stay as a municipal library. Ms. Breen said that she was glad to hear him state that. Ms. O’Neal asked if it would be appropriate for her to attend the meeting as well and Mr. Settembrino said “No”. Ms. Miloscia then asked if it would be appropriate for her to attend and he responded “No”. Ms. O’Neal informed that board that she had a meeting scheduled with Ken Sheinbaum, Director of the Monmouth County Library system.
Ms. Breen said she would like to see this done in the spirit of cooperation for what is good for everyone, what is good for the library and for the Township. Mr. Gabrielan reiterated that the duties of the Board are to be accountable and informed and that the number one job of a library board member is to be a library advocate.

Before Maser Consulting came to do their presentation, Mr. Settembrino criticized the library for undertaking studies that the Township didn’t know about, and for which it was planning similar action, citing the solar project for which the library contracted for a structural assessment of the roof and also the parking study. He said that such expenses/studies should be approved and communicated with the Township before any action is taken by the library. Ms. O’Neal responded saying that the library was moving faster than the Township following the energy audit and didn’t proceed with hiring a solar engineering firm once it was known that the Township was soliciting similar proposals, and that the parking study was well known to the Township Administrator and two members of the committee more than a year ago….


Based on this minutes, I think the Township Committee’s agenda is clear. They want money and they don’t care how they get from the library, even if it is illegal to ask for and would have potential crippling effect on the functioning of the daily activities that the Library provides. It is also very clear that if the Township does get what it wants, it will hand over the Library to the County to run, even though the County Library system is considered by many to be wasteful and the personal, political patronage, dumping ground for Monmouth County Freeholder Director Lillian Burry.

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Filed under budget deficit, budget surplus, Kevin Settembrino, Meeting Minutes, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, save our library, Tony Fiore

>Missing Meeting Minutes Found

>I want to thank Middletown resident Carol Stiglin for following up on my behalf and finding out where the missing Middletown Township Committee Meetings Minutes are posted on the Township website. I have been extremely busy lately and haven’t had much “free” time to follow-up on a number of issue that have been going on around me.

Ms. Stiglin is a Shadow Lake Village resident who can not easily make it out to township meetings, she is a leading proponent in having township meetings televised. She has gathered hundreds of signatures over the past months from residents that also wish to have meetings televised. She believes that by televising meetings, it would be a great benefit to those like herself, who cannot make it easily out to a township meeting to remain active and informed about what is happening with the local government.
With this in mind and after reading my post two weeks ago about Township Committee Meeting minutes after April 5th, not being posted online on the Township website, she decided to see for herself.
Ms. Stiglin stated to me that after nearly an hour online, going over the Township’s website looking for updated meeting minutes all throughout the various webpages, she finally gave up and called the Clerk’s office for help.
With help from the Clerk’s office the minutes from the Township Committee meetings were finally located and the missing minutes after April 5th thru October have indeed been posted, just not where one would expect.
For those that wished to read the minutes of Township Committee meetings, they would first have to go to the home page of the Middletown Township website and scroll down to the tab for “Meetings”. After doing so you would be brought to the webpage with a underlined header titled “Committee Meeting Information”, it is there that you would find a tab that would have a list of previous Committee meetings dating back to December 2006 with the minutes attached.
Now, according to what those in the Clerk’s office have informed Ms. Stiglin, if people would like to have access to more current meeting minutes (those after 4/6/10) the need to follow a different path to find them.
Now, once people come to the Township’s homepage, those interested in reading meeting minutes must first have to scroll down and locate the tab for the Township Clerk on the lower left side of the website. Once you click on that tab you are brought o the Township Clerk’s page.
At the top of the page there are 5 tabs that can be accessed that will lead people to Agendas, Minutes, Public Notices, Ordinances and Resolutions . It is under these new tabs and location where information that pertains to the Township Committee can now be accessed.
The reason for this change and all the confusion I have been told, is due to the continuing upgrades to the Township’s website which is being overseen Committeewoman Brightbill, the process is taking longer than expected but hopefully will be completed soon.
My suggestion to Committeewoman Brightbill and those in the Clerk’s office that are in charge of making the upgrades to the website, would be to please post a notice/disclaimer somewhere on the homepage of Middletown’s website. This way, when members of the public go there for in search of information about the Township they would know that the website is in the process of upgrading and that certain information may have been moved to a new location or has not been added just yet. A note stating that a call to the Clerks office for help in finding information that is posted online would also be welcomed.

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>Why No Meeting Minutes Posted Over the Last Several Months?

>Here’s a question that I thought I would throw out there for someone to answer, why haven’t there been any Meeting Minutes of the Middletown Township Committee posted on the Township’s website since the April 5th, 2010 Workshop meeting?

It’s now the end of November and the next Township Workshop meeting isn’t scheduled until December 6th, 7 months after the last posting of meeting minutes and 14 meetings ago. Why the delay in posting the minutes online? I can understand a 2 month delay, the minutes from the previous meetings need to be approved at the following months get together of the Township Committee, then a little time is added for posting of the minutes to the Townships website by the Clerk, but 7 months? I think that is a bit excessive, someone should be jumping on it, to get those minutes posted in the name of transparency soon.
Transparency will be a big issue in Middletown this coming year when the Township Committee reverts back to its previous 5-0 Republican super majority that was the norm for 16 years before Patrick Short was elected in 2006 and Sean Byrnes in 2007.

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Filed under Meeting Minutes, Middletown Township Committee