MANCHESTER – The township did relatively well with their annual Best Practices review that the municipality underwent recently.
Township Business Administrator Carl Block and Chief Financial Officer Diane Lapp spoke to the governing body and the public about the process and the results of the review during a recent council meeting.
“I had to sign off on it,” Block said, noting that the review from the State Department of Community Affairs involved a number of survey questions, some of which didn’t apply to Manchester.
“We ended up with 38 ½ out of 50. Some of the questions were like ‘did you submit the budget on time’ and the answer was no, you had a new administration, business administrator, mayor and council so some of it seemed a bit trite. Others were a bit wonky like ‘Do you have electrical vehicle charging stations,’” Block added.
“The Best Practices report was started to make sure government does all the fiscally responsible things they should and they seem to be branching out to enforce policies,” he said. “There are some we got that are not of real consequence.”
Lapp elaborated saying, “the budget wasn’t introduced on time and there is another practice within the New Jersey administrative code where they would like to see improvement in how we do our capital improvement program. So they are asking if we having a moving multi-year plan and schedule for capital projects including prospective finance sources and first year operating costs and savings.”
“I answered ‘no’ to that but in fact with our water and sewer infrastructure we have developed a 10-year moving plan. I just didn’t feel that we had it in our general capital plan yet so I feel that next year, if they ask that question, we will be able to say ‘yes,’” Lapp added.
Lapp added, “the charging stations I had to say ‘no’ and we lost a point. A lot of them were survey questions of how we are moving forward with lead remediation. There were grants that were offered this year that we did get a grant, but I do not feel that we have a lot of that in town for the older homes and all.”
She said the questions concerned a number of recycling inquiries. Lapp said the costs there “in every municipality is going up astronomically so they are trying to find out if you are going out to bid. Yes, we are going out to bid but guess what, we got one bid. We need someone to pick it up.”
Lapp said the DCA asked for details about personnel practices. “We are a member of the Ocean County Insurance Fund and we are required to do mandatory training for certain things and we are also required to do a mandatory every other year update of our personnel manual.”
Council Vice President James Vaccaro asked if the Best Practices survey “touched on cyber security?”
“Cyber security has become an extremely dangerous issues for municipalities especially years ago when some towns were getting access to the ransomware … so the state of New Jersey has formed a cyber security joint insurance fund. Manchester is partaking in it and our IT department is working with the new vendors to go through our firewalls and things like that,” Lapp responded. “We are very proactive when it comes to cyber security.”
Councilwoman Michele Zolezi noted that the Best Practices questionnaire “is for all the municipalities so a lot of it may not be applicable and some questions are for more urban areas – specifically the lead questions.”
“That became a big issue this year. They put so much money aside. I think we got $25,000 in a grant whether we are going to be able to use it I don’t know. It pays for some inspectors.”
“For older buildings it is an issue because of the use of lead paint. A lot of the Manchester homes were built at a time when lead paint was already outlawed so you don’t see many but you do see some and we are trying to address that,” Block said.
Lapp said the scoring on this report required “you having a minimum of 29 or you start losing your last portion of state aid. By the fact that we had 38 ½ we were above the amount so we will get 100 percent of our final portion of state aid.”
“This will be up on our website manchestertwp.com if you want to read the questions and see. Go under finance and they will have the archives for the Best Practices and will also have the audit on there and budget and the annual financial statement,” Lapp added.