Byram suspends officer for social media comment, recommends parks plan

Byram. The officer’s badge and weapon were revoked pending an investigation. The council has also recommended adopting the proposed parks and recreation plan, which includes detailed new maps, expanded trails, and an economic development strategy.

| 23 Jun 2020 | 04:09

A Byram police officer who allegedly made an inappropriate comment on social media was immediately suspended, said Mayor Alexander Rubenstein at the township’s June 16 meeting.

Reading from a statement, Rubenstein said the officer was suspended pending an investigation and is prohibited from entering the township premises. His credentials, badge, and weapon were revoked, he said.

The township’s administrators and council members do no tolerate any form of racism or prejudice, and strive to provide services fairly to all residents, said the mayor.

Rubenstein said the township is also following the strict due process guidelines set down by the New York Civil Service Commission. The council will make no further public comment on the matter until it is resolved, he said.

Parks and recreation plan adopted

The council unanimously recommended that the planning board adopt Greener By Design’s parks and recreation plan as an element in the township’s Master Plan.

Greener by Design representative Benjamin Spinelli, Esq., reviewed the plan, which is the culmination of around 18 months of work. It includes a ten-year update of the township’s open space and recreation plan, a long-term asset management plan, an expansion plan for the township’s multi-trails system, and an economic development strategy.

Councilman Raymond Bonker said production of the document was financed by an $80,000 Highlands Council grant. The plan includes an executive summary, new detailed maps, long-term maintenance spreadsheets, and an extensive list of funding sources, he said.

Spinelli said the new maps will inform the township about regulatory requirements and help with future plans. The information includes a complete inventory of assets, an assessment of equipment and fields, recommendations for forest stewardship, and a budgeting tool for replacement and upkeep.

In the fall, Greener by Design will provide branding materials – logo, promotional video, and print materials – to support economic development and marketing outreach, including photos and drone footage for the township’s website.

In other business:
Township building to fully reopen on June 29: Following Gov. Phil Murphy’s latest orders, the municipal building opened to the public on June 15. For two weeks, visit will be by appointment only. Full opening will start on Monday, June 29. Township Manager Joe Sabatini said the public must wear face coverings, observe social distancing, and not enter the building with fever or illness. He recommended doing as much business online or by mail as possible. Estimated tax bills will be sent out shortly, he said, and residents may pay third-quarter taxes online. In addition, residents may use one of the drop boxes at the building.
Outdoor dining: Sabatini said outdoor dining started on June 16. A temporary special-use application, which doesn’t require a fee, offers relief for restaurants.
Outdoor sports: Sabatini said lacrosse, soccer, baseball, and softball were set to open June 22 with no-contact requirements. All sporting organizations must fill out a temporary special-use application to access township fields, and submit a plan on how they will meet the requirements. Officials hope there will be fewer restrictions by July 6.
Chickens at single-family residences: The council agreed, with Councilman Harvey Roseff opposed, to adopt an ordinance allowing up to five female chickens at single-family residences. A public hearing on the ordinance will be held on July 6. Roseff suggested getting planning board approval, while Councilman Raymond Bonker suggested waiving the variance process.
Forgivable small business loans: Councilwoman Cris Franco said forgivable loans for up to $10,000 are available for New Jersey small businesses with three to 30 employees. The business must be based in New Jersey, have operated for at least one year, and owned and operated by a New Jersey resident.
Patriotism Week: Councilman Jack Gallagher said the recreation department encourages residents to decorate their houses and yards in red, white, and blue from July 1 to 11.
Forest stewardship contract: The township entered into a professional services agreement with Gracie & Harrigan Consulting Foresters. The work authorizes forest stewardship work on open space parcels at a cost not to exceed $6,250. Roseff opposed the measure, citing budget squeezes across the state. Bonker said a potential timber sale would actually increase revenue to the township, and that the foresters’ work will be paid for with dedicated open space funds.
Hazardous trees: The township entered into a professional services agreement with SavATree Consulting Group, at a cost not to exceed $10,000, for a hazardous trees inventory and risk assessment. The work will be paid for with a 2019 Stewardship Grant.