Top Issues Ahead for the New Year
Many of the major news stories and issues of local concern in the township will continue into 2013.
Many of the major issues of 2012 certainly won't be disappearing when the pages of the calendar turn into 2013.
There was the power outage we all knew would accompany Hurricane Sandy, but which turned out to be longer and more all-encompassing even than we feared. After three major outages in the past two years, residents are left wondering what lies ahead — and how to prepare for what seems like the inevitable.
Meanwhile, after more than a year, the Bernards Township Planning Board still is immersed in examining the long-running saga about the future of the Millington Quarry, although testimony seems to be wrapped up at this time. Once the Planning Board makes its recommendation on the quarry's so-called rehabilitation plan, the proposal moves before the Township Committee for final approval — or disapproval.
A proposal to build a mosque in Bernards Township seemed a bit of a surprise. But should it have been, given the growing diversity of Basking Ridge, and surrounding communities? But the proposed location especially has raised the hackles of nearby residents.
Meanwhile, consequences from Sandy continue to leave an impact. Recently, school officials said they are waiting to find out whether the expensive storm will reduce state aid for schools in the upcoming year.
Here are ten of the major issues that Basking Ridge is likely to face in the upcoming year:
Will there be more prolonged power outages in 2013?
Following power outages of a week or longer for many residents during Hurricane Irene and the October snowstorm in 2011, most people were resigned to at least a few days without power as the state awaited Hurricane Sandy this Oct. 29. But the complete blackout in Basking Ridge and nearby Bernardsville, devastating tree damage and damage to wires, poles and transformers was breathtaking. Now, with poles weakened and winter just starting, it's hard not to wonder when the next outage might occur.
How will the township plan for power outages?
Officials already are discussing acquiring a better generator to keep the town hall at 1 Collyer Lane up and running even if power is out. And incoming Township Mayor Carolyn Gaziano said that the courtroom used for many township meetings is being eyed for a renovation that also would allow the space to be used as a command center or warming spot if necessary.
How will JCP&L respond to complaints about its service?
Officials and residents from Basking Ridge and the region had an opportunity to give feedback on how they felt Jersey Central Power & Light had prepared for and performed during Sandy at a meeting held in December by the state Board of the Public Utilities and attended by JCP&L's president. The ball now is in JCP&L's court for responding to requests for improved reliability and communications.
Will Ridge High School's traffic problems be solved in 2013?
Since last February, Ridge school buses have been diverted through the parking lot at Cedar Hill Elementary School, and walking in through the back of the high school. Homestead Village residents have been up in arms since — and a task force is now assigned to come up with a long-term solution.
What will be the future of the Millington Quarry?
The Millington Quarry's proposal to make a longtime quarrying operation into land usable for potential residential development may have spread over more than a year of long and technical hearings. But it won't be over even when the Planning Board decides to make a recommendation. Then the board's recommendation will be dissected by the Township Committee. At stake: the future of a large property that could become home to a planned residential development by a lake.
Will a mosque be built in Liberty Corner village?
The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge has proposed construction of a mosque of just over 4,000 square feet on Church Street in downtown Liberty Corner. The plan has inspired signs of "Preserve Liberty Corner" as some residents oppose the location and question estimates for numbers of worshippers who would attend services at a future mosque, if approved. But the applicant said that the plan meets all zoning requirements.
Will township schools have sufficient funding to continue ongoing programs?
Although full-day kindergarten and other programs have been preserved with an uptick in state aid in recent years, school officials are waiting to see if the state's expensive clean-up after Sandy will result in a reduction of the state's contribution for local school funding in 2013.
Will Diwali become a school holiday?
The Board of Education has heard repeated requests to make the Indian festival of Diwali into a school holiday. The board has promised to re-examine the entire school calendar — which this year already extends into late June — before making a decision.
Will the arts continue to flourish in Basking Ridge and the Somerset Hills?
The local ARTSee tour was held again this fall, and the Farmstead Arts has continued to host arts exhibits and programs. Will the momentum continue into 2013?
What will happen to local real estate this year?
The local real estate market had an active year in 2012, apparently picking up somewhat from previous years. But will the economy hold into the New Year, and will interest rates stay low?