The township of North Bergen had a reason to give thanks two days before Thanksgiving when it received a complete Geographic Information System from the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC).
The NJMC provides zoning and deals with certain types of funding for parts of the 14 municipalities within the Meadowlands region.
The NJMC made a presentation at the regularly scheduled Board of Commissioners' meeting Tuesday, which drew rave reviews and looks of approval and astonishment from the elected officials in the council chambers.
As part of the NJMC's Municipal Assistance Program, each of the 14 municipalities within the commission's district received the computer system.
The GIS system is filled with pertinent information, such as digitalized aerial maps with tax information for every single location; parcel and zoning information; the assessed property value for each location; where potentially hazardous materials are stored; owner and tenant information on residences, and information about the township's roads and thoroughfares.
As part of the program, North Bergen received one main computer workstation that came equipped with vast amount of information and one laptop that other towns have been setting up with either its office of emergency management or the emergency medical services department.
Also, the NJMC will come to North Bergen to provide training to township employees.
"It's a gateway to access a wide variety of geographic information," a presenter said.
With each step that GIS Specialist Eric Yadlovski made in the presentation and seeing examples of how the system works, it was evident that the members of the Board of Commissioners were nodding in approval. They were unanimously impressed with the demonstration.
"This technology is state-of-the-art, provides emergency personnel with life-saving information, and comes at no cost to North Bergen taxpayers," said NJMC Chairwoman Susan Bass Levin, also the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner. "This is another example of the Meadowlands Commission's commitment to providing outstanding service to our municipalities, whether it is through grants, technical assistance, or access to equipment and information."
The Meadowlands Commission allocated $25,000 to each of the 14 municipalities for the program, but if North Bergen had tried to purchase the software and hired an outside consulting firm to input all the GIS information, the cost would have been an estimated five times higher.
The GIS information will not be available to the general public, only township employees who will receive an access password.
The information compiled by the NJMC comes from public records, such as tax records and the United States Census. But it still makes it much easier for township employees to now access the information at the click of a computer mouse.
North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco was definitely impressed with the presentation and was very thankful.
"There was a time that the relationship between the Meadowlands Commission and the towns was contentious at best," Sacco said. "Every meeting seemed to be nothing more than problematic. But things have certainly changed over the years. The commission is dealing with the needs of the residents and the relationship has been very positive. The Meadowlands Commission and its leadership should be commended for their efforts on behalf of our residents."
The GIS program is operated and continuously updated by the members of the NJMC's computer expert staff.
"GIS technology allows us to incorporate efficient government tools into our Meadowlands municipalities," said NJMC Executive Director Robert Ceberio. "Now North Bergen can tap into our high-speed mapping database and use this information for planning, safety and other important municipal issues."
The NJMC has been inputting the necessary information since 2003 and has been presenting the GIS systems to the other participating municipalities since that time. The information for the North Bergen program was started earlier this year. Lyndhurst and Kearny are also slated to receive their systems in the coming weeks. Jersey City will get its GIS system early in 2007.
"It's extremely helpful and will save us a lot of work in the long run," Sacco said.
Other commissioners' meeting news
In other township business:
· The commissioners approved a host of private vendor contracts, ranging from tree care, computer purchases and automobile service and repair, to phone bills, for a total of $3.8 million.
· The commissioners passed a resolution that the township's tax collectors can take all necessary steps to impose a tax lien on Green Star Equities, the owners of the property located at 125 Hillcrest Place, because there allegedly has been an accumulation of litter and debris at the site. The owners had apparently been contacted by the North Bergen Department of Health about cleaning up the site. The Department of Public Works then went to the site and cleaned up the debris, billing the owner, but officials said the bill has not been paid.
· The township granted a clothing allowance of $200 each to the workers of the Department of Public Works.
· The commissioners adopted an amended resolution that will authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages in the township on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve beginning at 9 a.m. on just those dates. - Jim Hague