EDITORIAL: Our endorsements for Somerset Hills towns (Bernardsville News)

In Bedminster, two Democrats, Denise King and Jacob Caplan, are seeking to break up the all-Republican Township Committee this year. They are running against incumbent Larry Jacobs and his Republican running mate, Renee Mareski.

The Democrats are voicing a familiar theme, claiming that the majority of township residents who live in The Hills development are being under served.

The argument has been a cornerstone of the local Democratic Party for years, but doesn’t seem to have gained much traction.

That’s probably because it lacks validity. There have been several committee members who’ve either lived in The Hills while in office or resided there before serving.

Trying to motivate Hills residents makes sense politically for the Democrats. But it would also be political suicide to ignore this large population, and we don’t think the Republicans have made that mistake.

In fact, one of the two Republican candidates, Mareski, is a resident of The Hills, while the other, Jacobs, had previously lived in the development.

Caplan in particular has advocated a plan to form a “working group’’ of representatives from the of various Hills homeowners associations to study the pooling of resources for shared service contracts for possible savings.

The concept sounds good on paper. We’re not convinced, however, that the idea is of interest to the various Hills leaders who’ve been working to serve their respective communities, or whether it may not have already been tried to some extent over the years.

The Democrats are seeking a ‘’voice’’ on the committee. But in recent years we have found the committee to be open and considerate to all residents, regardless of their address.

Jacobs has been an integral part of the governing body, and we suspect may take on a larger role in the future with the retirement of Mayor Steve Parker at the end of the year. An environmental attorney and 22-year township resident, Jacobs is a proven, smart leader. We see no reason why he should be replaced.

Mareski is making her first bid for office but has been an active volunteer who currently serves as chair of the Environmental Commission. She is a longtime township resident as well who also serves on her homeowner association in The Hills.

The Republicans are part of a solid team that runs an efficient and responsive government. We support their election on Nov. 6.

LETTER: Mareski, Jacobs will keep Bedminster a ‘beautiful and secure place’

EDITOR: My wife and I have the distinct privilege of having lived in Bedminster for over 25 years. We raised three children to adulthood here.

Over the years, I have served the township as chair of the Planning Board, and then the Land Use Board; a member of the Environmental Committee; and a member of the Recreation Committee. I also enjoyed coaching Little League and the recreational basketball team.

Bedminster is a well-run and friendly place. Thanksgiving is not far off, and we in Bedminster have many blessings for which to give thanks.

It was not always this harmonious. There was a period of intense – and internecine – political strife here that lasted a few short years. The acrimony strained the town, and it was as sad as it was unnecessary. All of that has been reversed and made right, starting with the last years of former Mayor Bob Holtaway’s time as mayor, and continuing seamlessly into the current administration of Mayor Steve Parker and the
Township Committee.

At a time of year when some call for change, we must ask ourselves, change what? What is it that needs to be changed? Bedminster offers its residents many excellent amenities, and at very reasonable tax rates.

This year’s Republican candidates for Township Committee, Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski, have been an integral part of keeping Bedminster a secure and beautiful place.

Larry, a committeeman for the last six years, is a skilled attorney with a stellar reputation for his expertise in land use issues. He also has a great temperament to handle this responsibility.

Renee, currently the chair of the Bedminster Environmental Commission, is a resident of many years, who has served with distinction in her current position, and as a leader in The Hills community.

I heartily endorse Larry and Renee for Township Committee, and call upon my fellow Bedminster neighbors to do the same this election day.

BILL MOSCA JR.
Bedminster Township

LETTER: Republicans ‘have our best interests’ in Bedminster

EDITOR: I recently attended an event hosted by the Bedminster Republican Social Club. It featured speakers including Congressman Leonard Lance, Freeholder Patrick Scaglione, and local Bedminster Republican candidates Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski.

What I heard were the values I hold dear – a commitment to integrity and honesty, efficient government, property tax relief, safety and quality of life improvements like the farmers market and farm preservation.

Before I moved to town 18 years ago, I was in search of an area that provided a variety of housing options, scenic views and low taxes – a rare combination in New Jersey. Having found Bedminster, I realized I had uncovered the crown jewel of Somerset County.

But none of this happens by accident. As a professional woman, I help small and mid-size companies become high performance organizations. There are no silver bullets to help my clients achieve success. It requires a clear sense of direction, good values, outstanding service and operational excellence. Good government is no different. With the right mindset, a good strategy and outstanding talent, great results are possible.

When it comes to voting, I base my decisions on candidates that reflect my value system, as opposed to relying on the pundits and the press. This year’s crop of Republican candidates, including Senate candidate Bob Hugin, Rep. Leonard Lance, Freeholders Patrick Scaglione and Mark Caliguire, Committeeman Larry Jacobs and candidate Renee Mareski, all share a common focus on the things that matter most to me, our town and our country.

Individually and collectively, they are committed to supporting a national agenda which focuses on prosperity and safety and locally on reducing property taxes, reducing the size of government, preserving open space and ensuring that New Jersey residents receive their fair share from the federal government.

I encourage my fellow neighbors to vote for this slate of very qualified candidates who have our best interests at heart on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

DR. JOYCE AVEDISIAN-RIEDINGER
Bedminster Township

LETTER: ‘Bedminster’s future in good hands’ with Jacobs and Mareski

EDITOR: Property taxes in New Jersey are too high.

The average taxpayer in Bedminster Township pays significantly less in property taxes than our neighboring municipalities. Our 2018 tax rate is the same as it was five years ago, in Larry Jacobs’ first year on the Township Committee. This is not by accident; it comes from budget discipline, innovation and an appreciation for the taxpayer.

Jacobs is uniquely qualified as a leader on our Township Committee. Larry is the architect of the Bedminster-Bernardsville-Peapack and Gladstone shared court which has saved taxpayers over $900K in three years. Larry negotiated the five-year rate freeze when New Jersey American Water purchased EDC. This year, along with Renee Mareski, Larry created a Farmers Market in River Road Park to promote our local agriculture.

Larry and Renee value our open space and understand that the best way to preserve large farms is to make them vital and prosperous. The Farmers Market is a tremendous success because of Larry and Renee.

It has been a few years since a resident of The Hills sat on the Township Committee. This year we are fortunate to have Renee Mareski, running for the Township Committee. Renee is our Environmental Commission chair, past president of the Crestmont Home Owner’s Association and representative to the Hills Village Master Association.

Renee grew up riding horses in the Somerset Hills and worked with the Bedminster School on environmental educational programs. Renee knows The Hills and municipal government. She will be an exceptional Township Committee member.

I leave elected service to Bedminster in December after nine years on your committee and six as your mayor. I have served with some truly outstanding public servants. This current committee is the finest group during my tenure.

Bedminster’s future is in very good hands with Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski on our township committee. Good government is the result of your vote.

Please join me in voting for Larry and Renee on Nov. 6.

STEVEN E. PARKER
Bedminster Mayor

LETTER: Town-wide trash pick-up in Bedminster opposed

EDITOR: I see the Democrat candidates for Bedminster Township Committee, Jacob Caplan and Denise King, are touting town-wide garbage pickup as part of their campaign platform.

I suspect they believe that by instituting trash collection as a township service, residents should be able to realize economy of scale savings. Sounds reasonable, right? Unfortunately, the devil is in the details.

The problem with this proposal is that many of us have already independently contracted for trash pick-up, either individually or as a member of a neighborhood association. This arrangement allows residents to tailor the level of service, and thereby cost, to their needs. An individual or couple in a small condo probably doesn’t generate the same volume of trash as a large family.

I have been a resident in Bedminster since 2007. I have had the liberty to change my garbage disposal service when I wanted to, no different than changing my car insurance company. When I wanted better service and/or price, I shopped around and found what suited my family’s needs.

My wife and I grew up in Middlesex County, we also lived in Ocean County before moving to Bedminster. In those cases, we had municipal trash collection. No choice, one size, service at best effort, and rising costs that reflected higher taxes which grew periodically.

By way of another example, my friends live in a town that recently added trash pick-up as a township service – and raised their taxes accordingly. Prior to the conversion, they were paying an independent contractor a modest monthly fee for a small container. Once the township began providing the service, they were assigned a huge container that two elderly people couldn’t fill in a month of Sundays. Their cost went up accordingly, nearly doubling what they had been paying previously.

Therein lies the problem with these one size fits all approaches. You lose the ability to control your own destiny, and often wind up subsidizing your neighbors. Unless you can meter usage, as is the case with utilities, you ultimately pay for someone else’s trash.

I’d much rather support competition among multiple providers, who are incented to meet my individual needs and allow me to directly control my costs. Competition promotes better pricing and better service and puts the freedom of choice back in the consumer instead of the ever-increasing costs that will be reflected in our tax bills.

My neighborhood is filled with different trash cans from different garbage disposal companies. All making their choices on their own, for their needs, without being told how it will work with no choices of change.

I urge residents of Bedminster to consider the implications of supporting any proposal that takes the decision-making authority away from the homeowner or condo association.

I’m voting for Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski on Nov. 6, and I urge the residents of Bedminster to do the same.

ROBERTO FRAGASSI
Bedminster Township

LETTER: Jacobs and Mareski ‘lead by example’ in Bedminster

EDITOR: Recently, upon announcing the retirement of Clarence Dillon Library Director Sandy Putnam, Bedminster Mayor Steve Parker commented, “When we first hired Sandy, we were looking for a new library director. What we got was an executive.”

The same could easily be said of Committeeman Larry Jacobs. Like any business, managing the day-to-day affairs of the township requires experienced leadership, financial prowess and the trust and respect of one’s peers. Not only does Larry excel in each of these dimensions, he does so with tremendous presence and unbridled enthusiasm. He is an executive in every sense of the word.

Larry has led the committee through six years of budget work, scrutinizing every line item to protect the interests of taxpayers. The results he has delivered are unequivocal: Bedminster leads in low taxes in all of Somerset County.

His work on expanding shared services, most recently through the shared municipal court arrangement, has provided a model for how towns throughout Somerset Hills can save taxpayers money while improving service.

In addition, as the Township Committee representative on the Land Use Board, he has maintained a laser sharp focus on ensuring the health of our business corridor, so as not to place an undue tax burden on our residents.

Like every successful leader, Larry is never content with the status quo. His vision for a meaningful quality of life improvement became a reality this spring with the launch of the Bedminster Farmers Market. Not only has the market proven to be an overwhelming success, it has become an opportunity for the community to gather together every Saturday morning.

Enter Renee Mareski. As chair of the Environmental Commission, Renee and her team mobilized to launch and provide ongoing support to the Farmers Market. She has also championed many forward reaching initiatives, including educational programs – e.g., Moth Night, Bat Night – school outreach and, most recently, a grant to install electric vehicle charging stations at the municipal building.

As a 20-year resident of The Hills, Renee has been actively involved in her Homeowner’s Association, both as former president of the Crestmont Association and, most recently, as the Crestmont representative to The Hills Village Master Association. She also volunteers in the local community, serving as a horse riding instructor for children with special needs. Renee is “all in.”

Bedminster is a better place because of the tireless contributions Larry and Renee make to our town. They have dedicated their time and energy to municipal service, and can leverage their deep experience to address the challenges and issues that will confront us in the years to come.

Come Nov. 6, I strongly encourage you to vote for the team that leads by example – Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski.

R. COLIN HICKEY
Committeeman
Bedminster Township

LETTER: Jacobs, Mareski backed in Bedminster

EDITOR: With campaign season upon us, I’m hearing a lot of chatter about the role of homeowners associations (HOAs).

Here in Bedminster, we have at least 21 separate and independent HOAs, each of which represent an individual neighborhood. These HOAs manage, among other things, the budget, capital planning, landscaping, construction and snow removal for each neighborhood.

On a regular basis, an open election is held for positions on each HOA board, and any resident may run for office in their particular neighborhood. HOAs represent the most local and direct form of government – they are managed by, and comprised of, your immediate neighbors.

Your monthly homeowner’s dues are based on the ability of your individual HOA to manage its budget, plan carefully and hire effectively. Good decisions keep monthly dues and any special assessments low.

Conversely, poor management decisions can needlessly drive up costs and deliver poor services. The good news is, residents have a say. If you don’t like the way things are being run, vote for change.

Here in Parkside, that’s exactly what we did. After watching our neighborhood languish for years, I decided to run for – and was elected to – the Parkside HOA. We changed our management company and most of our vendors, including those handling porter service/maintenance, trash and snow removal. We focused on collecting back dues and made affordable payment plans to help people catch up – and significantly improved our budget as a result.

We prioritized capital improvements, which included repaving our parking lots, fixing drainage and repairing sidewalks. We have begun to phase in landscaping updates, one area at a time, as our budget allows, and cut down on the little expenses that can add up: postage, printing and service calls. And we have done all of this without increasing maintenance fees or assessing the unit owners.

The results are there for all to see – our neighborhood is once again a highly desirable place to live.

The Township Committee, for its part, has done an excellent job over the years of supporting our needs as Hills residents and HOA members. They’ve helped us reduce expenses for critical items, particularly, hydrant maintenance and electric power for streetlights.

But in doing so, the municipality has also been steadfast in its desire to never interfere with the operations of the individual neighborhood associations.

By comparison, it is my understanding that the Democrat candidates, Jacob Caplan and Denise King, have publicly indicated that they would like to somehow insert themselves into our day-to-day management decisions.

The folks best capable of managing the unique needs of each neighborhood are the residents themselves, not bureaucrats.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski have made it a cornerstone of their platform to support the needs of the HOAs without compromising their autonomy or independence. I hope you’ll join me on Nov. 6 in voting for them for Bedminster Township Committee.

MICHELE HOFFMAN
Bedminster Township

LETTER: Democrats’ half-baked park plan in Bedminster blasted

EDITOR: I returned home the other day to find campaign literature left by the two Democrat candidates for Bedminster Township Committee, Jacob Caplan and Denise King.

Their first bullet point proposes building a park on the state Department of Transportation (DOT) site opposite the entrance to Hills Drive.

Are they serious?

Years ago, a developer had considered acquiring that land for redevelopment and providing the DOT with an alternate location for its maintenance yard. Rightly so, that proposal was met with a chilly reception from residents of The Hills, and was swiftly rejected.

This issue has been dead for years. Now it seems the Bedminster Democrats want to reopen that proverbial can of worms.

To my knowledge, the DOT site is currently in productive use and is not for sale. Regardless, the Bedminster Democrats propose acquiring it and building a new park at this location for use by Hills residents, of which I am one.

This plan is ill-conceived and severely flawed, as follows:

The location has been used for many years for road maintenance and material storage. It is now considered contaminated, so any alternate use would require costly site remediation. Why would the taxpayers – we, the residents of Bedminster – ever want to take on the burden of this toxic clean-up?

The site has no pedestrian access, as it is located at the busiest intersection in town. The thought of parents or children attempting to cross Routes 202 and 206 at the jug handle on foot is a frightening proposition. As this is a state-owned highway, the township has no control over right-of-way or the ability to construct alternate access, e.g., a flyover bridge.

If constructed, this park would be an inaccessible island unto itself, surrounded by a moat of highways and byways.

There are already two pedestrian-accessible parks located adjacent to The Hills, Burnt Mills Park and Pluckemin School House Park. These are both less than three-tenths of a mile from the DOT site, and provide 15 acres of recreational space, including athletic fields, basketball and volleyball courts, playgrounds, a dog park and pavilions.

Caplan and King propose using the Open Space Trust Fund to finance the transaction, as if it were free money. The Open Space Fund is taxpayer money, and the use of those funds for land acquisition is subject to open public meetings, where residents have the opportunity to participate in the evaluation process alongside professional planners and preservation experts – the type of meeting at which this exact proposal was considered and rejected several years ago.

Investments of this magnitude should not be mandated by empty campaign promises.

Towns cannot condemn and seize state-owned land, and any purchase or condemnation of the DOT site would likely cost tenfold or more than what currently exists in the Open Space Trust Fund, let alone the costs for demolition of the existing structures, decontamination and then construction of a park.

In short, this proposal is no walk in the park. Instead, it is a half-baked plan by two candidates sorely out of touch with reality and fiscal responsibility. If this is the Bedminster Democrats’ leading proposal, I hesitate to think what else Caplan and King have in store for Bedminster taxpayers should they ever be elected.

SEAN BLINN
Bedminster Township

LETTER: Stick ‘with what is working’ in Bedminster

EDITOR: The current Bedminster Township Committee and administration have and continue to serve our community very well.

Services are provided with quality and professionalism and at more than fair costs to taxpayers. There are always exceptions, but I strongly recommend that voters move beyond any single issue and consider all that is exceptional with living in Bedminster.

Issues facing our federal and state governments are not in the control of local officials and need to be discounted in local voting decisions.

I offer the above assessment based on 45 years as a independent Bedminster resident and 25 years of municipal public service, including 12 years as a committeeperson and three as mayor. And as someone who has monitored Bedminster operations and taxing over the years.

I strongly support sticking, in this case, with what is working; there is no need for change at the local level.

Vote on Nov. 6 for Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski for Bedminster Township Committee.

JOSEPH H. METELSKI
Bedminster Township

LETTER: Renee Mareski and Larry Jacobs are ‘best candidates’ for Bedminster

EDITOR: As the seasons change, Bedminster becomes an even more special and unique place to live.

This autumn, residents can visit the Farmers’ Market each Saturday at River Road Park and other nearby great events such as the Raritan Headwaters’ Old Fashioned Country Fair on Sunday, Oct. 7, the Far Hills Race Meeting on Saturday, Oct. 20, and of course, our Bedminster Charities’ Fall Fest on Saturday, Oct. 27.

Whether on the Hike and Bike Trail or enjoying the spectacular backdrop of the Somerset Hills – Bedminster is quite beautiful and bucolic.

Maintaining Bedminster’s rural character, agricultural integrity and the ability to enjoy our open space continues to be of utmost importance to the Township Committee as well as our residents.

Our Township Committeeman Larry Jacobs and our Environmental Chair Renee Mareski have both worked diligently, along with our township team and Environmental Commission, to ensure that we stay true to our township’s rural, recreational, agricultural and equestrian roots while making improvements in Bedminster that matter to our residents.

Both Larry and Renee first served as volunteers for Bedminster on boards and commissions before assuming their present leadership roles and since that time, they have both been extremely dedicated to Bedminster.

By serving as volunteers in that capacity, they were able to learn how Bedminster works organizationally, structurally and, very importantly, financially. This foundation has absolutely been a key element in Larry and Renee’s continued success as leaders in our community.

The challenges Bedminster will face in the future, both budgetary and otherwise, will require the experience and knowledge that Larry and Renee already possess and utilize on our behalf on a daily basis. They have both forged crucial relationships throughout our community, such as with our school board, our township staff, members of our volunteer boards and commissions, and our neighboring communities.

These relationships are imperative as we seek to implement additional shared service opportunities, which will continue to translate into savings for our residents.

It is this background, experience and knowledge of Bedminster that make Larry and Renee truly the best candidates for Township Committee.

I am very proud to work with them as colleagues and hope that you will join me in supporting Larry and Renee for Bedminster Township Committee on Nov. 6.

STACI SANTUCCI
Bedminster Township
Committeewoman