Viola elected to serve as Colts Neck mayor for 2021; Buss joins governing body


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COLTS NECK – Township Committeeman Michael Viola will serve as Colts Neck’s mayor for 2021 following his election to that one-year position during the Jan. 2 reorganization meeting of the governing body.

In Colts Neck’s form of government, residents do not directly elect a mayor. Each January, the Township Committee members select one person on the governing body to serve as mayor for the year.

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As the reorganization meeting began, Viola and Tara Torchia Buss were sworn in to begin serving three-year terms. Viola is starting his second term and Buss is starting her first term on the governing body.

Viola and Buss are joined on the Township Committee by Deputy Mayor J.P. Bartolomeo,
Committeewoman Sue Fitzpatrick and Committeeman Frank Rizzuto. Republicans hold all five seats on the committee.

In a look back at 2020, Viola said, “Last year threw one surprise after another and Colts Neck has been able to respond quickly, effectively and safely. In late March and in late November, municipal offices were closed to the public due to the (coronavirus) pandemic.

“Colts Neck’s municipal government moved seamlessly to conducting its business (in a virtual manner) without issue. I commend the township administrator, Kathleen Capristo, our municipal staff, professionals and contractors for their can-do, will-do attitude,” he said.

“In 2021, we will continue to work through affordable housing mandates and
the execution of the March 2020 (affordable housing) settlement agreements. Though much work remains, we are nearing the final implementation of the agreements with a completeness hearing scheduled for the first quarter of 2021, where we will seek a judgement of compliance and repose,” Viola said.

“Following a successful completeness hearing, the township plans to undertake a ‘Visioning Project’ for the business district, seeking input from commercial landowners, residents,
the business association and Naval Weapons Station Earle personnel to help identify, quantify and prioritize the commercial amenities that will best serve the residents of Colts Neck well into the future,” he said.

“Our commitment to fiscal discipline is unwavering. Maintaining rigid control of the municipal tax rate is a core tenant of the leadership of Colts Neck and continues undeterred. In 2019 and 2020, the Colts Neck municipal tax rate remained flat and our bond rating was AA+. We will continue to operate an efficient and effective municipal government, scrutinizing all expenses while investing wisely into our physical assets.

“To help us control costs, we will continue to explore all shared services opportunities and will continue to partner with Monmouth County. Thank you to the leadership and employees of Monmouth County who have developed a best in class shared services partnership.

“In January 2020, the Township Committee proudly unveiled the renderings, timelines and funding objectives for a new municipal building that will house police headquarters, municipal offices and a flexible multi-purpose meeting room that will accommodate
the municipal court and various public meetings,” Viola said.

“Though delayed by COVID, the building project will move forward in early 2021. We will continue deliberate, strategic, affordable and necessary investment into our physical assets such as town hall, the new municipal building and our recreation assets.

“Road repaving projects will continue, as will investing into the community center at Bucks Mill Park, reopening and connecting our hiking trails, and the development of a long-term vision for Five Point Park. The township will seek all available grants to help offset costs and hold the line on taxes,” the mayor said.

“In 2021, we will enhance and improve communication. As the township website is the most up-to-date and cost-effective means of communication, we plan a deep dive into the website with the formation of a Communication Task Force with the objective of releasing an enhanced vehicle for communication of all township information.

“Considerations include ‘Committee’s Corner’ updates posted by members of the governing body and an e newsletter opt in feature so updates from the township are automatically delivered to email inboxes.

“In 2020, the committee made a commitment to a more sustainable future, In October, the committee unanimously resolved to join Sustainable Jersey, which provides information, guidance and funding via grants to municipalities for a more sustainable future. To advise the committee on applicable sustainable opportunities, the committee is forming a Green Team advisory committee.

“Finally, to simply say thank you to Colts Neck’s first responders is insufficient. I would like to take this time to thank the Colts Neck Police Department led by Chief Paul Santucci,” Viola said.

In other business, Bartolomeo and Viola were appointed to the Planning Board as representatives of the Township Committee. Department of Public Works Director Louis Bader was appointed to a one-year term. Robert Lutkewitte and Vito Viola were appointed to four-year terms. Gregory Penczak and Scott Stanford were appointed to two-year terms as alternate members.

And, Justine Buzzetta and Robert Mahoney were appointed to four-year terms on the Zoning Board of Adjustment. John Maguire was appointed to a two-year term as an alternate member.

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