Millville residents will soon be able to receive emergency alerts and other announcements from town officials via email, text or phone, rather than the current system that only sends them over the phone.
The Millville Town Council approved the purchase of a new system, called CodeRED, at its Tuesday, Jan. 26 workshop meeting, conducted virtually.
Town Manager Deborah Botchie said the system, which will cost $2,000 for the first year, is a vast improvement over the current Call-Em-All system. Botchie said residents will be able to sign themselves up to the system and receive messages on whichever platform they desire.
“This is something I’ve been looking at for a while," Botchie said. Particularly after consulting with officials in other towns, she said, “I’m excited about this, and I think the council will be, too.”
Town Clerk Matt Amerling extolled the benefits of CodeRED over the current system, which he called “annoying” in that messages the town sent out would be priced by how long they were, so the staff was always having to deal with per-minute charges and then added costs which varied according to the message length. “I had to put in more money to get more points so I could make the message longer,” Amerling said.
With the new system, the $2,000 annual fee covers all messages, no matter how long they are. With the addition of the text and email options, council members felt CodeRED is well worth the cost.
Mayor Steve Maneri said he has seen the CodeRED system used by fire companies with great success. He said the higher upfront cost — the Call-Em-All yearly cost was approximately $400 — would be a “wash considering time savings and added value of the new system."
Town Treasurer Sharon Brienza said she is “totally in favor of this,” adding that CodeRED is a “great tool that will really come in handy for all the residents.”
Barbara Ryer, Town secretary, said she foresees the town using the new system to inform residents about upcoming special events and meetings, in addition to alerting them to emergency situations.
The council also approved a measure that sets in motion stipends for members of Millville’s Planning and Zoning Commission and its Board of Adjustment.
The council has proposed paying the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission $25 per meeting that the commissioners attend, and the Board of Adjustment members $25 per meeting.
The Planning and Zoning Commission performs an increasingly important role in the town, as it experiences an unprecedented building boom. Botchie said there are at least 10 development projects on her desk, and she expects another site plan to be submitted soon.
Deputy Mayor Ronald Belinko said the P&Z commission “makes it easier for us to make decisions” by reviewing plans and making recommendations ahead of the projects being submitted for council approval.
“It’s not like the planning commission of four or five years ago when there wasn’t much going on,” Belinko said. Botchie predicted that the planning commission will be meeting more in the coming months not just because of increased development, but because of plans to revamp the town’s zoning code. She said the addition of a stipend could be accomplished largely by striking the portion of the zoning code that indicates the commission receives no compensation.
Town solicitor Seth Thompson said the council could address the matter of compensation for the two boards as early as its next meeting.
The council also voted to cancel the town’s planned hosting of the annual Sussex County Association of Towns (SCAT) dinner. Belinko, who is vice president of the municipal officials’ group, said since “there hasn’t been an improvement in terms of opening up to large gatherings” as far as state regulations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, the gathering doesn’t seem possible or safe.
Belinko said he didn’t think there were any facilities in or near Millville that could host the gathering with the required 30 percent capacity. Although the town had hoped to possibly hold the gathering in its new community building, the opening of that facility has been held off until Gov. John Carney loosens restrictions on building capacity, currently at 30 percent of regular capacity. Maneri said he agreed “that we should let it go. It’s not worth the risk.”