Question 3: Verona has many infrastructure issues that require immediate attention. Which ones would you focus on first and why, and what would be the benefits of doing so?
As part of my campaign, I have knocked on over 700 residents’ doors. In the course of conversations with hundreds of residents, the one infrastructure issue that I have heard time and again is the frequent flooding of basements. I have even had residents show me videos of how their streets became rivers during last August’s epic rainfall. At one town council meeting I attended, a resident on East Reid Place expressed his continued frustration with sewage coming into his house during every significant rainfall. He was extremely frustrated that our local government could not rectify this situation.
We need to invest in infrastructure projects that relate to stormwater management. Flooded basements – with rainwater, and at times sewage – have only increased in Verona in recent years. This is damaging to businesses, and extremely disruptive and costly to residents. Intense rainfalls and storms are only going to increase due to changes in the environment, and flooding is likely to be further exacerbated by development in our area. Our winters and springs are projected to be wetter and wetter. We need to be prepared for – and address – this future reality.
Anything related to the sewers and stormwater will be costly, which is why, as part of my platform, I recommend that we create a strategic plan for prioritization of these projects. In addition, we should develop a map identifying flooding “hot spots” in the town – houses where residents have experienced flooded basements recently – so that we can truly understand which sections of town need to be most urgently addressed. For example, development in Cedar Grove is already impacting residents in the FN Brown section of town, and these issues will only worsen as the development continues. Using the data gathered through this process, and with the consultation of experts, we can develop a multi-year plan to ensure that our infrastructure addresses future needs.
However, we should look beyond what we need to do underground and consider investing in stormwater management techniques that are a “green” way to address this issue. The volunteers on the Environmental Commission and Sustainable Verona Committee are already up-to-speed on many solutions to stormwater management that involve vegetation and use of pervious paving materials. There are many innovative solutions, such as “green” roofs, that the township could consider implementing on municipal-owned buildings and property, as well as requirements that could be incentivized or made mandatory for any new construction in the township. Improving communication with residents is one of the key elements of my platform, and in that respect, the township should have forums and share suggestions with individual homeowners on how they can help protect their own homes from flooding through innovative landscape designs.
We must address stormwater management head on, so that we don’t continue to suffer the negative and disruptive effects of our changing environment.