When he first tackled the idea of joining the Community Rating System, Mark Pasquali admits he was daunted by the “650-page manual of instructions.” The Superintendent of the Department of Public Works for Roselle Park, New Jersey, soon realized, however, that the community was already doing a lot of CRS-credited activities. “With invaluable help from James Watt of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection,” Pasquali says, “I worked my way through the CRS Coordinator’s Manual and found that it was a simple matter of systematically documenting these activities.”
For example, the stormwater drainage system has always been important in this 13,500-person borough in the urbanized eastern part of the state. But with participation in the CRS, the community is taking a more systematic approach to cleaning, tracking, and recording the maintenance of its 680 catch basins, designed to modulate the rate of runoff during and after rain. The borough earns CRS credit points for both its management of stormwater and maintenance of its drainage system.
“The deeper understanding of flooding issues we have gained by participating in the CRS has generated ideas for improvements in our systems, too,” Pasquali notes. Roselle Park is developing a procedure for evaluating the water mains and the lateral connections to individual homeowner’s properties. The Department of Public Works will then be cleaning these out on a regular basis, in hopes of avoiding overloading and backups in the system, especially during flooding. This new approach necessitated the purchase of a camera truck and a vacuum apparatus, an expenditure that the city council may not have approved before the CRS.
Public Awareness Grows
Roselle Park entered the CRS in 2015 as a Class 8 community, but already local officials and citizens have an overall better awareness and understanding of floodplain management, the National Flood Insurance Program, and other flooding issues that they didn’t have before.
Mayor Carl Hokanson and the City Council have enthusiastically supported Roselle Park’s participation in the CRS. Besides approving upgrades in equipment and procedures such as those for the drainage system, the mayor sent out a newsletter to citizens encouraging them to drop by the Department of Public Works for flood zone determinations and other information about flooding and flood insurance.
“The Mayor and Council have endorsed the numerous handouts and other items the staff has developed to distribute to the public,” Pasquali explained, “and their buy-in has helped a lot.”
Support from the State of New Jersey
Roselle Park gets a boost from the state, too. The Borough receives CRS credit points for state laws that mandate disclosure of the flood hazard during property sales. All New Jersey CRS communities are eligible for this credit, as well as for statewide requirements that new buildings be set one foot above the base flood elevation, state regulations for erosion and sediment control and water quality, statewide building codes, and other standards.
Beyond this, the state makes sure Roselle Park and other CRS communities realize a financial benefit from being in the CRS. Beginning in 2015, participation in the CRS is one of the state’s “50 Best Practices.” Under this program, the state determines how much of the state-collected energy taxes and other fees will flow back to the municipality. Each year, a municipality inventories its best practices on a spreadsheet of 50 undertakings the state considers to be part of conscientious local government. Item number 8 on the 2015 inventory is participation in the CRS, with the note that “a municipality’s participation in the NFIP’s Community Rating System can lead to significant flood insurance premium reductions for its homeowners.”
“Because of CRS,” Pasquali says, “Roselle Park will receive more money from this state program.”