Inside Your Town

Town council asked to consider new rules governing liquor licenses and trees

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - New rules that would give added responsibilities to establishments with liquor licenses are being considered in one Warren County, N.J., town, as are guidelines for determining tree hazards.

Phillipsburg Town Council heard presentations from the Municipal Alliance and Shade Tree Commission Tuesday night at a workshop session.

Both sets of proposals will be studied by council, with quicker action more likely on the tree hazard guidelines.

Municipal Alliance coordinator Donald T. Kophazy Jr. suggested five amendments to the town's liquor license ordinance that would affect a total of 26 clubs, bars and liquor stores.

The changes include having licensees become certified in a program called TIPS, which stands for Training for Intervention Procedures. The program aims to educate beverage servers on the importance of not serving alcohol to anyone under 21, according to an information packet given to council.

The proposed changes would also require each establishment to have three employees certified within six months of acquiring or renewing a license, and have any current or future employee under 21 certified in three months.

License owners would not be allowed to distribute alcohol between 2 and 10 a.m. every day, including New Year's Day, and they would have to provide a list of all employees before a license could be acquired or renewed.

If Phillipsburg would adopt the amendments, it would be "setting the mold" for other municipalities in New Jersey, Kophazy said.

Council president Bernie Fey Jr. reacted to the proposal by saying, "I think you're on the right track with this, but we have to tweak this to make it work. ... A lot of research would have to be done  [to] make sure we don't overstep our bounds."

When Mayor Harry Wyant pointed out that there are establishments in town that have been opening at 7 or 8 a.m. for years, Fey added, "We can't be telling business establishments, 'Now you have to change your hours.' That's not business friendly."

Municipal Alliance chairperson Bob Coyle said the program would not be a burden on businesses because the training would be provided for free.

He added that businesses involved with TIPS could expect to pay lower insurance premiums. "That's a plus," Coyle noted.

At Fey's request, Kophazy said he would try to determine just how much in insurance savings a license holder could expect. "That's going to be a factor in getting support from businesses," Fey pointed out.

Council members and the mayor also said questions would have to be resolved about how such a revised ordinance would be enforced.

After the meeting, Kophazy said he had been working on the proposal for about six months.

The Municipal Alliance has 10 to 15 members and receives $12,000 in funding from the state and a total of $3,000 from the town council and school board, Kophazy added.

Shade Tree Commission secretary Dawn Silfer presented the risk ratings the group would like to use for determining tree hazards.

A 1 work priority rating would require immediate removal of a tree, she said.

A 2 rating would require pruning, while a 3 rating would require a re-evaluation within a year.

A 4 rating would mean no further action is necessary.

Silfer said a number of complaints about hazardous trees "have been put on the back burner until we could [come up with] these uniform rules."

Silfer noted that she, along with council member John Lynn and commission members Michael Muckle and William Hann, have been trained in a state program known as CORE, which teaches people how to assess tree hazards.

Having four people who are CORE certified "gives some credibility to these [proposed] rules and regulations," Silfer said.

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