Posted Friday, May 11th, 2012

Morris County Freeholder Gene Feyl has submitted his letter of resignation from the freeholder board to become Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Council.  Feyl’s resignation is effective midnight May 12.

“My tenure as a member of the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders has been among the most rewarding of my 40 years in public service,” Feyl wrote in his resignation letter.

Feyl, a former Denville mayor, joined the freeholder board in January 2007. He was the board’s deputy director in 2008 and was elected director in 2009 and again in 2010.

“Gene has been a great colleague,” said Freeholder William Chegwidden, this year’s director. “He brought common sense to the board in its decision making. He will be missed.”

As a member of the Freeholder Budget Subcommittee, Feyl was a believer that the county budget was more than dollars and cents.

“Our budget is a planning document that brings to life our vision for the county for not just one year, but for several years to come,” Feyl said.  He noted that since 2008, the cumulative tax effort, inclusive of both the county operating budget and the Preservation Trust Fund budget, has decreased by more than $400,000.

Feyl also served as freeholder liaison to the Department of Public Works and the Division of Transportation.

As transportation liaison, he and the county’s Board of Transportation were instrumental in having NJ TRANSIT restore several of the Morris County Metro bus routes the agency had originally said it was eliminating.

Feyl was a member of the Freight Railroad Advisory Committee who promoted the use of freight rail as a means of getting trucks off of our highways.

He advocated the rehabilitation of the county-owned rail line known as the Chester Branch, which extends from Wharton to Roxbury, using more than $5 million of federal stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“If we are to relieve congestion on our highways, mitigate air pollution and move people and goods rapidly, efficiently and economically, the only conclusion must be in the restoration of a robust rail network,” Feyl said.  The active freight line now serves Roxbury commercial users, but with the rehabilitation, Feyl said it has the potential to also serve customers in Randolph, in particular the former Westinghouse site, now the BETA Corporate Park.

Feyl was also Morris County’s representative to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, where this year he was chairman of the executive committee.  The NJTPA is the federally authorized Metropolitan Planning Organization for six million people in the 13-county northern New Jersey region. Each year, the NJTPA oversees more than $2 billion in transportation investments.

One of Freeholder Feyl’s most recent contributions to the county and one that will serve as his legacy for his tenure on the board is the creation of the Morris County Flood Mitigation Program.

The program, the first of its kind in New Jersey, will assist municipalities in the acquisition of residential properties, by expanding the flood plain mitigation efforts of the county’s current open space initiative.

The mitigation program will operate as an expansion of the Morris County Open Space, Farmland, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, and will initially be funded by $16 million of unencumbered funds currently allocated to the Morris County Agriculture Development Board.

Feyl initiated discussion of the flood mitigation plan last September in response to increased, repetitive flooding in the county, especially the excessive flooding caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011.  Feyl said the county will try to move people and homes out of harm’s way and create new open space that will help absorb and contain future flooding, providing a natural, self-sustaining barrier to both residences and businesses.

“Regrettably, the destruction caused by Hurricane Irene and last year’s pre-Halloween storm was not a one-time anomaly, but a risk that flood plain property owners have faced from the time construction was permitted in these disaster prone neighborhoods,” Feyl said. “This program will allow towns to take steps to effect lasting mitigation by permanently removing dwellings from the floodways.”

During his more than five years as a freeholder, Feyl was also a member of the Facilities Review Committee, the Airport Advisory Committee and the Morris County Mosquito Commission.

Feyl assumes his new position with the Highlands Council on May 13.