MONTCLAIR, NJ - Third Ward Councilor Spiller hosted a community meeting for residents Wednesday to present information and address concerns. The meeting was soon overshadowed by noise complaints about music, snow plows, garbage trucks and various celebrations throughout the town.
Just one day after the council meeting took place that was dominated by noise complaints, some of the same residents who spoke at the council meeting, also spoke at Spiller’s community meeting. This time increasing in numbers, before the close of the meeting, multiple residents spoke up about noise.
Community Policing and Safety
About two dozen residents attended the community meeting that opened with a presentation by Captain James Carlucci. He spoke on issues of safety and security and answered residents’ concerns.
Stephanie Wood, who had spoken at the council meeting the night before, returned to address her same concerns at Spiller’s community meeting. She engaged Carlucci in a discussion about animals being left in the car and her concerns about whether officers are taking her seriously. Wood added how she felt about the officers responding to her calls, “The minute they get there, I get an attitude.” “I went to the police station about a noise complaint, about consistent noise on Church Street.” "They may not agree with my views about what I’m there to do, but send me upstairs.”
Carlucci responded, “Those cases are taken seriously.” He then gave an example of someone getting arrested for leaving a dog in the car while they were working out. It depends on the condition the animal is in. The officers will sometime file a report and send it to the ASPCA. The officers do take immediate action depending on the circumstances.” “ If you have any complaints and you feel like you’re not being treated fairly by the police department, we have a process involved with that and you have my email address on the form.”
Carlucci transitioned to the next topic saying, “A nosey neighbor is sometimes the best neighbor you can have,” Carlucci continued. “We’ve had seven burglaries that occurred in the business district.” “If you see something that’s not right, we work 24 hours. It’s always about partnership.” He told the crowd, “You’re the eyes and ears of the community.”
Carlucci told residents, “If you have an issue, call 973-744-1234 unless it is an emergency. In cases of emergency, call 911.”
Michael Norman asked Carlucci, “Do you have any special plans about Jazz Fest? Do you plan on putting on additional officers for traffic control? There have been a number of difficulties and we began discussing it with the council last night.”
Carlucci responded, “Those type of events go through the uniform division office. Then they work with the town and the council to decide how many officers are required, so I don’t have the actual plans on that.”
Spiller's Agenda Items
Once Carlucci left, Spiller discussed progress with the master plan proposal, the possible purchase of the social security building, budgetary changes, community policing, parking in municipal lots, environmental issues, Nishuane Well project, and many other updates.
Spiller spoke about community policing saying, “The shift structure has been changed to add almost double the amount of officers and of course we want to hire more officers. We are very proud of a 0% increase.”
“The environmental commission has been coming before the council regularly. We pride ourselves on being progressive in terms of being a green community.” Spiller spoke of the garbage can size and the rain collection drum being sold by the township. “Currently, you cannot have a garbage can bigger than 35 gallons or 50 pounds.” He said that trash will not be collected and a warning will be written for those who do not comply with trash can standards.
Next he gave an update on the town-wide street paving. "Street paving has begun town-wide as part of the street improvement project. Starting next year, they will assess all of the streets in the town to determine which will get paved next." Spiller said, “There’s a new traffic signal going in on Lloyd Road near MKA. We approved it last night.” “That’s an issue of safety. We hope to get it in by September.”
Spiller reviewed other items that have been discussed by the council. He gave an update on the Nishuane well. Spiller told the residents of the options that are on the table for the well. “One way or another, we need to have more water.” He discussed the several options on the table. "Can we do something with conservation? Yes. The rain water barrels are all subsidized to make it more affordable. Spiller continued to discuss water conservation proposals that are currently being reviewed by the council.
He added, “There’s a new tracking and reporting system called property pilot. We are really excited about it. The goal of it is that the resident can submit concerns and it would send everybody an email update on what’s being done.”
In response to issues of noise in the parks and parking, Spiller mentioned, "There were concerns that were put forward and we are looking into a number of issues surrounding that. We passed an ordinance last night that there needs to be clearance of two feet." He continued by discussing concerns with noise from the council meeting the night before.
Questions From the Residents
A few residents spoke expressed concerns over parking in the Wellmont lot and plowing of the lot. They expressed that parking is a problem for them when there is an event at the Wellmont Theater and also when snow is on the ground during the winter months. Spiller explained that if cars are not removed during plowing, then it takes up more parking spaces that are paid for by area residents. He agreed to look into the matter.
As almost a continuation from the council meeting, residents asked Spiller to weight-in on the issue of noise and traffic near Nishuane Park.
Michael Norman brought with him a 1986 ordinance that was passed and cited that as reasons why he felt the council should address his noise complaints. Spiller responded by informing Norman that another ordinance was passed, although more vague, but more recently.
Another resident spoke of noise from garbage trucks waking him up out of his sleep and noise from snow plows disturbing him.
Beth Norman added to the discussion with concerns stating, “Two questions, because we did not hear your views last night. What are you going to bring forth to this committee in terms of safety, ambulance, fire, and emergency access when you cannot get up some of these roads during an event at Nishuane Park? In 1986, the town council passed an ordinance on noise reduction and unreasonable noise in the parks. I want to know what you plan to do with this committee.”
Spiller replied, "I want to hear what the committee has to say. We’ve got to find a balance to ensure that it is done in a safe manner and a controlled manner."
Michael and Beth Norman began to challenge Spiller at length with respect to the existing ordinance amendment from 2012 as compared to the original 1986 ordinance. The Normans continued to reference the 1986 ordinance. "The law is there, but not being enforced," said Beth Norman.
“They seem to be slightly different,” Spiller responded. "These are all questions that I don’t have the answer to and the committee will look at. The goal is to balance all of the concerns because some stood up last night and said that they don’t have a problem. "
Michael Norman again referenced the amendment from January 10, 2012 and continued to insist that the 1986 law should be enforced. Both Beth and Michael Norman spent a considerable amount of time challenging Spiller and continued to cite the 1986 ordinace instead of the 2012 amendment.
Another resident, Erik Eklund, chimed in, "I too have issues with noise. I started keeping a log." "In 77 days, I was awakened out of a sound sleep 47 times by garbage trucks. There was another kind of noise coming from the plowing." He then asked for Spiller to have the plow trucks turn off their back up alarm to not disrupt his sleep and also to remove the police officer who monitored the snow removal in order to save money.
Spiller responded by saying that he will inquire about the resident’s noise concerns, but then mentioned that he felt there was a law against doing what the resident requested in both instances.
When the resident continued to challenge Spiller, he responded, “The capacity of my role is not to tell the police how to do their jobs.”
Other residents spoke up about noise and no resolution was reached. Spiller then informed residents that the committee would look at the concerns of all involved parties.