Hopatcong Council Honors Baker; Residents Question Winter Weather Response

Hopatcong Council President Howard Baker pauses as he addresses the crowd at his last council meeting. Credits: By Jane Primerano
Council President Howard Baker thanks Mayor Sylvia Petillo for a plaque honoring his service to the borough Credits: By Jane Primerano
Hopatcong Council President Howard Baker laughs as Mayor Sylvia Petillo lists his accomplishments on council. Credits: By Jane Primerano

HOPATCONG, NJ – The Borough Council said farewell to Council President Howard Baker at its meeting on Wednesday night.

Baker, citing increased business responsibilities, didn’t run for a second full term on council.

He volunteered to be appointed to the unexpired term of Councilman Bob Modick, who died unexpectedly in July 2009. Baker sought a one-year term to serve out Modick’s tenure and then ran for a full three-year term. He served as council president for 2013.

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Mayor Sylvia Petillo noted Baker became active in the borough almost from the start when he and his wife, Mary Louise and children Adam and Meredith, moved to Hopatcong in 1977. He became involved in the Jaycees, which was at that time a vibrant organization. Before and during his council stay, Baker served on the Sussex County Water Quality Policy Council and the Sussex County Solid Waste Advisory Council. He said he would remain on these county boards as long as he is reappointed.

Baker addressed council and the audience, saying he was “happy to have a hand in advancing the mayor’s vision.” He noted in a town with such diverse demographics as Hopatcong it is “challenging to represent all the people. It is difficult, often impossible to please all of them.”

He pointed out the staff runs a municipality and Hopatcong’s staff does a “fantastic job,” he also emphasized the importance of county, state and federal support to a small town. He cited the many volunteers and “highly effective organizations” for helping Hopatcong run smoothly. He complemented Clerk Catherine Gleason for her record keeping and the administration for procuring grant money to get projects done without overtaxing residents.

Some of the grants went toward beautification. Baker said he has spent his career in the cosmetic and personal care industry so he knows “looks do matter.”

Baker thanked Petillo “for dragging me into this,” and thanked his colleagues and his family as well as the voters.

Besides Baker’s farewell, which was celebrated with a sheet cake, council dealt with a number of questions about the recent snow and ice storm.

To a resident’s claiming her road wasn’t cleared, Petillo explained the DPW was out as soon as the snow started, but when it turned to ice there was little they could do. She said the trucks were sliding. Councilman Mike Francis explained it was too cold for salt to do anything to melt the ice.

Judy Antonelli of the borough Board of Education asked how the safety of school children is taken into consideration.

Petillo said the school calls the police dispatcher, who checks with officers on the road for conditions. She noted this past storm got bad just as the buses were heading out. Even though the DPW was out at 5 a.m., there was little they could do once the ice started forming.

Francis pointed out even if school is open, parents have to decide if it is safe for their children to go out. “Sometimes Mother Nature throws you a curve ball,” he said.

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