WEST ORANGE, NJ - At the West Orange Township Council meeting on Tuesday, the spending of taxpayer money on an extended contract for the shuttle bus service and new bleachers for the high school baseball field led the public comment portion of the meeting.
Earl Turner spoke out against a resolution that extended the contract with Mobility Coach for the Jitney shuttle bus program which came to a total two-year cost of $348,535.20.
Turner focused his comments on how the service does not increase the "quality of life" for all residents of the town, but affects all of the taxpayers.
Councilman Jerry Guarino responded by pointing out that the service is available for all of the residents of the town to use, and should not suffer because some residents do not wish to utilize its services.
“It's your decision to take the bus, but we have residents of this town who work in the city and in the area,” Guarino said. “It's a benefit. It makes people want to live here because it makes it easy to commute.”
Guarino noted later in the meeting that certain improvements to the quality of the shuttle needed to be dealt with. This included drivers' cell phone usage -- talking on their cell phone while driving; bringing family members on the shuttle with them and the overall cleanliness of the buses.
Town residents Clare Silvestri and Mariel Clemensen directed their comments towards spending money on new bleachers for the high school baseball field and how they felt it was unnecessary. The council voted, 4-0, at the June 10 council meeting in favor of the project.
Silvestri said that the project is, "possibly one of the most ridiculous expenditures of taxpayers funds in recent memory.” And Clemensen expressed her concern with town paying for a project that could have been handled by the Board of Education since it is on school grounds.
"We're always looking for savings, and we've had some blow-ups over that,” Clemensen said. “So this is an easy one because the usage of this is mostly with the school."
All of the council members, with the exception of councilman Joe Krakoviak, disagreed with the comments saying that there are other town-related events and programs that use the fields at the schools so it is necessary to contribute to the payments.
Councilman Victor Cirilo said, “Maybe it’s a worthwhile investment to put in new bleachers. Maybe it’s a worthwhile investment to continue operating the shuttle instead of terminating it. The point is that we are spending and we are investing in our municipality and we are still not raising municipal property taxes.”
Krakoviak agreed with public comment regarding the bleachers saying, “It should be something that the school should handle. I'm very concerned that we're going to wind up getting a proposal for a lot more than $60,000 for bleachers that are perfectly fine. It just doesn't seem like a good use of our resources.” Krakoviak voted no on June 10.
It was also noted at the meeting for the sake of transparency that Clare Silvestri is the wife of councilman Krakoviak.
The resolution authorizing the extension of the contract with Mobility Coach for the shuttle bus service was approved with a 5-0 vote. Another resolution awarding $45,000 to the West Orange Community House was approved with a 4-0 vote, as Guarino abstained from the voting because of his membership on the board.