WEST ORANGE, NJ - The Feb. 11 West Orange Township Council Meeting saw the approval of Resolution 33-14 authorizing the 2014 Essex County Open Space Local Aid Program Grant Application. The $150,000 grant would be used for the redesign and rehabilitation of the children's wading pool at the Ginny Duenkel Pool. Although money had been set aside in the budget for the improvements, Mayor Parisi wanted to go after grant monies to cover the cost.
Discussion ensued prior to the vote. Councilman Joe Krakoviak wanted the monies to go towards rehabilitation of various baseball fields around town. Councilman Victor Cirilo said, "this project is a revenue generator for the town, and a good investment." The council approved the resolution 4-1, Councilman Krakoviak voting no.
Krakoviak also voted no on resolutions to retain the township's commercial real estate tax appeal attorneys and emergency and non-emergency tree services with Kevin Downes Tree Services for emergency and non-emergency tree removal. Krakoviak wanted the township to add a line to the resolution limiting the tree services contract to $60,000, with any cost above that requiring council approval.
While the council members appreciated the intent of Krakoviak's suggestion, township attorney Ken Kayser reminded the council that they approve budgets and that control lies with the administration and not the council. Kayser, along with Town Administrator Jack Sayers and Chief Financial Officer John Gross, noted that the costs would 'stay within the general confines of the budget' and that making the change could affect the contract itself. Would the contract have to be renegotiated? Would the tree service back out? What would happen if the limit was reached and the township was in need of emergency services before the council could vote to approve?
The other council members: President Susan McCartney, Victor Cirilo, Patty Spango and Jerry Guarino, voted to approve the resolution as it stood. The actual budget for the tree services was not available at the time this article was written. The article will be amended once the figure is received.
Ordinance 2399-14, regarding the reclassification of a Department of Public Works employee from 'Garage Attendant' to 'Mechanic's Helper' became another subject of discussion. According to the ordinance and the understanding of McCartney, Cirilo, Spango, and Guarino, the employee had been doing the work of a mechanic for a period of time while still being paid as a garage attendant. The reclassification would correct a longstanding oversight, according to McCartney.
In an email to the Alternative Press, Krakoviak said "In my opinion, the council needs to weigh the prospect of higher spending with the urgency of the need to spend more. I see no demonstrated need here...It doesn’t matter to me whether he potentially can do a higher-paying position. It matters to me whether we need someone to do that. My question is, what’s the right balance between increasing spending and trying to keep property taxes as low as possible? This position as presented fails that test, in my opinion. What are our priorities? Frankly, I think we should hire a police officer rather than a mechanic’s helper."
It was noted by the administration that the DPW has seen a reduction in force over the past few years and that the Mechanics Helper position was necessary whether the current employee was reclassified or a new employee hired. The Ordinance passed 4-1, Councilman Krakoviak voting no.
In other news, Councilman Jerry Guarino announced that the New Downtown West Orange Alliance website would be launching within the next two weeks; and the owner of the Dunkin Donuts on Northfield Avenue wants to purchase the site of the former Julios Restaurant on Northfield Ave.
The next township council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 25 beginning at 6:30 pm.