RARITAN, NJ - Following a series of accidents in neighboring towns, Raritan Borough Councilman Michael Patente held a discussion for various Raritan Borough leaders to review safety procedures surrounding new construction.
After reports of construction related fires in nearby Bound Brook and Somerville, and with new apartments and other construction projects on the rise in Raritan Borough, the discussion was to make sure that all necessary and possible safety procedures were in place throughout the borough.
In addition, the councilman said he wanted to see if any additional ordinances should be proposed by the borough council.
The discussion at an Oct. 8 meeting was held with the police and fire chiefs, heads of engineering and building and fire code enforcement for the borough, Patente said.
“All of the professionals felt that we were in pretty good shape as far as those ordinances go and that the council didn’t need to add any new local ordinances,” he said.
The discussion, which Patente originally suggested to the council on Sept. 8 as a New Construction Safety & Security Task Force, was met with some debate.
“We have current construction and future construction of apartments, and other kinds of construction areas, and I’d like to ask you, Mayor, that you set up a New Construction Safety and Security Taskforce,” Patente said at the council’s Sept. 8 meeting.
Patente said that he wanted to see himself, the borough clerk or assistant clerk, police chief, fire chief, fire inspection officer, building inspector, engineer, emergency management and councilman Paul Giraldi on the task force.
The task force was put off for future discussion after Giraldi voiced concerns about overstepping, as much of construction safety and security is already covered by regulations and other government entities.
At the following council meeting, Patente’s idea was reintroduced as a New Construction Safety & Security Discussion.
“My objective for this meeting is that each department continues to have open lines of communication,” Patente said. “We want to ensure that they receive all the support from the council and residents they can get to ensure safety. It is our hope to learn how to keep our town safe from these fires.”
Councilmen Pablo Orozco voiced his concern over the idea being originally presented as a task force, adding that too many committees and task forces are being created, which could cause a distrust between residents and local government.
“What our expertise should be as council people is relating to the people and getting them to have confidence in us,” Orozco said.
Mayor Zachary Bray addressed the change in agenda from task force to discussion, saying that the idea does not warrant a task force.
“All that I would like to see happen is a discussion of these people to inform us, the council, on what they have in place to prevent something like this from happening as it did in Bound Brook and Somerville,” Bray said.
At the New Construction Safety & Security Discussion, leaders discussed current ordinances that are in place for safety and regulations, in addition to state and federal regulations for building and safety.
While the discussion led to all the departments feeling confident in their current procedures, they did come up with some suggestions for additions to the Green Check List, a checklist for construction done on the planning board level, Patente said.
“A couple items will be added to that green check list and, at the end of the month, our engineer will be able to give us a little more detail on that,” he said.
The suggestions include better discussions during the planning stage on safety systems that get placed into buildings, such as fire systems, and a more proactive type schedule with the fire inspector.
Overall, Patente said the meeting was a success and he is confident in the borough’s leaders.
“Do not misunderstand this, I believe Raritan has the finest professionals available and (wanting to hold a meeting) is no reflection on them,” he said.