EB Township Council: Busy, Contentious Meeting Starts Budget Process

The budget process begins at recent Township Council meeting. Credits: Township of East Brunswick

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ -  Many disparate items, ranging from the discontinuation of the water fluoridation to East Brunswick's non-status as a "sanctuary city," were discussed, approved, denied and tabled at this week's meeting of the East Brunswick Township Council.

A proclamation was given to Bill and Ryan Kloos for their donation of $10,500 toward the medical treatment of Trent Powers of Hemetta, who suffers from a form of cerebral palsy. The Kloos family was honored for their Christmas light show that drew more than 50,000 visitors to East Brunswick this holiday season.

Additionally, the Kloos home was featured on television's "Christmas Lights Competition" which draws a national and international audience. As part of a family that has resided in East Brunswick for 45 years, the Kloos brothers were praised by Mayor Brad Cohen for their "hard work, determination and compassion," in the document presented by Councilman Sterley Stanley.

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The council unanimously approved the "East Brunswick Rewards" program that provides incentives for both shoppers and businesses in town to shop local. This program was a strong factor in the recent election, during which the redevelopment of township businesses was a major theme.

Mayor Cohen also addressed a current "Facebook thread" that called for East Brunswick to become a "sanctuary city" in response to President Donald Trump's current policies to restrict immigration from some countries. Cohen said that he declined to make that designation because the needs of the township must be the driving force behind decision-making, citing the already-existing cultural diversity in East Brunswick. Cohen also acknowledged that the status would place an unnecessary burden on law enforcement and could restrict federal funds, especially to the public schools, which would result in an increase in taxes.

Business Administrator Jack Layne expressed confidence in the improvement of the township's I.T., mentioning the computerized synchronization of lights on Route 18. He then reported that building projects at Crystal Springs are on schedule, as are local road repairs.

"The Health Advisory Council recommended that East Brunswick should not continue to purchase fluoride," said Councilman Michael Spadafino, chairman of the Health Advisory Committee. The use of fluoridation has long been a subject of discussion at East Brunswick Council meetings. He also noted that East Brunswick will join the statewide "Mayor's Wellness Healthy Town"  initiative.  However, the full council has not yet voted on a resolution to end the fluoridation of water in the township.

Deliberation then centered on some elements of employee compensation and job status. Councilwoman Camille Clark said that she "felt uncomfortable to allow expenditures to be approved before the budget presentation." Cohen replied that there would be "a budget on the table by the next council meeting" and that he was hoping to "streamline the process" by shortening departmental presentations. Clark responded that the budget process is "arcane, archaic,and backwards" and that she would love to see some kind of movement on the budget soon.

Council President Michael Hughes added that "numbers have been the same for the past five years: We are not operating on no budget. People are preparing to go out to bid for their programs. There is no big question about what will be received from the state." 

The council moved on to discuss the proposition by Mayor Cohen to add two new positions to the township administration: Economic Development Officer and Grant Writer.  The role of EDO was discussed during the election by the Democratic candidates as a factor in facilitating the revitalization of Route 18 commerce and the re-visioning of development in East Brunswick.  Cohen cited the "glaring complaint" by several township departments about their inability to apply for available grants because they are already too "stretched" and can only give the grants a low priority.  The Mayor cited the positions as "money well spent" to have a "body of knowledge" and "to reach funds that are desperately needed."  He then presented a packet of information about the positions to the Council.

President Hughes responded that despite the "political theater" of Cohen's presenting the packet of information, "we haven't identified the grants we are seeking" and that "we haven't really done our research."  He noted that some grants require townships to match the grant amount, a situation  which East Brunswick might not be able to afford.  He also named other departments that could use new staff members.

With the exception of Hughes and in the absence of Councilman James Wendell, the council voted to keep the positions on the budget proposal.  "I want to see the process through, " said Councilwoman Clark.



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