HAWTHORNE, NJ - At the borough reorganization meeting, Councilman Joseph Wojtecki (D-1) returned to his post after being sworn in by Jeff Gardner, Rayna Laiosa (R-2) took her seat as councilwoman for the first time after being sworn in by Mayor Richard Goldberg, and Frank Matthews (R-4) resumed his seat, likewise sworn in by the mayor.

An election saw Frank Matthews once again selected as Council President and John Lane installed as Vice President.  Previously, the Vice Presidency was held by John Bertollo, councilman for Ward 2, who opted not to seek re-election.

Matthews laid out his agenda in his address to the borough.  He said that, "We need to focus on local issues, work together, and concentrate on what unites us, not what divides us. It’s a guiding theme that’s always in my thoughts when making decisions as an elected official and would encourage those in the county, the state, and even higher to do as well. I think we do a good job in Hawthorne of not to playing politics when making decisions and doing the right thing for our residents."

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From there, Matthews outlined the agenda for 2020 as broken down into "quality of life issues" and "administrative issues" and listed them below.

"Speeding and Pedestrian Crossing is an ongoing issue," Matthews said. "Last year you noticed the speed signs were installed and it has helped slow down the speeding on many roads and we plan on installing more. In addition to the speed signs, we will begin installing flashing crossing signage at certain intersections. If found successful, we will expand the locations, but we need a campaign to let divers in our Town know that we are aggressively addressing this issue."

With respect to garbage collection, a point of contention with many residents in the town, Matthews addressed the matter suggesting a hard look.  "We have been more than patient with our current vendor, and we want them to succeed. But with a new year should come a new commitment to our borough and the council will not hesitate to push for the Administration to contact their Bonding company and start a replacement process."

His third quality of life issue was regarding traffic from heaving trucking in town.  "We need to look at limiting the routes that large trucks can travel off the highways and keep them on county roads. Many of our numbered avenues are just too narrow for them and our resident’s vehicles are paying the price. I will be asking the Ordinance Committee to create an ordinance to restrict large truck traffic exiting off 208 through the numbered Avenues to finally address this issue."

Parking was next on the Council President's list, saying it, "...always seems to be an issue. Whether its an overnight issue or parking too close to someone’s driveway near a school. We will look to work with the Administration and the Police Department to see what can be done."

His last quality of life issue addressed environmental topics.  "Being green whenever possible is also a goal. We are looking to add a for-profit electric charging station at the Library and take advantage of grants available to offset some of the costs. We also look to continue our paper shred days and increase the number of our Styrofoam collection drives to keep less waste out of our garbage stream."

Matthews's administrative issues encompassed five points.

"Our Master Plan is in the process of being updated and this should take about six to eight months for our Planner to complete. Once it’s done, we will be able to finalize and adopt our re-written Borough Zoning Code that the Ordinance Committee has spent the last three years re-writing."

Next came housing.  "We will need to address our Affordable Housing Plan as being mandated by the State’s Affordable Housing Requirements. This may not allow us to have total control of how we would like our Zoning code to read but by having a plan in place, we can determine where we feel the best opportunities are for such units and take advantage of our limited open land adjustment."

The on-going property re-evaluation followed, where Matthews pointed out that the re-evaluation was the result of a Paterson lawsuit, triggering the process in Hawthorne.  "The process has been a bit slower than we anticipated but the end is near, and we want to make sure everyone has an accurate property description in their report. We did not choose to initiate this Re-Evaluation but will work to make the process as fair as possible."

Budget was fourth on the agenda.  "We look forward to working with the Administration to prepare a fiscally sound budget that hopefully comes in below a 2% increase. We’ve worked hard to set us up in previous budgets, so this goal is within reach this year."

Lastly, Matthews concluded his administrative agenda with the Municipal Pool, outlining improvements to be made.  "We are also continuing to listen to our pool user’s comments and are looking at ways to make the pool experience better. The Mayor’s Pool Advisory Committee ranked the users requested improvements, and some have been made already and hopefully more will be done this year. We will again apply for a grant to install lighting, similar to lights downtown, along the pathway and possibly replace the pathway to match the new barrier free ramp to the field behind the pool."

Council President Matthews said that while the list he read out was not a complete outline of everything, it did provide an "overview" of what the council wanted to achieve in 2020.  "There will always be additional challenges ahead but keeping the line on tax increases is a top priority."

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