Religions and Spirituality

Livingston Council Awards $1 Million Road Improvement Contract; Endorses Chinese Fight Against Religious Persecution

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Arleen Richards explains the plight of persecuted members of Falun Gong as Huimin Vheng and Livingston Mayor Steven Santola look on at Monday's Livingston Township Council meeting. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
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LIVINGSTON, NJ—The Livingston Township Council Monday awarded a contract worth a maximum of $1,076,428 to S. Brothers General Contractors for improvements to four roadways.

Township Manager Michele Meade told The Alternative Press that the streets, which will receive drainage improvements, curbing and inserts with bicycle-safe grates and barrier-free ramps, as needed, and milling and paving are: Swan Road, Burnet and West Cedar Streets and East Harrison Place.

The council also gave its unanimous support to followers of the Falun Gong religion, who are trying to gather signatures in thousands of municipalities across the United States to put pressure on China to stop persecution of members of the religion that has been going on under the Communist regime in China since 1999.

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According to Arleen Richards, a spokeswoman for the group, hundreds of thousands of people who follow the religion, which is based on Buddhism, have been imprisoned without trial. She added more than 3500 people have died in police custody and many have been killed involuntarily for organ donation programs.

In presenting a copy of the council resolution supporting the movement to Richards and Huimin Vheng, Livingston Mayor Stephen Santola said that while the governing body normally restricts its support to causes over which it has direct influence, the support for the Falun Gong cause came about because the group is trying to build nationwide backing from communities across the United States.

Vheng said several thousand people are expected to rally next week in Washington, DC in support of the cause.

In other business, Larry Kohn of Tarlton Drive, a frequent critic of township spending on the municipal building complex, presented each of the councilmen with a “quiz” about certain facets of the project. He asked that each of the governing body members complete their “assignment” within a month and present the results in public.

Topics of the "quizzes" included alleged cost overruns, contaminated soil mitigation, change orders and the bidding process.

Santola replied in 12 years he had heard Kohn raise a number of questions on a number of township-sponsored projects and had urged the resident to run for the council or get involved in committees where he could have a forum to have his concerns addressed.

Kohn replied he had been on a committee concerning the municipal complex but had resigned because he was not satisfied that his questions were being answered as thoroughly as he would like.

Another resident, Bernard Searle, raised several questions about architectural contracts that recently had been awarded, particularly concerning what he called undefined “municipal property improvements” in one contract.

Santola asked Meade to look into the questions raised by Searle.

The mayor also announced a meeting would be held on Monday, July 9, at 7:30 p.m. to address resident concerns about recent tardy service on the No. 77 bus line, which travels through Livingston on its way into New York City. The township’s legislators are expected to be at the session.

Santola also noted the township recycling contractor had resolved most of the problems with recent pickups and a new contractor had taken over service on July 1.

He said four trucks belonging to the previous contractor had broken down. The new contractor, he added, had won the township contract through the competitive bidding process.

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