Livingston Council Continues to Debate Timing and Participation in Proposed Committee to Encourage More Community Involvement

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LIVINGSTON, NJ – A Community Outreach Committee, proposed earlier this year by Township Councilmember Deborah Shapiro as a means to get Livingston’s Asian residents and members of other ethnic groups more involved in the community still has not gotten off the ground.

At Monday’s council conference meeting, Shapiro said there is a perception in the Asian community, at whom she originally directed the proposal, that there has been some “foot dragging” in getting the committee up and running.

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Councilmember Gary Schneiderman replied, however, that one of the problems is “cultural,” and many Asian-Americans are not comfortable getting involved with groups outside their own community.

Shapiro said, however, that members of the Asian-American community are anxious to integrate their ideas with those of other Livingston residents but they are disappointed that the outreach group has not moved further along. She added there is some perception that their views are not considered important.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Santola replied that it needs to be explained to members of the community that formation of such groups takes time. He offered to take on an advisory role to get the committee moving, adding “I will not let volunteers get discouraged and disappear.”

Mayor Rudy Fernandez added all members of the council are anxious to have all groups in the township more involved.

Environmental Commission member, Walter LeVine, said Livingston is proud of the diversity of its community and suggested that residents who already volunteer on other township advisory boards could reach out as “mentors” to get others involved.

He added efforts have been made in the past to reach out to the Asian community and their has been no response.

On another matter, Township Manager Michele Meade said the state Department of Environmental Protection had detected chemicals it did not consider desirable in the area of Okner Field and the township would have to pay for an engineering firm approved by the DEP to review records of the state agency for the area to determine the source of any “plumes” of contaminant.

Meade emphasized, however, the township’s wells near the field are equipped with “scrubbers” and there is no problem with the potable water supply in the area of the field.

The council also discussed an ordinance regulating removal of trees from property that it is expected to introduce on first reading on Monday, Oct. 17.

Santola said in general the ordinance is aimed more at regulating large-scale removal of trees such as when a swimming pool is planned on residential property rather that the removal of “one or two trees.”

LeVine did say, however, that a proposal to drop mandatory reporting of tree removal plans from the ordinance could prevent the environmental commission from compiling data on tree removal.

At his suggestion, Planning Board Chair Peter Klein agreed to add a provision for voluntary reporting into the ordinance.

Meade also reported that the township has received a proposal for an architectural study for installation of elevators at the municipally-owned Monmouth Court building.

She estimated the cost of the project at $262,000.

In addition to the tree ordinance, the council on October 17 is scheduled to introduce an ordinance regulating solar and wind energy installations in the township.

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