NEWTON, NJ – Resident John Ragsdale approached the Newton Town Council at yesterday’s meeting regarding a boarding house on Halsted Street that has been disruptive to the neighborhood.
“I have eight pages of calls over the last two years,” Ragsdale said.
Ragsdale said in 2012, so far the Newton Police Department has clocked in 28 visits to the location, with calls ranging from domestic violence to prostitution to theft.
Since 2008, the department has been called to the house 240 times.
The Newton Police Department made four visits to the boarding house on Friday, April 20.
Ragsdale, representing the neighbors surrounding the home, requested the town council revisit the idea of licensing boarding houses in town, something that had been in discussion previously.
“The landlord doesn’t seem to be concerned about the types of tenants there,” said Ragsdale.
Mayor Helen Le Frois noted the vigilance of the neighbors, and their “zero tolerance” the Newton Police Department, and Chief Michael Richards have toward the incidents there.
“Chief Richards and his team have made adjustments to their policing,” Le Frois said.
Town of Newton Attorney Mark Hontz comment, “We don’t legislate individual pieces of property, or we trample on rights. There are attempts at licensing that can be done.”
Hontz said that requires an additional layer of staff than enforcement, and, in the past, the town weighed more drawbacks with licensing, instead of enforcement.
“It’s regulated for a while, it’s policed for a while, and then it starts over,” said Le Frois.
Town Manager Thomas S. Russo, Jr. said Richards and his department have come up with a plan for this property, as well as a few others, in terms of patrolling it.
Russo said DCA (Department of Community Affairs) regulates boarding houses, and needs to be consulted on this matter.
Like Ragsdale, Russo agreed it is the quality of the tenants probably driving the situations.
“It’s unfortunate Mr. Ragsdale and his neighbors have to deal with it,” said Russo.
“The town is already devoting resources, you’re taking the most expensive resources, four squad cars,” said Ragsdale. “The person who owns the property has nothing to lose, and, you might see a different result with licensing.”
Le Frois recommended exploring the licensing possibility again.
In other business:
· Joan Current, representing the Homestead, approached the council to see if members would like to pass a resolution urging the members of the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders to place the Sussex County Homestead issue on the ballot. Members of the council were divided; Councilwoman Kristen Becker, Councilman Joseph Ricciardo, and Mayor Helen Le Frois sided it was not the council’s decision to dictate to members of the freeholder board. Deputy Mayor Sandra Diglio said, “I don’t think we’re telling them what to do, we’re giving the people the right to vote.” Hontz said members of the council could hold their opinions as residents of Sussex County. “Unless there is a majority of you that wants to do the resolution, there is no consensus,” said Russo. The only member who voted in favor was Diglio. Le Frois thanked Current for continually attending meetings. “Everyone here is concerned about the Homestead. I’m not sure if it’s the municipality’s place to make a directive. We also don’t have all the financials from the freeholders.” “Individually, we all feel strongly about this,” said Becker.
· Mayor Helen Le Frois presented a proclamation to Henry Pomerantz for the Sussex County Relay for Life. The next events take place on May 19 and 20 at Sussex County Community College. Pomerantz is currently the top participant at the county’s event, which raised $110,000 between 73 teams. “We hope to have 900 participants this year, last year we had 800,” Pomerantz said. “My family has been decimated by cancer, it doesn’t care who you are,” he added, and said $4.16 billion provided funding worldwide.
· The council voted to allocate $20,000 from the Housing Trust Fund to rehabilitate a home at 26 Moran Street for the organization Katie’s House. Katie’s House provides permanent housing for young adults with developmental disabilities.
· Glenn Vetrano, representing the Sussex County St. Patrick’s Day Parade thanked the town. “We realize our parade wouldn’t be what it is without council support.” Vetrano the Newton Police Department, and specifically Lieutenant Robert Osborn, the DPW, the town for providing a shuttle bus for visitors from Memory Park, and Mark Hontz for volunteering to emcee the event. “I think this parade was the best attended with the most participants,” said Le Frois.
· Two students from the Newton Robotics Team came to the microphone with resident Neil Flaherty, thanking the town for their support, and providing the web address to watch the students compete, live streamed from St. Louis (click here to watch http://newtonroboticsteam.org/) “It’s been exciting to watch all of your achievements,” said Le Frois.