PARAMUS, NJ — Borough officials welcomed Joseph Vartolone and celebrated the return of Jeanne Weber to the borough council during the town’s 97th reorganization meeting held at Borough Hall on New Year's Day.
Flanked by family, and before a crowd which included Bergen County Executive James Tedesco, Municipal Judge Rich Conte, Deputy Mayor James Anzevino of South Hackensack and former council members, the Republican duo were sworn-in by Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli for three-year terms.
In November, Weber and Vartolone defeated Democrats Ralph Amato and Dennis Arslanian for two council seats, which were vacated by Weber and Amato. Per the official Election results off the Bergen County Clerk’s official website, Weber, who will serve her third term in office, led with the highest vote tally at 3,023 votes. Vartolone followed with 2,830 votes. Amato received 2,525 votes and Arslanian got 2,280 votes.
“I am humbled and thankful for the support I have received, not just through this election season, but throughout my tenure on the council,” said Weber, a mother of three and grandmother of 10, from a statement she read aloud. “I am filled with hope and enthusiasm for this opportunity to continue serving Paramus residents. My first two terms have been a learning experience in so many ways. I enjoy the committees to which I have been assigned. I attended the meetings and took part in day-to-day activities. I will continue to do so as I have thoroughly loved meeting the outstanding volunteers that make up our fire department, ambulance corps, rescue squad and the others who serve on the environmental board, the board of health, library, pool, golf, substance abuse prevention, recreation and shade tree commissions.
She continued, “All of those who serve on these boards help make the borough of Paramus the best place to live in Bergen County, if not in New Jersey. Our police department is second to none. Not only because of their professional expertise, but also for the warm way they interact with residents… who may have had an accident or needed assistance in so many other ways. Paramus is a community of people who care about each other and are so generous to those in need.”
Weber said she pledges to continue to be the “voice of the residents” and bring their concerns back to the governing body. One such concern is Paramus’s affordable housing obligation.
“I find it incredible that the Fair Share Housing can determine what every community in the state of New Jersey must build to meet their idea of affordable housing when they have no idea of the composition of most communities such as all of the county properties, our malls, highways, etc. Paramus has been fighting their recommendations and I hope we will continue to stand up and fight to preserve the integrity of our community.”
Vartolone, who works as the director of shared services of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by trade, has served as a volunteer for the Paramus Junior Baseball and Recreation Basketball teams over the past decade. In his election statement, he said he would apply his professional experience from the private and public sectors to contribute operationally and fiscally to the borough council.
“I believe and hope that my candidacy will only strengthen the balance of the decision-making for this council,” said Vartolone. “I have a very strong orientation towards serving and supporting others and I believe this will play a critical role in my success.”
After the council unanimously voted to elect Councilwoman Maria Ellen Bellinger as Council President, Mayor Richard LaBarbiera extended his gratitude to the borough employees, volunteers and members of the governing body whom he called the “backbone” of the borough who “work tirelessly” to dedicate many hours of their time providing their services to residents.
“I trust and hope that 2020 will be a productive year,” said LaBarbiera. “We will work together to provide what is in the best interest of the borough and its residents.”
Among the “lofty goals” the mayor said he’d like to hit the ground running to achieve are the opening of the new senior center, the new Valley Hospital, and the much-needed infrastructure improvements in the surrounding areas corresponding to the groundbreaking of the $800 million, 875,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art Valley Hospital slated to open its doors on Winters Avenue in 2023, and traffic signal and intersection improvements on the “heavily traveled” Forrest and Farview Avenues. Also on the agenda in 2020 is the borough’s first bikeway, which will be situated on Midland Avenue between Country Club and Paramus Roads this year.
The mayor is also asking for the council’s support for his idea of a business-sponsored recreation and cultural center, and establishing a mayor’s committee to celebrate Paramus’s centennial in 2023, in addition to their continued support of a public/private 5-G network to ensure emergency services have the “best communication available” and “stay ahead of the market demands for residents and many businesses.”
Finally, after many years of litigation, LaBarbiera said he hopes to have a unanimously approved settlement with Fair Share Housing that addresses “unmet needs and protects the character of residential neighborhoods.”