MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Maplewood Township Committee unanimously passed its resolution to approve a joint meeting agreement between Maplewood and South Orange regarding shared fire service on Oct. 15, one day after South Orange’s Board of Trustees passed its own resolution endorsing an agreement. Unlike at South Orange’s Board of Trustees meeting, no one in public comment objected to the resolution.

During the meeting Officer Scott Reeves of the Maplewood Police Department presented a report to the committee on how the Traffic Bureau, which Reeves runs, set out to change pedestrian and motorist culture after the reform of the Community Services Bureau a couple of years earlier. Reeves said that his bureau has been educating residents, especially children and seniors, about the responsibilities of both pedestrians and motorists. He explained that he was particularly intent on getting pedestrians to understand how to be safe when walking and paying more attention to traffic when crossing the street.

Reeves cited the improvements in enforcement, which was made possible by increased use of technology. He said e-ticketing has allowed the police to write more summonses for traffic violations and has improved efficiency to the point where there has been a 52 percent increase in speeding tickets and a 10 percent increase in overall summonses, allowing the Maplewood police to get a better grip on moving violations. He urged residents to contact the police directly if they see a pattern of reckless driving in their neighborhoods, especially if they involve the same cars. He also urged witnesses to hit-and-run accidents to report what they see directly to the police, so that the police can investigate.

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Committee member Greg Lembrich asked how witnesses to traffic violations such as running a stop sign can report the violations. Officer Reeves replied they can call the police dispatch number at 973-762-3400 or his direct number, 973-761-7911. Deputy Mayor Frank McGehee, meanwhile, asked about people trying to get out of tickets by insisting that they know important people in town.

“It happens more than you think,” Reeves said. “You pull over a car, someone says, ‘I know this person, I know that person, I say, ‘I know them too. They hired me.’” 

Mayor Victor DeLuca praised Reeves’ leadership of the Traffic Bureau, noting that it had gone from processing 3,000 moving violations from July 2017 to June 2018 to nearly 6,000 moving violations from July 2018 to June 2019, a 93 percent increase - with a 30 percent increase in parking violations processed, 8,000 to 10,000, between the same periods. He endorsed residents’ efforts to report on such violations, and he and Reeves encouraged such reports.  

Committee member Nancy Adams revisited efforts to amend the ordinance regulating the use of plastic and polystyrene containers and plastic eating utensils for packaged foods to include greater restrictions on such items. She and Bob McCoy of Maplewood Environmental Advisory Committee discussed a possible compromise that would restrict certain plastics while allowing others to remain in use. McCoy noted that plastics like PLA, made from agricultural by-products, might still be used in packaged foods in Maplewood eating establishments, explaining that such a compound Is less harmful to the environment and is a mitigating factor. As far as restricting the distribution of plastic eating utensils, like forks and straws, Committee member Dean Dafis said that educating the public – food merchants and their customers alike – would be beneficial and that customers could be encouraged to ask first for such utensils rather than be given them automatically, though many of them do so. But he thought that a tightening of restrictions would be difficult to legislate and enforce. He and other committee members did see the value of encouraging residents who order takeout food to refuse utensils when they already have reusable ones in their own homes.

DeLuca was interested in pursuing in the issue further. He said that the township could get a better sense of the businesses using disposable food containers and “try, using education and law, to get them to change their practices.” Committee members Adams and McGehee plan to explore this with members of the environmental committee. 

The committee also discussed looking into establishing a facility utilization plan for the township to get more leverage out of public buildings to generate more revenue for the town. The mayor was interested in coordinating more arts-related and culture related programming for the Woodland, the Burgdorff Center, and the 1978 Arts Center to get more and better use out of those venues, citing the Woodland’s success in particular. The third floor of the Woodland was recently renovated, and DeLuca thought it was appropriate to have a conversation on its possible uses. 

In other developments, the committee approved a resolution formally requesting community development block grants, per the recommendation of Community Development Director Annette DePalma to install American with Disabilities Act-compliant curb cuts at various crosswalks.