South Orange Honors Volunteers, Hears Funding Requests from Parking Authority, SOPAC

The Clean Sweep volunteers were honored at Monday's Board of Trustees meeting. From left: Brian Bauman, Kelly Sullivan, Derek Mattheiss and Matt Mattheiss. Credits: Amy Kiste Nyberg

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ (UPDATED) – The village honored a volunteer group and heard funding requests from the Parking Authority and the South Orange Performing Arts Center at its meeting Monday night.

The Community Relations Committee chose Clean Sweep volunteers as its Villager of the Month. Founded in 2010, Clean Sweep cleaned up litter in the downtown business district. After that job was taken over by the Village Center Alliance, the group has participated in other cleanup efforts, assisting in cleaning up the river, Grove Park, the police station grounds and Irvington Avenue.

“South Orange is very fortunate to have Clean Sweep,” committee member James Johnston said.

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Accepting the award were co-founders Matt Mattheiss and his son Derek, Matt’s sister Kelly Sullivan, and longtime family friend Brian Bauman.

“I’d like to thank the volunteers over the years,” Matt Mattheiss said. “We couldn’t have done it without help.” He thanked business owners, the Department of Public Works and the Fire Department for their support.

Mark Hartwyk, executive director of the Parking Authority, and Mark Packer, executive director of SOPAC, each gave a presentation to the board on their organization’s financial status.

Hartwyk said that the Parking Authority is losing money on the jitney service and asked the board to consider subsidizing the salaries of the drivers, which total $186,000 a year. The service generates about $68,000 a year and the rest is paid for out of fees collected for parking permits and revenues from meters, Hartwyk said.

Trustee Sheena Collum said, “This item for drivers’ salaries is not included in this budget,” referring to the 2014 budget, which is scheduled for a public hearing and adoption on June 23.

“We will survive this year,” he said, “but the conversation has to take place.” He asked the board to set up a workshop to examine the growth of the jitney service and to discuss how to “sustain this service in the future.”

SOPAC’s director, Mark Packer, asked the board to continue funding levels from 2013, which included a direct subsidy of approximately $300,000 plus allowing SOPAC to keep $200,000 in “pass through” revenue from Bow Tie Cinemas.

“As a startup, SOPAC is still in a vulnerable situation,” he said. “We have no endowment and no cash reserves. The dedicated staff is underpaid and in need of additional support.”

The village took over ownership of the SOPAC building, which freed the nonprofit organization from carrying the debt from the cost of the building on its balance sheet. Packer said this enabled the organization to obtain grant funding, which helped SOPAC “start on the path to self-sustainability.”

The trustees agreed the progress of SOPAC since Packer took the reins was impressive, but they pressed Packer on when SOPAC anticipated decreasing its reliance on the village.

“My question would be in looking at the numbers … where is the money going?” Trustee Walter Clarke asked.

“That money is helping us with marketing, keeping the lights on, it’s paying our administrative overhead, it’s really money that helps with all of the support that’s needed to mount the various programs that we do,” Packer said.

Collum said, “I’m a little disappointed that we’re at the exact same spot we were last year.” She said she anticipated that SOPAC would be asking for less funding from the village going forward. “I think we need to discuss the realities of the direct financial contribution.”

Packer said SOPAC is working on a three-year strategic plan and urged the board to consider SOPAC as a “strategic investment … for the future of the village itself.”

The board took no action on the requests from Hartwyk and Packer.

The board did take action on the following:

  • Recessed its meeting and agreed to call a meeting on Monday, June 16.
  • Acting as the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, renewed the liquor licenses of the following: South Orange BPOE Lodge No. 1154, Societa Savoia di Mutuo Soccorso, Father Vincent Monella Center of Italian Culture, University Liquors, A&D Deli and Liquor, Wine Emporium, Papillon 25 Restaurant, Bunny’s, Toro Loco, Above Restaurant, Orange Lawn Tennis Club and Ricaltons. Three license holders have not yet applied for renewal, including Cryan’s.
  • Approved an ordinance restricting parking on a portion of Rynda Road and agreed to introduce another ordinance that would extend restrictions to the entire road after several Rynda Road residents urged the board to do so. Until the second ordinance is adopted, Village President Alex Torpey said he can issue an executive order implementing temporary parking restrictions.
  • Approved an ordinance allowing the village to recover costs of providing documents requested under the Open Public Records Act.
  • Voted to submit the village charter, with its amendments, to the state Legislature for approval. (See related story here.)
  • Agreed to establish a “cap bank” for the municipal budget, which allows it to exceed the 2 percent cap on budget increases by “banking” years that the budget comes in under the cap. Village Administrator Barry Lewis Jr. said the ordinance is not an indication that the village intends to exceed the cap in coming years.
  • Authorized a $25 sewer special assessment for the second year to pay for ongoing litigation in a massive pollution lawsuit. (See related story here.)
  • Affirmed the hiring of 76 seasonal staff, primarily lifeguards; a part-time clerk typist for the Building Department; and a part-time clerk typist in the Police Department.
  • Awarded a contract to Beyer CDJR for two 2014 Jeep Patriots for $38,500.
  • Authorized a change order to Reivax Contracting Corp. decreasing the amount for road improvements by $192,624.45 after the projects came in under budget, and to Zenith Construction Services for a decrease of $2,210. It also awarded a contract to Riavax for Glenview Road improvements for $671,250.45

UPDATED 7:49 p.m. 6/27/14 to correct the spelling of James Johnston's name.


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