South Orange Trustees to Prioritize Projects

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Trustee Mark Rosner, right, listens as Trustee Janine Bauer makes a point during the South Orange Board of Trustees planning meeting at Seton Hall University on Thursday night.
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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - In a rare August meeting, the South Orange Village Board of Trustees plans to review a long list of projects – some current and some proposed – in order to decide which ones best fit the goals of the board and the village.

“We need to set priorities,” Trustee Janine Bauer said at a special planning meeting Thursday night held at Seton Hall University. “We’re doing too much.”

Village Administrator John Gross, who said he will compile an initial list of projects with input from department heads, told the trustees, “You have way too many projects, and you have way too many meetings.”

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Thursday’s meeting was the second of two planning meetings where trustees discussed issues ranging from land use and downtown development to the village’s relationship with the South Orange Performing Arts Center. The first meeting was June 20.

Bauer noted that the No. 1 priority for the board would probably be what to do with Village Hall.

Other items discussed at Thursday’s planning meeting included the following:

-- reviewing the committee structure. The village currently has more than 20 committees. Six are standing committees, and the rest are various types of advisory committees. Village President Mark Torpey said, “The crux is how many committees we have.” Bauer agreed, commenting, “It’s like this crazy three-level chess board.”

-- establishing a committee that would deal specifically with downtown South Orange. “Downtown is vitally important,” Trustee Nancy Gould said. Torpey added, “We need to manage downtown through one entity.”

-- improving the communication among village administrators, committees and the Board of Trustees. Torpey suggested exploring using information technology, such as establishing a wiki, to enhance communication. Such a move would require a revision of the village code concerning open meetings, board counsel Steve Rother noted.

-- giving the Police Department more direction regarding enforcement of “quality of life” issues. “I really feel like the tone should come from the board,” Gould said.

-- conducting training for village employees who interact with the public. Gould said that it’s important that residents be treated courteously when they visit Village Hall. Bauer agreed. “I know people come with their problems,” she said, but added that public servants need to recognize that dealing with problems is part of the job.

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