SPRINGFIELD, NJ - A celebration began the Township Committee meeting Monday night with a proclamation read by Deputy Mayor Vassallo honoring Ronnie Mitnitsky for 50 years of service as an auxiliary police officer.  Officer Mitnitsky put in 10,000 volunteer hours of service.  He retired as a Corporal.  In his own words Ronnie said, “In 50 years I did everything… walked the neighborhoods, checked the doors, and made a lot of friends.”

Police Chief John Cook reported that overtime is roughly a third of what it was last year. He informed the Township Committee that due to a retirement and promotions at the November 28 meeting he needed the ability to hire another officer. Tacit approval was granted. The Chief reminded residents that motor vehicle burglaries have been occurring in unlocked cars. Chief Cook said, “Please lock your vehicles and garage them at night if possible.”

Fire Chief Carlo Palumbo reported that the Department had educated 1,500 children during Fire Safety Week.  He noted that one firefighter is on long term disability and he is down three fire fighters.  Giving more detail, Chief Palumbo said the Department’s headcount was at 25 a few years ago and it is now down to 22.  He requested permission to hire another fire fighter. Township Committeewoman Geri Ann Bujnowski asked if the Chief had any volunteers and if not, “Why not?”.  Chief Palumbo explained that the department has tried to recruit but potential volunteers today are working two to three jobs and the hours they need to train have been increased. He said, “Overall volunteerism is down.”

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Township Consultant Michael Disko gave a progress report on the Pool Project.  At present the project is on schedule.  A week went by with no work being done and Township Administrator Ziad Shehady and Township Engineer Sam Mardini called to the attention of the contractor quickly.  Shehady stated, “We are following them very closely.”

One resolution was pulled for further discussion and then approved.  A grant application was being made to the State Department of Transportation. The grant would be to fund a four foot fence along the Rahway Valley rail line right of way, which is part of what is known as “The Rahway Valley Railroad Bicycle Trail Project”.  It was explained that this is the first step to start a dialogue about a pedestrian/bicycle path from Mountain Avenue to Briant Park on an unused rail bed.  An additional benefit of this project would be to stymie any effort to reactivate the rail line.

In the public comments portion of the meeting, residents approached the Committee to complain about parking at Roessner field. This issue as stated was that the green area next to the concession stand was being treated as a parking lot. A resident stated there are 38 parking spaces and did not understand why there was a need to park on the grass. She stated that at times she cannot get out of her driveway because it is blocked.  Committeeman Huber stated he met with the baseball parents to try to alleviate the problem.   Deputy Mayor Vassallo asked the resident if she had called the police when her driveway was blocked. She stated she had that the police responded but it “…takes awhile”.  Chief Cook told the resident to call him directly if there is a problem.  Huber, “If they abuse it they are going to lose it.”

There was a prolonged and heated discussion as other residents approached the committee about whether there was a formal plan to address the issues at the park.  Talking points included a concrete apron; seeding the grass, more police enforcement, etc.  Deputy Mayor Vassallo stated, “We don’t have a formal plan.” Township Committeewoman Erica DuBois said it will be reviewed in subcommittee.

An announcement was made about the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service Monday, November 20 at 7 p.m. at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael.  All are invited.

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday November 28.