CEDAR GROVE, NJ - As we begin the new year, TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove sat down with Deputy Mayor Joe Cicala to learn more about his service on the township council and his vision for Cedar Grove.

Cicala joined the council in July 2016 when he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Joseph Chiusolo.  He then ran and won for that same seat in November 2016.  Most recently he was elected to his own three-year term in May and named Deputy Mayor in July.  Before joining the council, he served six years on the Cedar Grove Board of Education.  He lives in Cedar Grove with his wife and three children.

With the township budget currently in the works, Cicala continues to emphasize the need for fiscal responsibility -- an issue he campaigned on in the past.

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“Our goal is to keep our taxes down and to be fiscally responsible.  It is probably the most important  thing that I’ve been able to oversee during my time on the council,” Cicala noted.  “Our town manager does a wonderful job doing that and I say that with an eye on what we are going to be projecting out for our 2018 budget.  I think keeping our tax base the lowest in the county and making sure all the decisions are made with the eye of being fiscally responsible is what my primary focus is on a big scale.”

On a smaller scale, Cicala said there are several things that the council is working on to improve the quality of life in Cedar Grove.  He specifically highlighted the Downtown Advisory Committee.

“What the Downtown Advisory Committee is trying to do is very exciting.  My vision for Cedar Grove definitely starts with revitalizing the downtown area,” Cicala stated.  “I know it’s not going to be quick process -- it’s going to take time, but the Downtown Advisory Committee is working very hard.”

Some of the committee’s plans including changing the physical appearance of the downtown area to make it more attractive to new businesses as well as to residents who shop there.  Plans include a makeover for the trestle to make it a “gateway” to the downtown area and to improve the safety and walkability of the area by clearly marking that section of Pompton Ave. as one lane in either direction.  

Cicala said he’s seen some proposals for the trestle makeover that are creative and exciting, but said they are still early in the process.  

“It’s going to take time.  In March or April, the length of Pompton Avenue is going to be paved,” he explained.  “It’s a mess right now because of the work they’ve been doing with the gas mains. And that’s when we are going to make the downtown area -- from the trestle to maybe Esposito’s a one lane road each way.  Ultimately the goal is to make the downtown area more family friendly, more walkable and just better place for our residents.”

Cicala also touched on some new ideas for the children in Cedar Grove.  He mentioned the “Panther Cafe” which was opened at the Cedar Grove Library on the day of the tree lighting and was geared toward middle school and high school students.  The event provided a place for the kids to hang out together -- there was a movie playing and hot chocolate -- and Cicala felt it was  big success and would like to see more similar events.

“I find not just as a councilman, but as a father, that there is a remarkable lack of things to do for these kids after school in town.  In the spring and fall they will go to Panther Park  -- either for organized sports or just to hang out, but having the library open to them where it’s not just a library where you have to go read a book, but there are programs for them and movies and where there friends are going is a really great idea,” Cicala said.  “Trying to find more things like that to keep our kids occupied  after school is definitely something I’d like to promote.”

Also with the kids in mind, Cicala mentioned the new field that will be coming soon to Cedar Grove thanks to the redevelopment agreement with K. Hovnanian.  

“We signed the redevelopment agreement with Hovnanian and as a result they are putting in the field,” he noted.  “It will on the property behind LRP and will be another full size field  just like Panther Park with  the goal to have that put in by the end of 2019.”

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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