WAYNE, NJ – November 5 is Election Day and all six Wayne Township Ward seats are up for election this cycle. On September 26, the League of Women Voters held their candidates forum at the Wayne Town Hall. During the forum, all the candidates in attendance answered seven questions that came from the audience.
This is the six in a series of seven articles summarizing the answers given by each of the candidates in attendance, as well as answers obtained exclusively by TAPinto Wayne from candidates who could not participate at the live event.
Participating at The Forum:
- Republican incumbent, Councilman Al Sadowski
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Dianne Douthat
- Republican incumbent, President of the Council Franco Mazzei
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Karen Dowizc-Haas
- Republican incumbent, Councilman Joe Scuralli
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Ken Tahan
- Budget Hawk challenger, Candidate Christian Smith
- Republican incumbent, Councilman Aileen Rivera
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Fran Ritter
Did Not Participate
Could not attend:
- Ward One Republican incumbent, Councilman Rich Jasterzbski
Not allowed to participate because of League of Women Voter “empty chair debate” rules:
- Ward One Democrat challenger, Candidate Arlene Sullivan
- Ward Six Republican incumbent, Councilman Jonathan Ettman
Though all three candidates who could not participate in the forum were invited to provide answers to the seven questions to TAPinto Wayne, only the Democrat Ward One candidate, Arlene Sullivan, did so. Her answers will be a part of this series.
Question 6: What steps do you suggest for addressing the possible future flooding in Wayne?
Ward Five Democrat Candidate Fran Ritter: “I don’t know why this is still happening. This council can’t seem to de-snag a river on a regular basis. I think its 2011 since the last time we de-snagged, or at least the Township got a recommendation to regularly de-snag. Why they’re running around now to get appropriations for consultants to make applications, I mean shouldn’t there just be a regular program?”
“I made mention earlier about Impervious surfaces. We have a terrible problem with materials that we’re using on our roads and on our roofs. There’s nowhere for the water to go. And, their whole platform of climate denial and what’s happening with flooding. If you’re not going to be prepared to think outside the box, this Township is going to be spending money for a long time.”
Ward Five Republican Incumbent Aileen Rivera: Our Township has received over $9million in FEMA grants for flood buyouts. Grants are contingent upon availability of funds. We have done dredging projects for flooding issues in our town. To help prevent flooding: Dredging and de-silting. Moving the earthly materials, sand, and mud piled up from the bed of our fast-flowing rivers or waterfronts to avoid blockage or obstruction which could, in turn, lead to flooding. We are doing everything possible to address this concern.”
Ward Two Republican Incumbent Al Sadowski: Flooding in Wayne is bad. In 1984, we had a flood and I volunteered with the American Red Cross and went around handing out hot food to those who were impacted, so I saw first-hand people who were throwing personal property out of their roofs. It’s 2019 and it’s still a problem.
The Township would love to go in and de-snag and desilt all the rivers, but the problem is the state EPA that limits what we can and cannot do. Until something like Beaties Dam, which is a little farther down, which a lot of engineers look at. If they were to lower the level of that dam, it would solve a lot of Wayne Township’s flooding problems. At one point there was a flood tunnel that was advocated for and a lot of towns said ‘no,’ and that’s why that didn’t get done. And, to do that now at the cost of Billions of dollars is not something that New Jersey Bureaucrats down in Trenton want to advocate.
“So, the things that Wayne does: Being proactive with buying-out properties and getting people out of harm’s way is something we’re proud of.”
Ward Two Democrat Candidate Dianne Douthat: “So, in the last thirteen months, Wayne has experienced two major floods. But, there is a constant issue also with storm water in our town. We’re now getting ten to fifteen more inches of rain every year. This is a problem some residents are dealing with all year. We need to deal not only with the flooding issues, but the storm water issues. And, the way we can do that is to implement green infrastructure. We can work with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension on this. They’re experts in this and they’d be happy to come in. Infrastructure products, like rain gardens would be great projects for our Girl Scout Gold Award or Eagle Scout projects. We need to have more trees and grass and we need to be aware that when we build and put in more impervious surfaces, we’re only exacerbating this problem. So, we need to be aware of what we’re doing.”
Council President and Ward Three Republican Incumbent Franco Mazzei: “On the Township level, the Township has been very vocal through the Administration and Mayor in dealing with the Army Corps of Engineers and voicing our concerns regarding various flood commissions in the years past, so they know our concerns. Obviously, we’ve been very diligent in the buy-out program. Approximately three-hundred homes. And, as Councilwoman Rivera mentioned, $99Million obtained in federal grants. That’s not only a benefit to the homeowners but keeping our first responders and police officers out of harm’s way. So, we’re being very diligent.”
Ward Three Democrat Candidate Karen Dowicz-Haas: “Packanack Lake needs some love. Water run-off is a constant issue and every time the town permits a wet-land to be built on or filled-in, the Lake suffers and gets less attractive and enticing. Still, every 5K Fundraiser wants to run around the Lake. It’s a resource that needs to be taken care of. From what I heard, the Town has been dangling the possibility of working with the PLCA to dredge for years, but it always seems to be put-off. If the lake is taken care of properly, maybe it can do what the Lake does best, and contain water and help prevent down-stream flooding by being lowered in advance of major storm predictions. If not, it won’t. Major storms are becoming more frequent. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Ward Four Budge Hawk Candidate Christian Smith: “Wayne already has a master plan, and it just shocks me that every time there is a development in an area that is currently not yet developed, then variances are given. Why do we have a master plan and when developers come and ask for a variance to that plan, its granted on land that is not developed? Wayne has so much land that currently is developed, but not used. We can kill two birds with one stone in that way, and that’s how I would handle it.”
Ward Four Republican Incumbent Joe Scuralli: “Flooding is a serious issue. My Ward does have some minor flooding, except it’s not minor for the people that get it. Especially, along some of the streams. We do our best to keep those clean within the law with the amount that the DEP allows us to do. Much of this is controlled by the State. I would agree though that our building processes in Wayne are something that does affect the amount of run-off that we have. And I have to tell you, that our engineering department is on this issue, and our building department is on it. I’ve heard comments earlier about how we should reduce the toughness of our inspections and our permitting. We follow BOCA codes; these are codes that are used all over. Our codes are no tougher than anyone else’s. However, we enforce the codes where other towns don’t. That’s why a lot of people come to Wayne- because Wayne is a beautiful town, because we enforce our codes, we enforce our zoning, that means your property values stay up. That means buildings are built the correct way, and there’s a minimum amount of runoff. We’re here to protect you.”
Ward Four Democrat Candidate Ken Tahan: “Wayne always makes the news when there is severe rain. People are taken out of their homes in row boats, and that’s a pitiful thing to see. I’m in favor of having FEMA purchase these homes and destroy them and develop a wetlands where we’re having severe flooding. It’s thanks to Bill Pascrell, who’s a Democrat."
“As Fran has so eloquently mentioned: It’s been seven years since we de-snagged and cleared out the debris from these rivers and that has to change. We should do it more often and we have to be more cognizant of those who are living in the wetlands today.”
In her emailed answers to TAPinto Wayne, Ward One Democrat Candidate Arlene Sullivan wrote: “If ever a question screams Master Plan, it’s this one. Flooding in Wayne comes in many forms, but it is a major Ward One issue due to indiscriminate overbuilding and curious rezoning. The biggest concern takes us back to adherence to the Master Plan which stresses preserving what little undeveloped land Wayne has and recommitting to the renovation of existing abandoned buildings.”
“I can’t stress enough, the importance of keeping tabs on our engineering and zoning offices. Mistakes made there could cause flooding the likes of which we haven’t seen. It is vital to keep a watchful eye and evaluate how land areas are rezoned, building permits are approved and untangle but not streamline, the process, making sure it is consistent in every Ward. The members of the zoning board are appointed by the Mayor and Town Council but there needs to be transparency as to their qualifications.”
“At present it has come to my attention that wetlands in the lower Mountain View area by the Crossing Way apartments and the Transit Park and Ride have been rezoned as residential. If by any stretch of the imagination developers are allowed to build there, the flooding will be catastrophic.”