WAYNE, NJ - On Wednesday night, May 20, the Wayne Town Council met virtually via Zoom. Present were Acting Town Council President Franco Mazzei, Council Members Rich Jasterzbski, Al Sadowski, Fran Ritter, Jonathan Ettman, Jill Sasso, Joseph Schweighardt and David Varano, Mayor Chris Vergano, Town Council Attorney Matthew Giacobbe, Wayne CFO Heather McNamara, Town Clerk Paul Margiotta and Deputy Town Clerk Jakkie Barnhill.
The meeting’s agenda can be found here: https://www.tapinto.net/towns/wayne/sections/government/articles/may-20-town-council-meeting-agendas
A quick update: President of the Town Council, Joe Scuralli, who has been on medical leave since January, is close to 100% recovered and is likely to be back for the June Town Council Meeting.
After the Flag salute and moment of silence, Vergano began the meeting with his report. He started by reading off a proclamation designating May 2020 as Mental Health Awareness month.
He then gave a COVID-19 update for the Township.
As of May 20, there were 1,280 Wayne residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 143 Wayne residents who have passed away due to the virus. Because 96% of Wayne’s deaths have occurred in the over 60 population, the Township will soon be offering free COVID testing for the residents of Sienna Village, Sisco Village, the Summer Hill Apartments and the Four Seasons complex.
The state of New Jersey will be requiring that all long-term care facilities, like nursing homes will have mandatory testing starting May 26.
He talked about the Health Department, the Police Department and the Wayne Fire Department and the Wayne Memorial First Aid Squad. “This is national EMS week, so we have been especially thankful,” he said.
“The most amazing thing to me has been watching the individuals in our community, forming groups like FLAG of Greater Wayne which has fed over 9,500 of our front-line medical workers,” said Vergano with obvious pride. “There are so many groups of volunteers who are doing so many things for people in need. I’ve watched people giving money and making masks and face shields and dropping them off at Town Hall. It’s just been amazing to see our community come together.”
“We might be a town of over 54,000 spread over 25 square miles, but when there’s a problem, everybody comes to help. And, I mean everybody,” Vergano said.
The Town Council members took turns with their individual comments and each echoed the Mayor’s remarks with thanks to the Township first responders and business administration and to the Mayor himself for his leadership during the crisis.
Robert Coe, Wayne’s First Aid and Safety commissioner gave a short report. He thanked the whole Township for the generosity they have shown with meals and gift cards for the entire squad.
Two EMS members have contracted COVID-19, according to Coe, but both have recovered and are back at work.
Coe provided a bit of news we’ve all been hoping to hear.
“It looks like the COVID calls are starting to diminish,” he said. Coe then mentioned that the local hospitals are now “able to handle everybody that’s coming through their doors. It’s not like before where they had people just lining up, even in the hallways.”
He said that calls in total for the First Aid squad has been down, saying it was because everybody was staying home.
After Coe’s report, the Council began hearings on resolutions and ordinances. All resolutions and ordinances were passed by the Council except for the adoption of the 2020 Municipal Budget. Vergano asked the Council to not pass the budget and put the vote off until the next meeting.
“We have a lot of unknown forces out there,” said the Mayor. "Particularly we are waiting for direction from the State of New Jersey. So, I think the most conservative way to go right now is to carry the Budget until the next meeting.”
Vergano was asked by Councilman Varano if the Budget changed, would there be another review and public hearing before it was voted on and the Mayor said there would.
Before the Mayor spoke about the Administive Agenda, he announced some sad news. Long-time Wayne Business Administraor Neal Bellet will be retiring at the end of July and Vergano had nothing but high praise for Bellet.
“I have never dealt with anyone more ethical. He’s a great human being, and an extreme hard-worker,” said Vergano about Bellet. “Listen, if he can get along with me, he can do anything in this world.”
Bellet’s replacement has been found after a long search and intense interview process. Talib Aquil, who is currently the City of Newark Director of Public Works. Aquil will be starting at the end of June and will be working closely with Bellet for a month before he takes over.
The Administrative Agenda was passed in full as is.
The meeting was opened up for public comment.
Residents Darlene and Nelson Ortiz spoke, saying that they were not notified of the Parke construction project on Hamburg Turnpike. The construction is happening near their home. They spoke of health problems due to the vibrations and noise, and that the project was not following code.
Ritter is the Ward Councilwoman for the area where Mr. and Mrs. Ortiz live, responded during council comments saying that she’s had multiple conversations with the couple and the Mayor regarding the matter. “I was told and was satisfied that the code officials had been notified of the issues that they are raising,” she said.
Vergano also responded saying that he has had met twice with the couple and explained to the council that they live in a re-zoned business district and everything is being done to code and to the letter of the law. He then gave a warning to the council members on the subject.
“I would advise you to say as little as possible, because I am convinced that we will be litigants down the road,” he said.