CALDWELL, NJ - Probationary police officer Conor Cunningham was sworn into service by Mayor Ann Dassing during Tuesday’s council meeting with family members and Caldwell police officers in attendance. Police Chief James Bongiorno welcomed Cunningham to the department as proud family members looked on.
During public comment, John Kelley advocated to return polling sites to the public schools, stating that by utilizing the Caldwell Community Center, Lincoln Middle School and the firehouse only, is “suppressing votes." Dassing responded that Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin and Linda Von Nessi, Clerk of the Essex County Board of Elections, are responsible for the decision and it is the county not the borough that determines the polling sites.
Dassing responded that the safety of the children is paramount, and the borough will not compromise the safety of its children.
"This decision was made by the county, but the county did ask for input from the mayor’s office, police chief and office of emergency and management and all stressed for security measures it was best not to have elections held in the schools,” she said.
Dassing indicated that she is seeking other alternatives within the borough to present to the county for optional sites.
“I will not support a return of voting in the schools, my concern is the students’ safety," Bongiorno said when Dassing asked him to comment on the proposal to return voting to the schools. "However, the department will assign a police officer to the polling locations for security.”
Dassing also noted that voting by mail is available if anyone wishes to do so. However, she anticipates that under Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent decree, those who voted by mail in the 2016 presidential election will be required to vote by mail in 2018 unless they inform the county board of election that they decline that choice and want to vote in person.
The problem with this, according to Dassing, is that the county did not send out this information in a timely fashion, and voters only received notice one day before the Sept. 14 deadline to make the change.
Councilman Henderson Cole made a motion for the council to vote in favor of requesting that the county to move districts 4, 5 and 6 to Grover Cleveland Middle School out of convenience to the voters. Council members Pasquale Capozzoli, Richard Hauser and Thomas O’Donnell as well as Dassing voted against the motion while Council members Frank Rodgers, Jonathan Lace and Cole voted in favor of it.
Additionally, Cole made a motion to request that the county provide voting machines that are functioning properly in an effort to alleviate issues that arose from defective voting machines in last election. All voted in favor of the motion.
In other news, Lace reported that the Caldwell Environmental Commission will be receiving the 2018 ANJEC Environmental Achievement Award on Oct. 12 at Caldwell University in recognition of the commission’s “Bringing Home Nature” event earlier this year.
Lace also presented a request from the commission to require all businesses that currently have recyclable materials to instead utilize recycling bins. O’Donnell and Hauser raised multiple questions regarding the enforcement of such a measure, pickup of materials, who provides the bins, placement of the bins, among other concerns.
Lace said he would report back to his colleagues with more information from the commission.
Borough Attorney Greg Mascera informed the council that if it decides to move forward with this initiative, there is currently ordinance already in place that would require amendments to accommodate the proposal. He explained that the current ordinance was approved in 1992 and omits language referencing the scope of the request by the commission.
Borough Administrator Paul Carelli updated the council that he is expecting a savings of approximately $24,000 by switching the broker of record for the borough for the dental plan beginning in 2019.
Also, in response to a discussion during an August meeting, Carelli noted that requiring residents to bag leaves rather than leave them on the street for pickup would involve an increase of approximately $60,000 toward the cost of tipping fees.
Finally, in response to Capozzoli’s request to determine costs to outfit borough vehicles with GPS equipment, Carelli reported that it would cost $2,800 annually for nine vehicles.
Bongiorno stated that the GPS units would enhance policing greatly, as the data collected would assist in investigations and provide valuable information that may be used in court. The GPS units are not the standard utilized in private cars, but offer a multitude of informational data that would be beneficial for the department, he added.
The next borough council meeting will be held on Oct. 2.