CALDWELL, NJ — During the recent borough council meeting held virtually on Oct. 20, discussion focused on the Caldwell Community Center’s (CCC) task force survey that was recently mailed to Caldwell residents and members of the CCC residing in other communities.
Prior to public comment, Mayor John Kelley addressed rumors that there had been a decision made already on the future of the community center. He said that there have been no decisions made to date. Kelley acknowledged that the survey “was not perfect” and thanked advisory member Peter Byrne and council members Christine Schmidt and Henderson Cole for their efforts in crafting the survey.
However, during public comments residents criticism of the survey included comments that the survey and the accompanying letter were biased, some questions that were required to be completed in the survey were non-applicable to the respondents, limited options to a response requiring a yes or no when an option should have been “no change," there was no section to add comments, some residents did not receive the letter, others did not receive the Reverse 91 and there was a lack of background information provided that would have prompted a more informed response.
Kelley said, “There was no intent to put out a survey that was biased or a slanted view of it.” He continued, “We wanted to be transparent as there has been no transparency at all regarding the community center in the last 15 or 20 years whether it was carrying its weight or not financially. We were forced into this situation because of the pandemic. If not for the pandemic the community center would not be closed right now. When we closed it, we choose to use this opportunity to work through with the task force and communicate to the residents what this is all about to them.”
Kelley stated that if they “need to push the survey back at we will via email, it won’t be to all the residents of Caldwell because we do not have them, but let us discuss this internally…and we will make a decision on that.”
Council President Christine Schmidt added that there had been “many rumors circulating and I do not know the source of the rumors are but I do want to say that we as a team have worked very hard to be extremely transparent this entire process and all meeting are on the website…and rumors are rumors and I encourage everyone to make their own opinion based upon fact and not rumors.”
Other residents called into to discuss the increase in their water/sewer bill. One resident noted their water bill went from $130 with five people in the home to $475 for the last quarter with two people now in the home. The resident said, “This increase is unsustainable and beyond what other towns charge.”
Another resident stated their bill increased from $165 with four people in the home to over $400 for the quarter with three people now in the home.
Thomas Banker, the borough’s business administrator responded that the bill reflects the consumption for usage during the highest quarters historically. The borough did increase its water rate from $7.50 to $9.00 per thousand gallons representing an increase of 20% effective January 1, 2020. All proceeds from the increase has been devoted to capital improvements to the water system. The sewer treatment operations became a fee-based system that also went into effect at the beginning of 2020.
Banker confirmed in response to a resident’s question regarding the potential acquisition of 10 and 14 Park Avenues to be the future home of municipal operations that the municipality is in negotiations to acquire the properties, however no action has been reached and no offers have been made yet. It was determined that the cost to renovate the existing facility is prohibitive.
Councilman Jeff Gates noted that newly paved roads and sidewalks, some of which have been installed for approximately 60 days, have cracks on some surfaces. Although initial payments have been submitted to the vendors, Gates requested if any residents see any newly paved surfaces with defects to contact borough hall so the items can be added to a “punch list” prior to final payments submitted.
The next borough council meeting will be held Nov. 17.