Outgoing Caldwell University President Dr. Nancy Blattner Recognized by Town Council

CALDWELL, NJ — Mayor John Kelley and members of the town council and colleagues of Dr. Nancy Blattner recognized and thanked the former president of Caldwell University for her contributions to the university during her tenure.  Blattner who had announced her resignation in September of 2019 concluded her contractual obligations to the University this past June and has been appointed to serve as president of Fontbonne University returning to her home state of Missouri.

Blattner has the distinction of being the first lay president in the school’s history beginning in 2009 and oversaw the school’s status change from a college to a university during her tenure.  Blattner stated that the “town of Caldwell, the University, the students, the people will always be in my heart and there isn’t a day that I don’t think about you with great joy.”

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Attending the Zoom meeting Blattner’s friends and colleagues spoke highly of the former president and wished her well.  In attendance were Sr. Kathleen Tuite, newly appointed Caldwell University president Dr. Matt Whelan, Laurita Warner, Sheila O’Rourke, Lamar-Shea Chang, Stephen Quinn, Kevin Boyle, and Barbara Chesler.  Warner who was chair of the University’s board of trustees said that Blattner “served with great integrity and truly made a different and left a mark forever.”    Councilman Jonathan Lace on behalf of his colleagues read into the record a proclamation of gratitude noting her achievements and wished her well in her new position.

The Caldwell Environmental Commission’s Ann Marchioni introduced Professor Chris Obropta of Environmental Studies at Rutgers University who is an expert of water resources.  Professor Obropta presented a plan for impervious cover assessment, green infrastructure action plan, and green infrastructure strategic plan for Caldwell.  Obropta discussed the impact of development of stormwater run-off.  The plan is meant to be a blueprint of action items that can be done within Caldwell.  The professor’s PowerPoint in its entirety is available within the video of the town council meeting.

Office of Emergency Management coordinator Mark Guiliano provided a COVID-19 update.  He noted that the numbers have been “flat” and there have been 119 cases within the borough.  Two testing sites within the borough recently produced low numbers with two out of 300 tests with a positive result, which he noted is consistent within Essex County.  Guiliano did caution that youth have been “slacking off on PPE” and he urged everyone to stay vigilant and abide by social distancing protocols.

Guiliano discussed the differences between FEMA and CARES funding as it relates to reimbursements.   FEMA is the standard means of recouping funds expended during a declared state of emergency (e.g., snowstorm) and the municipality will submit expenses and will receive reimbursement for items.  CARES funding pays for items, according to Guiliano “that FEMA does not pay for” such as unusual expenses such as PPE, straight time for employees, cleaning supplies, etc. Projected expenses for COVID-19 related items are about $50,000 to date with an expectation of recovering 75% of the costs from CARES.  CARES act is being administered by the County of Essex and Caldwell’s allotment for CARES money was $220,000.

During public comment resident Christine Gurriere questioned the placement of a Black Lives Matter (BLM) banner on the town green indicating that it was a political statement by the governing body and therefore inappropriate.  Gurriere remarked that the website for BLM “confirms that the message is based not only on social principles but political ones”.  Gurriere continued that the “BLM banner was very upsetting to see…by placing a BLM banner on the town green you are making a political statement.”    

Mayor Kelley responded that he “did not view it as a political banner, my view on the BLM banner was that it is an inclusive banner and welcoming to the community.  This was a statement of inclusion that we wanted to make very clear that black lives do matter and that is why I allowed them to put that banner up”.

Shawn Rudden a resident of Francis Place questioned the pending tree removals along Francis Place and Central Place.  He indicated that he and his neighbors were not notified of the expected time frame for the work to be done and was concerned that “almost every tree has been slated to be removed” including young trees.  Business Administrator Thomas Banker indicated that the borough is receiving state funding for streets and sidewalk work which requires ADA compliance which will in turn necessitate for trees to be removed. 

Banker stated that the contractor has been told not to proceed with any tree removals until the borough reviews the plans for removal and a “meaningful dialogue” takes place before any work takes place.  He added that a letter will be going out to property owners who would be affected, and that the borough will make available replacement trees and apologized that the letter did not go out yet.

Agenda items included the second reading of an ordinance that would provides funds not to exceed $700,000 for the purchase of the property located at 24 Smull Avenue.  It is the intent of the administration to expand the current surface lot parking available by purchasing this property along with the pending sale of 26 Smull Avenue.  The ordinance was approved unanimously. 

Joining the ranks of the Caldwell Volunteer Fire Department are Dan Carroll and Mike Daino whose appointments were approved unanimously.  Mayor Kelley thanked them for their service and congratulated them on joining one “of the finest West Essex Volunteer Fire Departments”.

During committee reports Council President Christine Schmidt reported that the Caldwell Public Library is open and curbside pickup is available, also summer reading programs are in full swing.  There are limited hours for “in-person browsing” subject to scheduled appointments.  Signups for library usage may found on the borough website’s library page.

Schmidt also encouraged residents to join the Zoom meetings taking place every two weeks as the Caldwell Community Center’s Task Force continues their due diligence in order to make recommendations to the town council in early September regarding the future of the Center.  The most recent meeting focused on facilities and parking.  The next scheduled meeting will be August 13th @ 7:00 p.m., finances and marketing will be on the agenda.

Councilman Francis Rodgers reported that the Historic Preservation Commission has begun the process for the town green to receive designation as an historical landmark.  Councilman Henderson Cole addressed the impact that the Caldwell Food Pantry has had on the community noting that the pantry has been providing approximately 55-60 households assistance weekly.  Drop off of donations may be made on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday until 4:30 and non-perishable items are accepted.  If residents are in need of items, the pantry is open on Wednesdays between 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.   All donations are greatly appreciated, and checks may be payable to “Caldwell Welfare Fund” and sent to borough hall in care of Maria Burak.

Councilman Jonathan Lace announced that construction is set to begin after 10 years on the Grover Cleveland Birthplace Visitor Center located at 207 Bloomfield Avenue.  According to Lace: “this will enable a dedicated space for exhibits and education tours especially for local students”.   Lace went on to express his gratitude to Dave Cowell and members of the Grover Cleveland Memorial Birthplace Association for the perseverance and hard work.

Business Administrator Thomas Banker announced that a special council meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 4th to introduce the 2020-2021 municipal budget.  It is expected that the final budget will be adopted in late August or early September.