ROSELAND, NJ — During his first year serving as Mayor of Roseland, James Spango has brought an increased sense of community to the borough by adhering to his mantra, “Always for Roseland,” which he defined as “a means to ensuring our residents receive the services they want and expect while keeping taxes stable.”
As he delivered his first “State of the Borough” address earlier this week, Spango reflected on some of the borough’s major accomplishments over the last year.
Through his initiatives as mayor, Spango has sought to “return to the days when neighbors would happily talk to each other, compliment each other, care about each other and bring some more fun and more small-town charm into the borough.”
Within his first month in office, he created the “West Essex Mayors Shared Services Coalition” while continuing to maintain the previously established shared services agreements with Verona and East Hanover. The average homeowner saw a municipal tax increase of $14 in 2019 while improvements to services expanded.
He further noted that agreements were made with Essex County through a leasing agreement to purchase equipment for the fire and police departments, enabling the first responders to “have the tools they need to do their job.”
Additionally, recreational facility upgrades included renovations to the tennis courts and the Harrison Avenue playground, the purchase of new benches to the borough’s parks and planned renovations at Tedesco Park. The borough also recognized former mayor Louis DeBell by renaming The Lynn DeBell Field to “show [the borough’s] thankfulness for [the Lynn family’s] dedication and service to the community.”
According to the mayor, new initiatives were abundant and evident throughout the year as well.
To name a few, the borough saw the inaugural season of the Roseland Summer Concert Series in 2019, which was fully funded by donations and prompted an expansion for the 2020 season; the annual Halloween and Holiday House Decorating Contests were instituted with the goal of encouraging residents to make their homes festive; and the Christmas Tree Lighting event was revamped to provide more entertainment, new lights for the tree and greater opportunities for pictures with Santa.
The borough also brought back “Holiday Story Time” this year with the help of resident Neil Grabowsky, who donated services and created a professional production that was broadcast on Roseland’s cable station. With the assistance of former mayor Michael Pacio, the “much-beloved Mayor’s Ball” will return this year as well to raise funds for the Roseland First Aid Squad and Roseland Free Public Library, the mayor added.
Spango also mentioned some new initiatives for 2020, such as "Roseland Day," which includes an Oktoberfest with an outdoor concert, bonfire and Family Movie Night, and “New Resident Day” to welcome new and prospective residents to Roseland while providing pertinent information about the borough.
Over the last year, the borough has achieved its goal of providing better opportunities to share information through the new and improved borough website; the revamped “Insider,” now known as a weekly E-newsletter entitled “This Week in Roseland”; and new social media accounts. Google Calendars have also been made available to help residents gain access to pertinent information; the borough launched a new format for the local television channel; and enhanced community signage has been placed in strategic locations.
Future plans related to this goal include creating an official borough calendar; making it easier to view council meetings; and increasing programming offerings. Spango said the borough is also looking to create a communications committee to provide input and suggestions to continually improve and adapt to the community’s needs.
Promoting and enhancing senior services have been also on the mayor’s agenda, such as available busing and holiday luncheons. He noted that the new and improved town picnic saw an increase in attendance this year with more than 500 residents, and an expansion of the Municipal Youth Guidance group provided more opportunities for volunteerism by local high school students.
Spango added that he intends to explore the possibility of a full-day Scram Camp that would provide an affordable full-day program versus the current half-day program. Plans also include bringing “Team 94 Run” home to Roseland and initiating community block parties throughout the summer in addition to improving existing springtime events.
Reflecting on other highlights from 2019, Spango reminded residents that the administration was on the forefront of “prohibiting the sale of electronic smoking products.”
“[The council] passed a vaping ordinance and a marijuana ordinance to address concerns that arose last year with the nationwide epidemic and statewide discussion on these issues,” said Spango.
Moving forward, the governing body will continue to focus on issues that affect the community at large, such as the expansion of the Roseland Compressor Station and the Williams Transco pipeline. Settlement of years-long litigation has come to an end with a negotiated agreement as it pertains to the borough’s requirement to provide affordable housing, he said.
Noting that New Jersey Monthly Magazine named Roseland as the second-best town in Essex County and the 14th best town in the State of New Jersey in 2019, Spango added that “engagement is increasing” among residents.
“Residents are continuing to come forward to join different boards and committees because they want to be a part of this Roseland—our great borough,” he said.
The mayor concluded by thanking the “dedicated Roseland public servants who have been essential to the progress” made in the last year; the “community of volunteers who are vital to this borough’s success”; and his peers on the borough council who have “shared a vision” for the betterment of the community.
“We all have made this happen together,” he said. “I’ve always said—and similar expressions have been uttered before—that there isn’t a Democratic or Republican way to take out the trash. What matters is that the trash gets done affordably, it gets done well, and it gets done in a way the residents can be satisfied with and proud about at the end of the day.
“That is the way I’m approaching getting things done as mayor, and if we keep the focus on making sure what we are doing is ‘Always For Roseland,’ we will be doing the right things for those who live, work, and play in the gem of a town we all call home.”