WEST CALDWELL, NJ — Members of the West Caldwell Township Council adhered to social distancing recommendations when they convened on Tuesday to conduct a preliminary 2020-2021 budget workshop with administrative department leadership. 

The mayor and council members sat spaced apart on the dais and on the floor while department heads were teleconferenced in for the discussion whereas they typically attend the meeting in person.

During the meeting, Mayor Joseph Tempesta addressed the community regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on the residents and businesses of West Caldwell.

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“I really feel for a lot of business that are about to get really hurt and the people who work for them,” he said. “I could name a hundred businesses off the top of my head; I’m worried about the little guy, the diner, the TAP House who was just getting rolling, all the restaurants and daycare facilities that are struggling to stay open, if they’re allowed to stay open.

"I worry about the workout facilities, the small mom-and-pop places—they have employed a lot of people, and they are not going to be able to employ them, and they are also paying some pretty high rents. We are in this together, and we will help where we can help.

“I have gotten some great calls. For instance, The Pancake House, the owner called me today and said, ‘Mayor, I’m going to take a hit, but if you have some people that are hurting, I’ll be happy to deliver something to them and leave it on their door step, and I don’t need any money from them.’

“People are going to be hurting, so I just ask that you keep them in mind, and I ask that you patronize these businesses as best as you can…

“Be prudent, and most importantly, use common sense whenever you can,” he said. “Avoid large crowds [and] use proper spacing, as we are doing here tonight. We have a great community, and I know this community has been resilient. We will come through this.”

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 conversation, Councilman Joseph Cecere reported that in addition to closing the public library, all recreation programs for children and seniors have been canceled for the next several weeks.

Councilman Stanley Hladik added that the West Caldwell Department of Health has been meeting and “taking all CDC guidelines seriously” during this time.

“We will have a tough couple of months ahead of us, and we are all creatures of habit,” he said. “We are all in this together, all neighbors and friends and as we are frustrated let’s remember to live with love and kindness too.”

Despite the global health crisis, Council President Kathy Canale announced that the West Caldwell Department of Public Works is still on track with spring projects, such as preparing the fields for usage and repairing any potholes.

For those looking for a project during their newfound “down time,” Councilman Michael Crudele suggested helping Camp Wyanokie with its spring cleanup efforts to clear the trails and refurbish campsites. He added that he is currently looking into whether the camp is open to the community at this time.

The regular council meeting centered on the budget discussion, which had directors and department heads from the police department, fire department, department of public works, public library and recreation department phoning in to address the status of their individual departments, surpluses and deficits as well as their long-and short-term needs and priorities.

Council members noted requests for various items for further consideration as they begin to formulate the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

Chief Financial Officer Nikole Baltycki moderated the workshop and provided assessments and analysis to the council members and mayor as questions arose. Discussions will be ongoing as the process ensues.

Other agenda items included approval of a resolution authorizing the award of the contract to SA Food Associations LLC as the concession operator for the Cedar Street and Westville Avenue pool snack bars for the 2020 season. Also approved was a resolution authorizing a waiver of the New Jersey State Chiefs of Police Examination in connection with the upcoming police chief promotion.

During his committee report, Crudele acknowledged Boy Scout Troop 6 member Laurent Keenan and his family, who have spent the last 15 months fostering a puppy and training him to become a seeing-eye dog for Morristown’s Seeing Eye Inc. As they returned their current dog to the seeing-eye center, the family received a new puppy to begin training over the next 15 months.

The next council meeting is currently scheduled for April 7.