CALDWELL, NJ - During its meeting this past Tuesday, the borough council approved to relocate the Borough Hall and Police Department by unanimously passing an ordinance on second reading that appropriates $6,640,000 and authorizes a bond in the amount of $6,445,00 to finance the acquisition of 10 and 14 Park Avenue, which includes a grant of $580,000 from the Department of Transportation. The intent is to rehabilitate and maintain the historical significance of the Post Office and to create a state-of-the-art new police headquarters. The bond also covers the costs of non-passenger vehicles for the Department of Public Works, work and materials for the Smull Avenue Parking lot and various road improvements throughout the borough.
The current borough hall according to Mayor John Kelley will be sold to help offset the costs of the new complex. Business Administrator Tom Banker confirmed that architectural plans have not been drafted yet. He did note that approximately 15-20 other sites had been considered, but it was determined that this met the needs of the borough best and the site does provide adequate parking.
An ordinance was passed on first reading authorizing the purchase of 24 Smull Avenue in an amount not to exceed $700,000. The administration previously approved in April to purchase 26 Smull Avenue, for an amount not to exceed $500,000 in order to combine both properties to create a new surface parking lot. Councilwoman Frances DePalma-Iozzi noted her objection to the terms of the ordinance, specifically the allowance for the municipality to pay for the seller’s closing costs, carrying costs, taxes and appraisal fees and abstained from the vote.
Councilman Henderson Cole updated the community on the formation of the Task Force and its agenda. In a prepared statement Cole noted: “After careful consideration, we have assembled a Task Force. It is a group of concerned & qualified Caldwell residents from various backgrounds. We have sought a balance of CCC members, non-members, and former members. Their job will be to gain as much information about the CCC, its past and present ideals, finances, successes and failures to find a way to move forward.”
Cole announced that the task force members are: Mary Campion, Lori Brown, Al Porcello, Chris D'Ambola, Dave Pepe, Jesus Navarro, Lou Renzetti, Ken Mihalik and Theresa Hunt.
He continued: “Each Task Force meeting will have a different topic of study. The Advisory Board will be composed of individuals (not specifically Caldwell residents) who will be invited to share their expertise with the Task Force. The Task Force will be advised well in advance of the topic for presentation so they can do their research and prepare their questions. Thus far, these are the topics we will be examining:
- 1 - Historical Perspective - Combined public/private use of space?
- 2 - Aquatics - How do we make best use of this valuable resource?
- 3 - Fitness & Facilities - What needs to be fixed and how do we turn it into a profit?
- 4 - Finance - How much do we owe? How do we move forward?
- 5- Marketing & Fundraising - How can we raise enough money to fix it?
Cole confirmed that residents will be invited to view the Task Force meetings and will be welcome to send their ideas on the topic to any of the council members who will then share them with the Task Force. He stated: “this process allows us to provide transparency while respecting the time of our volunteers.” He concluded his remarks noting that there will “at least one more Town Hall” to continue the conversation with the community.
A resolution was passed that ratifies the issuance of Caldwell Community Center (CCC) refunds totaling $348,243.76 to reimburse costs such as camp, facility, and membership fees due to the facility’s temporary closure.
In response to the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, the council unanimously passed a Resolution to “condemn systemic injustice against racial minorities.” Councilman Jonathan Lace read into the record: “Tonight, the Council will lodge its own form protest. Indeed, it is the only official one we have as a Governing Body. We will go on the record with a resolution that condemns racism and systemic injustice. We will add our voice to those to speak out against racism and systemic injustice. We will stand with those who seek a better borough and a better nation.”
A Proclamation was passed that declared the first Friday in June to be National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Advocates Emily Goldberg and Stephanie Alfono Swanson attended the Zoom meeting and thanked the council for the support for the second year in a row to renew their commitment to help to reduce gun violence and pledge “to do all they can to keep firearms out of the wrong hands and encourage responsible gun ownership to help keep children safe.” Residents are encouraged to wear orange on Friday to show their support for the initiative.
Health Officer Mike Fitzpatrick updated the governing body about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He stated that currently statistics confirm that there are significantly decreased numbers of residents testing positive versus the beginning of the pandemic in March Noting that Governor Murphy signed Executive Order #148 which outlines the path for Phase 2 of the reopening of businesses and confirmed that details will be found on the borough’s website and information will be updated when disseminated from Trenton. Fitzpatrick stated that the Center for Disease Control disclosed that warmer weather and UV rays are “natural factors” that will reduce the virus but cautioned all to be responsible.
The next borough meeting will be June 16th.