WEST CALDWELL, NJ — Resolutions authorizing the execution of a professional services agreement with Maser Consulting, P.A. for reconstruction projects on Hillside Avenue, Waverly Place, Ravine Avenue and Fairfield Avenue in West Caldwell were unanimously approved during Tuesday’s township council meeting.   

Contracts were also awarded to Bay Roofing & Construction Co., Inc., for the replacement of the Crane House roof, and to Your Way Construction in the amount of $603,396.96 for a water main replacement project at Stonybrook Road and Sanford Avenue.

West Caldwell resident Chris Elko, who is currently running for a seat on the Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of Education, spoke during public comment about safety issues for Grover Cleveland Middle School students who are subject to crossing Passaic and Bloomfield Avenues. Each is considered a main thoroughfare with eight lanes and no crossing guards, he said.

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Additionally, he said, the middle school students are subject to walking along streets that have no sidewalks and are on a truck route that leads to Route 46 with a speed limit of 40 miles per hour. According to Elko, there have been 60 motor vehicle accidents this year alone, and there are no shoulders on the road to safeguard pedestrians or motorists.

Parent Lorraine Caputo has been advocating with the school board and Superintendent Dr. James Heinegg for designation of a hazardous bus route since the spring to no avail. When the school board did not respond after she addressed the issue at September meeting, Caputo ultimately contacted ABC’s Eyewitness News, which ran a story on this topic on Monday.

During the segment, reporter Nina Pineda interviewed both West Caldwell Mayor Joseph Tempesta and Acting Police Chief Dennis Capriglione. Tempesta said that it was “absolutely dangerous” and that he had not been notified by anyone from the district until Caputo reached out to him earlier this week.

“I would not want my child to walk that route and if the school contacts me, which they have not, I would tell the superintendent I think it is dangerous,” said Capriglione.

Elko noted that the members of the board of education “literally offered no response after Ms. Caputo poured her heart out.” He requested that the municipality provide a crossing guard for the intersection until the township can officially determine whether this can be considered a “hazardous route” and therefore provide busing.

Tempesta remarked that there was previously a crossing guard at the intersection, but that the township ultimately withdrew the guard from the intersection several years ago because most parents drive their children to school. According to Tempesta, students hadn’t crossed the intersection for three years.

The mayor concluded his remarks by stating that he will speak with the police department to see if it “makes sense” to reinstate the crossing guard and monitor the situation.

Also during public comment, real estate developer Carmen Pio Costa and his, attorney Matthew Moench, Esq., inquired about the process of determining whether Pio Costa’s 53-acre parcel located at 1200 Bloomfield Avenue was being considered as a site for the municipality to meet its Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) obligation.

“This is a piece of property that may help meet the COAH obligation,” said Moench “Is this truly being considered as a valid and viable option? You should be looking at this as a tool in your toolbox to meet that obligation.”

Township Attorney Paul Jemas informed Moench that the municipality has retained specialized counsel for the COAH process, but Pio Costa recounted that he felt he was “being barred from the process.”

Jemas noted that Pio Costa’s other attorneys had filed for intervention “without basis” and that there has been an “exhaustive effort to comply.” He added that Pio Costa has also been provided with “multiple boxes of documents” after OPRA requests had been filed.

“All properties are required to be considered to determine how the municipality will meet its obligation,” said Jemas, who also reiterated that Pio Costa has not been ignored. “It has been a laborious and extensive process and of paramount interest to West Caldwell.”

Committee Reports and Other Updates

In other news, Councilman Stephen Wolsky reported that Ann Marchionni from the Caldwell Environmental Commission presented him with a petition signed by 1,000 residents requesting that single-use plastic bags be prohibited within the township.

On this particular subject, Tempesta remarked that several other municipalities have adopted ordinances of their own and that the state is “moving too slowly.

“We will see 565 separate ordinances instead of one uniform one,” said Tempesta, adding that it is important for the municipality to “engage the larger users, such as ShopRite and Stop N Shop so we do this right.”

Chief Financial Officer Nicole Baltycki reported that the municipality has seen an increase of $17 million in ratables as determined by the Oct. 1 assessment list filed with the Essex County Board of Taxation. 

Council President Joseph Cecere thanked Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill for her immediate assistance and intervention in helping his mother-in-law, who was injured while she was visiting Czechoslovakia. He reiterated how “thankful he and his family were for her assistance.”

Councilwoman Kathy Canale reported that fall recreation programs are in “full swing” and that registration has begun for the winter season. She noted that the STEM class has been extremely successful and fill up immediately.

She also announced that the senior citizen committee met for the first time since the summer recess and is busy promoting its programs and getting the “word out for the great programs and services offered.”

Councilman Michael Crudele reported that a professional engineering firm has been retained to determine whether the dam at Camp Wyanoke has been compromised or if the current low level of water in the lake is due to small rainfall totals.

Councilman Stanley Hladik reported after having attended a West Caldwell Board of Health meeting, he learned that homeowners are permitted to have up to three chickens on their property but no cannot have any roosters. He concluded that “you learn something new every day.”

The next town council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12.