WEST CALDWELL, NJ — For the first time since last spring, the members of the township council met in person, with appropriate social distancing precautions in place, to conduct business during their meeting on Aug. 11. Three ordinances were passed on second reading unanimously that provided for bonding for various capital improvements, including improvements to the water and the pool utilities.

Ordinance 1827 appropriated $1,636,300 and the issuance of $1,554,500 for items that included hardware and software, a sports utility vehicle, radios, self-contained breathing apparatus refill stations and security cameras. Additional items included: a fire engine, engineering, roads and sewer work, a compressor, equipment for Francisco Park including fencing and guardrails, funding for the Harrison School Turf project, security upgrades, replacement of a water pump at the West Caldwell Public Library, base radios for the police department, upgrades to 911 PSAP System, a license plate reader, eTicket hardware and software, desk chairs for Dispatch and CJIS Migration hardware.

Ordinance 1828 provides for the issuance of a bond in the amount of $818,875 for the purpose of various improvements to the Water Utility that includes the replacement of water meters and valves, tank maintenance, and replacement of a main on Bloomfield Avenue and Sanderson Avenue.

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The final ordinance passed on second reading was Ordinance 1829, which finances various improvements to the pool utility.  Mayor Joseph Tempesta stated that the Cedar Street pool was constructed in 1964 and the Westville pool dates back to the 1940s. A bond in the amount of $210,000 will be issued to provide for  “various improvements to the pool utility, including, but not limited to, Westville Pool snack bar improvements, sand blasting of Cedar Street Pool baby pool and Cedar Street Pool main and the replacement of sand in the main filters, faucets and mirrors, electrical wiring at Cedar Street Pool Pump House, chlorine and acid pumps at Westville Pool and well pressure tanks at Westville Pool and further including all work and materials necessary therefor and incidental thereto”.

During public comment, resident Richard Wilcox voiced his objections to the purchase of the license plate readers for the police department and questioned the cost of equipment to store data for the five years required by State statute.  Wilcox remarked that “the idea of the license plate reader was horrifying and Orwellian”. Tempesta responded that he “couldn’t disagree with you (Wilcox) anymore”.  Tempesta went on to note that in East Hanover, 15 hardened criminals have been apprehended as the license plate reader provided information of outstanding warrants for individuals as they travel through a municipality. The mayor confirmed that the data storage costs are built into the municipal budget under technology. It was confirmed by Tempesta and Councilman Michael Doctoroff, that as the license plate readers received all appropriate and necessary policies, protocols and procedures will be adhered to as required by law.

Resident Elizabeth Dean questioned if the town’s swimming pools were self-funded. Tempesta confirmed that that was still the case and that the bond was to be paid by pool membership fees. The mayor further stated that the pool utility, similar to the water utility, is a separate fund from the general funds.

Consent agenda items included approval for general resolutions for conducting regular business for the municipality including authorizing a fee schedule for the months of August and September 2020 for the West Caldwell pool utility membership. The council also authorized the annual report of the audit for the year of 2019. Kudos were given to Business Administrator Nikole Baltycki noting specifically that there was not one comment or recommendation from the auditor regarding the budget. Baltycki took the opportunity to thank the staff for all of their hard work.

Council President Kathy Canale, during committee reports, thanked the Department of Public Work (DPW) for their efforts and professionalism during Tropical Storm Isaias noting the damage to trees, cars, power lines and homes.  Canale stated that there were a “fair number of homes and business with no power” but the DPW worked “diligently with PSEG in a safe manner and got the job done”.  It was reported that debris is still being picked up and then the street sweepers will be out clearing the streets.

Councilman Joseph Cecere reported that Recreation Director Gabe DiMasi is moving forward with fall sports “but that can change at any time.” Recreation is working with the board of education adding outdoor volleyball courts at James Caldwell High School.  

Councilman Michael Docteroff thanked the fire and police departments for their work during the recent tropical storm. He stated that there were over 3,000 without power and that everyone since Saturday has had their electric restored.  Docteroff on behalf of his colleagues congratulated retiring DPW member Frank Lopriezioso and thanked him for service to the community and wished him well in his retirement.

Fire Chief Luker reported that during Tropical Storm Isaias there were 20 calls for service within 18 hours with the bulk of them within a five-hour time frame. Luker remarked that the volunteer fire department “all stepped up” and there were no injuries despite trees that had fallen on homes and cars, downed power lines and transformers that had blown. 

Councilman Michael Crudele reminded residents that Essex County has set up free testing sites for COVID-19 and stated that the Rutgers saliva test was extremely efficient and encouraged all to get tested. Crudele stated that it “felt great to see everyone back in the room (council chambers) again and his only regret was that the public was not present.”

The next council meeting will be Sept. 15.