WEST ORANGE, NJ - An ordinance where Gregory School will be adding 23 parking spots and a loop in front was passed on Tuesday’s West Orange Township Council meeting.

In a statement, Mayor Robert Parisi stressed the importance of this ordinance.

“The project has been discussed in one way or another for more than a decade,” Parisi said. “Gregory has inadequate space for consistently safe and secure drop-off and pickup of students in either buses or by parents.”

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Parisi acknowledged that Gregory isn’t the only school that has issues similar to this, and he pointed out that “it does have the land in front of it to help address this situation,” and that “the administration believes this is a good solution to a problem that has gotten progressively worse over the years.”

Town Council President Victor Cirilo offered his thoughts on the matter.

“That part of town continues to expand. We’ve had more density,” Cirilo said when asked about what has led to complaints from residents. “We’re being proactive. This is for the safety of our children.”

Councilman Jerry Guarino said the plan should “ease up on congestion.”

Reception has been mostly positive according to Cirilo. 

“It’s a heavily populated school in a dense part of our community, he said. ”Even the people who don’t agree with the way the project is being financed are in favor of addressing safety concerns. This issue has been going on for a long time. That part of town continues to expand.”

Cirilo pointed out that the project would be funded under a bonding authority, which would “alleviate some of the tax burdens.” He also said that, as a taxpayer, he never loses focus that this project is for “the safety of our children.”

Guarino spoke about what lead to this ordinance.

“A lot of parents in the Gregory School area felt it was safety issue,” he said. “It comes down to the township helping them eliminate a problem, and to make student access to buses a safer environment.”

At the meeting, while Councilman Joe Krakoviak pointed out the township being in debt and other financial difficulties as reasoning to consider not undergoing the project, Parisi disagreed.

“To say we can’t do projects because we can’t borrow,” Parisi said, before pausing and adding, “we can’t not govern. Regardless of who sits in this seat in the past, present, or future, you have to take care of the road. Put aside all the good stuff we do, and our number one priority is to keep people safe.”

Guarino suggested prioritizing safety over worrying about cost.

“We talk about saving money, but what it’s going to take? Is it going to take a child’s life?” he asked.

Parisi offered his final thoughts on the ordinance.

“Although none of us want to borrow, none of us want to be seen as the guy who raised the town’s debt, we have to govern. You have to keep people safe.”

The ordinance was ultimately approved by the council, with Krakoviak voting no.

According to the Cirilo, the project is expected to be complete by the summer.