WEST ORANGE, NJ – Expanded jitney service took the front seat as the West Orange Township Council on May 24 heard from citizens and realtors who are looking to have the township expand the service to the Pleasantdale and Redwood neighborhoods.

Among the comments of the evening, residents wanted to know why other communities in West Orange were currently served with jitneys while their neighborhoods were not. Realtors spoke of the economic benefits of having jitney service expanded with prospective buyers in those areas consistently asking for reasonable transportation options to New York City.  In addition, 265 signatures from one local temple list-serve were referenced, demonstrating concern for this initiative. 

Councilman Joe Krakoviak stated he was in favor of charging commuters for jitney service as other towns surrounding the township have done, a position he has stated in the past. “My research has shown that we are the only town in Essex County that provides a jitney service without charging the riders, or, for that matter, doing anything to confirm that the riders are actually West Orange residents,” he said.

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“So, I think it would be much easier to expand the service if we started charging for it,” he continued. “Nobody likes to be charged for it, and I’m not going to argue with anybody who says, ‘I pay a lot of taxes in West Orange.’  It’s true, but these are the sort of things that add to the tax load, when 225 daily riders are basically subsidized by all the taxpayers in town.”

Addressing the location of the current jitney runs, Councilwoman Michelle Casalino said the initial jitney service was started with a grant from New Jersey Transit. “It’s not that they just picked one section; they picked Gregory because it was closer to South Orange, and that’s where the grant was from,” she said.

Casalino also stated that the mayor and Township Business Administrator Jack Sayers “have been looking at different routes they could map out… hopefully it will be something we can move forward with in 2017.” 

Councilwoman Susan McCartney said looking for grants was a priority for expanded jitney service. “I did speak to our grant writer, new to us on May 1st, so that it’s now on our radar to look for grants that could help us, since that’s how some of the other jitneys were put into place,” she stated.

The council also reviewed a proposed resolution for an amendment to the 2016 budget by Chief Financial Officer John Gross, who read a lengthy amendment which would reduce total appropriations by approximately $351,000 from the previously proposed budget. 

As the Council discussed the amendment, appreciation was expressed for the extra work involved in achieving the reductions.  The amendment passed by unanimous vote. 

A resolution to adopt the full 2016 Municipal Budget was then briefly discussed and approved by a 4-1 vote, with Krakoviak casting the lone dissenting vote.

Before the amendment was read, Councilman Krakoviak made a motion to consider a series of unrelated transfers within the budget that would allow for an additional $60,000 to be given to the town library, as their officers requested at a previous meeting.  After discussion, Krakoviak’s motion was not seconded. 

Council President Victor Cirilo noted that “The township has already committed over a half million dollars towards capital improvements to the library.”  Cirilo added, “We also looked at the reserve balances.  Compared to the township, I believe the library has a pretty healthy reserve balance.  And we just took a chunk, $2 million out of $3 million in our municipal reserves, to keep our property taxes down to two percent.”

Considerable meeting time was also spent discussing the application for a towing license by Ajaco Towing, Inc.  At issue were compliance with filing, as well as fulfilling space requirements within the facility.  

The attorney for Ajaco, Steven Jayson, said his client adhered to the rules and was surprised by the rejection.  “My client sent in the application on time and complied with the requirements within the application,” he said.  “When the inspection occurred, (he) was not told of the inspection.  And the appeal, based on the information we have, was filed within a timely manner.”

Township Attorney Kenneth Kayser disagreed with Jayson’s statements, saying, “There was an investigation by the West Orange Police Department.  They found that the contractor (Ajaco) did not comply with the requirements of the town ordinance, and therefore, was rejected.  There may well be litigation about this.  The time for appeal passed, and there’s no longer a right to an appeal under the code.”   

When the vote on the licensing was taken, the resolution included authorizing towing licenses to two other vendors, Select Towing Services and Twin, Inc., both vetted and approved by local authorities.  Subsequently, the resolution passed with a 3-2 vote, with Councilwoman McCartney and Councilman Krakoviak voting “no.”   

Also at the meeting, Bob Chilton, Executive Vice President for Gabel Associates (http://gabelassociates.com), gave a presentation about the town’s Energy Aggregation Program.   Chilton explained that the town’s first contract with the program ended in December 2015 and that the savings during the period were in excess of 10%. 

At that time, market conditions yielded the recommendation to transition back to PSE&G.  However, the recommendation at this time is to consider returning to this program.  As a result, Chilton highlighted new bids from suppliers at fifteen, twenty and twenty-four month rates. 

Based on the presentation and recommendations, the council chose a 15 month proposal from Talen Energy, to run September 2016 thru December 2017.  The bid will offer savings to West Orange citizens of about 11% below the PSE&G prices for the upcoming period, translating to approximately $10/month savings per West Orange household. 

The council also passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of 911 software and equipment from Johnston Communications, in the amount of $336.346.90. Krakoviak voted no, explaining his concern relating to the Johnson bid not coming in as the lowest, despite the research provided by the West Orange Police to explain the rationale behind recommending Johnston Communications. 

The council also passed resolutions unanimously to manage the licensing of food trucks, to clarify a noise ordinance related to home construction, and to clarify an ordinance related to the care of feral cats.

Also earlier in the evening, West Orange Senior Citizen Program Aide, Patty Duffy, gave a presentation about services and programs offered by the town to senior citizens and disabled persons.  Duffy highlighted such initiatives as yoga, aerobics, coupons for local farmer’s markets, utility assistance, and transportation to doctor appointments and food shopping. 

Later in the meeting, Councilman Jerry Guarino responded to a public comment, suggesting the town create a senior citizen’s commission.  Guarino agreed and pledged his support to creating such a commission.

The next meeting of the West Orange Township Council takes place on Tuesday, June 14th, beginning at 6:30 pm at the Town Hall.  All are encouraged to attend.