WEST ORANGE, NJ - Comments about township funding for $545,000 in infrastructure improvements in Llewellyn Park and criticisms from the public and Councilman Krakoviak regarding the West Orange First Aid Squad and Prism redevelopment highlighted the Oct. 7 township council meeting.
On September 23, the council voted 4-1 to fund an additional $545,000 as part of the sewer improvements in Llewellyn Park. In addition the township helped to secure a bond in the approximate amount of $3.5 million for Llewellyn Park residents, to be paid back by Park residents over time in property taxes. The $545,000 would be covered by the township for the Llewellyn Park sewers that ran into the township's sewer line.
"Llewellyn Park is a private community," said Councilman Joe Krakoviak, who voted no on the bond and the $545,000. "We don't have a moral obligation to provide residents of Llewellyn Park with anything...we have to think of the other taxpayers" he continued.
Councilman Jerry Guarino disagreed, saying, "It's the right thing to do. No one complained when the township spent $2.2 million to redo the sewers on Mayfair Drive. Llewellyn Park residents pay their taxes like everyone else in this town."
"You have to maintain your infrastructure reasonably to avoid serious issues in the future," he continued.
Comments from members of Citizens for Responsible Government Spending (CFRGS) were on hand to remind the council that Prism was now $700,000 late in paying their property taxes on the Edison Battery Factory property, and Councilman Krakoviak noted that Prism had "apparent financial weakness;" was delinquent in their property taxes, and should be considered to be in default by the township.
"I can't get any support from the council or get my questions answered," he said.
Business Administrator Jack Sayers reminded Krakoviak that Prism and the township were still in legal litigation with CFRGS and were awaiting a hearing date at the NJ State Supreme Court level. Detractors of the Prism project continue to argue that the litigation should not deter them from paying their property taxes or beginning construction, but Sayers disagreed.
The lengthiest discussion of the evening came as questions arose over the future of the West Orange First Aid Squad.
Councilman Krakoviak attempted to push the discussion about WOFAS, who last year had made a decision to begin billing for services. As a result, the state told the township that by law, they would have to go to a bidding process, which WOFAS refused. An injunction by WOFAS to halt the bidding requirement was thrown out of court.
The West Orange Fire Department also handles emergency calls. Sayers said that while the WOFD cost the township $9 million in salaries, they also brought in $750,000 revenue through the emergency response calls.
"Let me be clear," said Sayers, "the township is not trying to put WOFAS out of business. We want WOFAS to be here."
Two other companies have put in bids but legal issues are still being worked out before the township can present the information to the council.
"Legal issues cannot be discussed with the council. We are not withholding information from you," Sayers told Krakoviak.
"It is illegal for the council to be involved in the bidding process," Sayers continued. "You can vote yes or no when the bids are presented to the council."
In other news, parking ordinances for Cary Street were approved and the council sent Ordinance 2424-14 regarding Hours of Operation for Business Operating in Residential Zones back to the drawing board with a commitment from the Planning Board to assist in the review and revision.