Second Half of West Orange Town Council Meeting Strikes Some Discordant Notes

Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ - After the Anti Bullying Program and General Announcements from the Town Public Information Officer and Town Rec Department, the Town Council went into a 45 minute Executive Session meeting.  When the Town Council reconvened, several comments were made by Councilman Krakoviak pertaining to what occurred during the private session, especially as it pertained to the ongoing issue of downtown redevelopment and Prism Develolpers.  Mentioning the foreclosure proceedings involving Prism and Barton Press on Lakeside Avenue; and the still unpaid taxes on the redevelopment property (the Edison Battery Factory), Mr. Krakoviak raised issues about Prism's financial solubility and the Township's financial relationship and approval of the redevelopment project. He indicated that he has been told those issues would be resolved 'over the next several weeks'.  Though he mentioned the town council was not at liberty to discuss the particulars of the executive session, Town Council President Cirilo noted that Mr. Krakoviak had just done a good job of discussing what went on in the town council's private session.

Public comment then began, and the issue again centered on redevelopment, with criticism leveled against township administration, dating back to then Mayor McKeon, for not establishing an "Oversight Agency," vis a vis redevelopment; for not reporting to the Department of Community Affairs, the Local Finance Board, or the public for a referendum vote (the referendum vote issue was filed as a lawsuit against the township, and dismissed). Other residents spoke of preferential treatment towards Prism and demanded a listing of all properties and individuals behind in payment of Property Taxes in the township.  Township Attorney Kenneth Kayser's counsel at the last town council meeting not to comment on redevelopment as it was under current legal appeal was referred to as a 'gag order' that was wrong;  and questions were raised as to Prism's last tax payment and a postponement of a Planning Board meeting.  The Planning Board was criticized and other residents expressed concern about the potential number of students that would be added to the public school district via the redevelopment property.  

Town Council members then responded to public comment.  Susan McCartney, who is on the Planning Board, said that at the time of the Planning Board meeting approving redevelopment, that a checklist was in place that indicated that taxes were up to date at that time.  She also reminded residents that detailed studies on redevelopment estimated approximately 17 students would be added to the public school district, and that no bonds would be issued to Prism unless all necessary conditions were met.

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Mr. Krakoviak spoke again. He reiterated that he voted 'no' on redevelopment, 'no' to having a special town lawyer review the changes in the project, and that he had 'serious issues'.  He acknowledged his appreciation of public comments and reminded residents of the 10/10 Planning Board meeting, questioning the integrity of Prism in the face of 'non payment of taxes.' Krakoviak told the public that foreclosure information of the Barton Press building was posted on his site.

Councilman Guarino noted that if residents could see Prism's Financials, that it would probably clear up most of the confusion residents were experiencing.  He also respectfully disagreed with comments about redevelopment and the school district, saying the student increase would not primarily be due to that but the housing market in town.

Councilwoman Spango reiterated Ms. McCartney's statements that the Planning Board would not issue permits to move redevelopment forward until required conditions, including payment of taxes, were met. Major decisions would be made once the town council heard back from attorneys involved in the redevelopment process.

A resolution was passed regarding snow, ice and grass removal on 2nd reading.

Discussion then ensued regarding Reliable Wood, current Recycling Center vendors.  Mr. Krakoviak, who has criticized Reliable in the past, wanted the town to go out to bid; the township administrator, Jack Sayers, explained that many of the criticisms raised were not problems with Reliable but with the township and Reliable's attempt to help resolve those issues, especially due to the huge ice storm on 10/29/11.

The next town council meeting is scheduled for 10/16/12.





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