WEST ORANGE, NJ – Prior to the township’s State of Emergency declaration, West Orange Police Officer Michael Cassidy reminded the township’s governing body about the lack of benefits for retiring police officers.
Cassidy urged the council to adopt a resolution for the township's public safety workers so that they cannot only pursue retirement and medical benefits, but also receive at least a small raise.
“We [have] a letter from the state stating that the township is not eligible for Chapter 330 benefits, which also means that officers who retire […] will not receive any sort of medical benefits,” said Cassidy. “It’s going to be awfully difficult to recruit and retain officers if we do not make changes.”
With a total of six officers set to retire between now and May 2020, reducing the West Orange police force to 89 active-duty officers, Cassidy wondered whether any aspiring police officers would be willing to apply to West Orange due to the lack of benefits.
"You’re showing that you do not care about law enforcement; you do not care about the people who work here, it's clear," he said. “We need you, the council, to step up and say, ‘We want employees treated right, treated fairly.’”
Cassidy concluded that the township should consider pursuing medical benefits for its public service workers so that they do not “have to choose between themselves and new hires.”
In response, Councilwoman Cindy Matute-Brown, who is an avid supporter of labor unions, said she supported the need to “make sure that our first responders are taken care of.”
“I have never agreed with the administration in not providing retiree benefits, health benefits to our first responders,” she said. “To me, it was not right, and I’m still outraged by it.”
Council President Michelle Casalino added that she “hope[s] these negotiations get done soon.”
“I hope our leaders are going up the ranks to our police chief and our fire chief and letting them know what’s needed for our constituents,” she said.
After some discussion, the council opted to continue the conversation during an executive session that was not opened to the public.
Also during the council meeting, which was held earlier this month, resident Khabirah Myers commented on a resolution that would authorize the township to enter a contract with Goose Control Technology of NJ Inc. in order to control the Canada Goose population in West Orange.
Given the decline of geese populations over the past 10 years, Myers stated that “removal” and “disposal” was unnecessary and suggested that the council consider updating the language in the resolution.
"I would ask that this contract not be approved on autopilot," said Myers, adding that non-lethal options that would not adversely affect the goose population, such as putting up signs to not feed the geese or treating the eggs.
Business Administrator John Sayers responded that geese have been removed according to complaints from residents. He added that although there is an abundance of geese in certain areas—including Degnan Park, Stagg Field and the land around Oskar Shindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC)—the animals are not being killed.
Councilman Joe Krakoviak added that the option laid out in the resolution is one of “the most humanitarian ways” to deal with both resident geese and migratory geese, the two types of Canada geese that make their way to town and cause a great deal of problems for West Orange residents.
Krakoviak continued that the removal process focused on egg addling, which is a method used to halt embryo development by coating the eggs with oil in order to deprive the embryo of oxygen while also preventing the geese from laying more eggs.
Councilwoman Susan McCartney also mentioned that the township already has an ordinance in place where signs have been put up around town telling people that they are not allowed to feed the geese.
After approving the, 4-1, the council also voted 4-1 to renew the contracts of Township Council Attorney Richard D. Trenk and Assistant Attorney Kenneth W. Kayser for their respective positions.