WEST ORANGE, NJ – With the John P. Renna, Jr. House for seniors itself showing signs of aging due to approximately a half-century of wear-and-tear, members of the West Orange Township Council spoke out at Tuesday’s council meeting on behalf of residents who feel the building’s growing problems are being neglected.

Rosary Morelli, a board member of the Renna House, shared numerous concerns about the lack of upkeep at the facility and the decline of its security. This building, which provides affordable housing to seniors, currently has a security person in the building only from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., she said. According to Morelli, there are also resident complaints about the poor condition of facility’s floors and carpets, and possible mold issues as well.

Councilman Jerry Guarino, who sits on the Renna House board, said he has been in touch with the Marzulli firm that manages the building, and that he will be conducting a walk-through with them to make sure the firm sees all the problems firsthand and agrees to address them.

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“Our seniors should live in comfort and safety,” he said. “If the Marzulli firm can’t do a good job of maintaining this building then we might have to look elsewhere when its contract is up. I want answers to why the service level is going down, and why hasn’t the building been properly maintained.”

Councilman Victor Cirilo said that the building’s refinancing caused an increase in rent over time, which has made some residents living on fixed incomes angry. He said the lack of communications between the management and the seniors is causing problems. Cirilo recommended that the management should have at least quarterly meetings with the residents.

On a more positive note dealing with senior issues, West Orange High School student Meghan White spoke about the success of the intergenerational Mountaineer Mentoring program that provides students with a way to improve the computer skills of older adults in the community.

“The Mountaineer Mentoring program has also been helpful to me. It has helped me to better communicate with seniors,” White said. “I was often hesitant to speak with older adults. This program helped me break out of my comfort zone, and feel more comfortable speaking with seniors.”

Councilwoman Michelle Casalino said there is an initial plan to have students in the Mountaineer Mentoring program help older adults fill out the upcoming survey to assess the health needs and other services required by township residents age 55 and older. The survey, which is being done in partnership with Montclair State University, is scheduled to have its online questionnaire up in the fall. 

Pictured above:

West Orange council recognizes the leadership of Orange/West Orange UNICO for the group’s donation of radios to the volunteer West Orange Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Council members recognize the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life – West Orange Chapter for raising more than $36,000 in May to fight cancer. From left, council members Victor Cirilo and Michelle Casalino thank chapter leaders Kristyn Kallert, Jessica Gaeta and Alex Baron—as do council members Joe Krakoviak, Susan McCartney and Jerry Guarino.

Ken Alper thanks the council and everyone else involved in helping create the bus lane in front of the Gregory Elementary School, which he said made the school drop-off much safer this year.

WOHS student Meghan White speaks about the Mountaineer Mentoring program, which enables students to improve the computer skills of seniors.