WEST ORANGE, NJ - Tension lingered in Town Hall as the West Orange Town Council hoped to put the ugliness of the past month to rest on Tuesday night.
Unlike the last meeting, the public comment portion was not dominated by the cease and desist controversy, but it did make its way into the conversation. The consensus of those who commented was that the town made a mistake and has been reluctant to admit that mistake.
Jake Freivald defended his case once again by claiming that the issue became an “Us vs. Them” battle and said that a lot of this could have been avoided through direct communication with him. In response to the issue in its entirety, Councilman Jerry Guarino said, “Mistakes were made, and now we need to put it aside and move forward.” Council President Susan McCartney also noted that she had visited Jake Freivald's web site and found 'many' negative posts and comments on it regarding the township, administration, and township residents.
The majority of the rest of public comment was dedicated to frustrated residents who are looking for answers regarding the Downtown Redevelopment Area, more specifically Prism which is the designated redeveloper. Residents share this frustration with Councilman Krakoviak, as he has repeatedly acknowledged the lack of cooperation by Prism in the past three months.
Town resident Mark Meyerowitz suggested that the council repeal the bond ordinance that has been approved, saying Prism does not need it since they are more likely to focus on bigger projects. “It’s time to start playing hardball, they are not our friends,” Meyerowitz said. (The township approved a 6.2 million bond to assist in capital improvements at the Battery Factory, but that money will not be disbursed until the project commences).
Also discussed at the meeting was an ordinance that was approved on first reading re-appropriating the funds originally meant for the West Orange High School concession stand and using them to purchase three or four new Jitney buses.
The council unanimously approved an amendment to the Harvard Press Redevelopment Plan which allows rental units, and an ordinance authorizing the establishment of a Governement Energy Aggregation Program.
The meeting was led by new Council President McCartney, who wasted no time in altering the agenda by shifting the “General Matters Pending” portion to the end of the meeting. Councilman Krakoviak did not agree with the change and argued that it is very useful in the beginning so that the residents can hear the concerns of the council and respond in public comment.
In other news, Essex County Executive Representative Anthony Puglisi announced the opening of a paddleboat and picnic area in the Orange Reservation on Friday, July 19 at 10 a.m.