WEST ORANGE, NJ – After hearing the testimony of Municipal Engineer Leonard LePore that there was a need to order slightly larger jitneys to better serve township commuters and seniors, the West Orange Township Council approved the purchase of up to three new jitney buses during its meeting last Thursday at West Orange City Hall.

LePore told the council that there are currently two buses out for repair, leaving only three operational jitneys serving the township. According to LePore, four out of the five buses will be more than three years old and have more than 100,000 miles on them by the time the new buses come in next year.

“We will use the older buses for our shorter routes, and the new larger buses for the longer, more used routes,” he said. “The larger buses are particularly needed for the morning commute, when many people have to stand.”

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Councilman Joe Krakoviak questioned LePore about the rising costs of this service.

“The costs are rising more than ridership,” said Krakoviak, who pointed out that the new larger buses will cost almost $100,000 each.

Currently, this service costs the township $325,000 to serve 260 commuters. Overall, ridership is up 15 percent. LePore said the only other option is to purchase smaller, less expensive buses.

“Ultimately, you will be paying more if we go this route because you would have to pay another driver,” said LePore, adding that the new buses would enable the township to cover one new route for the Pleasantdale area.

These buses are also used during the day to transport seniors to programs and to do grocery shopping.

In other news, the issue of establishing a senior citizen advisory board was brought up during the meeting once again by longtime senior advocate Rosary Morelli, who said West Orange seniors are “treated like second-class citizens” compared to older adults in other New Jersey towns such Livingston and Montclair. She told the mayor and council that seniors in both of these towns have many more programs and services to choose from than those in West Orange.

Councilwoman Michelle Casalino thanked Morelli for bringing “aging-in-place” issues to the fore of the council’s attention.

“There are many improvements we can make in this area, and it is great that we are looking at this issue,” she said. “Right now we are looking at getting a newsletter out that would get the word out to seniors and people of all ages about the programs that we do have to offer them.”

A discussion about possibly changing a council code came about as an outgrown of the controversial way the senior advisory board ordinance was voted down prior to discussing the issue further on its first reading. Krakoviak proposed changing the municipal code to add that a council member should be allowed to ask questions and discuss an ordinance issue on its first reading before a vote to consider it further.

Councilwoman Susan McCartney agreed with Krakoviak that this approach makes sense. Kenneth Kayser, assistant township attorney, said that there is no rule stating that a council member cannot discuss an item on first reading.

“Traditionally it hasn’t been done because the Mayor usually initiates ordinances,” said Kayser, who also suggested making this change through a resolution, not a code change. “It’s a custom, not a rule. To me, it is clear that you can clarify language on the first read. There is no need to codify it.”

Council President Victor Cirulo said this type of issue can be handled by adding a “Matters Pending” segment to meetings, where issues about an ordinance can be discussed before a first reading. It was agreed to add this segment in for future meetings.

Krakoviak also reported that the West Orange Public Library Friends of Book Sale was “a great success.” More than $4000 was raised to support the library, with more than 4,000 volumes sold over the weekend.

During public comment, township resident Larry Saphire brought to the council’s attention the need to be very precise in describing a medical situation when calling for an ambulance in West Orange.

He stated that in the course of a week, he needed an ambulance twice. The first call was handled by the West Orange Fire Department, with the second one being handled by MONOC, New Jersey’s Hospital Service Corporation. The MONOC ambulance was far more costly, according to Saphire.

John Sayers, business administrator, explained that a Basic Life System (BLS) call goes to the fire department, whereas an Advanced Life Support (ALS) call must go to MONOC. He said that dispatchers are trained to know whether it’s an ALS or BSL call.

Sayers announced he has looked into the issue brought up in the last council meeting that many cars are parking illegally on the Lowell Avenue side of the Gregory Elementary School during afternoon pick-up time—possibly creating a dangerous situation that the new construction was supposed to eliminate.

Upon further review, it was learned that parents and guardians must pick up children in the early grades on school grounds—thus creating the need to park and leave the car. The council members approved changing the signage on Lowell Avenue so that no parking will be allowed from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. instead of the current 4 p.m.

This will allow parents to legally park, pick up their children at the school, and bring them back to the cars in safe manner. 

Pictured above, Councilman Jerry Guarino presents Todd Cohen, PurpleLight Chair of the Northern NJ affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, with a resolution acknowledging the township’s support of “World Pancreatic Cancer Day” on Nov. 17, 2016. Also pictured above, members from West Orange Cub Scouts Pack 10 attended the council meeting in order to learn about how local government runs.