WEST ORANGE, NJ — At the prompting of community members and township council members, the West Orange governing body recently discussed the relocation of the library, the state of the Rock Spring Golf Club, the effectiveness of the partnership between “Ring” and the West Orange Police Department (WOPD) and the need to create better “age-in-place” initiatives for local seniors.
In speaking about the West Orange Public Library (WOPL) board’s decision to relocate to 10 Rooney Circle, township attorney Richard Trenk explained that the main level of the Rooney Circle facility is “the same basic footprint as the existing library” and is about 26,000 square feet. He added that the library board is also looking to secure an additional 8,000-square-foot portion of the lower level.
“The Library Construction Act, the $1 million that [Joe Alpert of Alpert Group] is paying and additional dollars identified by [Chief Financial Officer John Gross] from the sale of DPW—those dollars may or may not cover building out that 8,000 square feet,” said Trenk. “If the money isn’t there, we’ll still build [the library] but reserve the 8,000-square-feet.”
The council briefly discussed the state of the township’s recently acquired golf course after Councilman Joe Krakoviak inquired about potential changes to the footprint of the property.
Gross clarified that no changes have been made as part of the mayor’s proposal, which he said could cause a reduction at the 18-hole golf course in order to utilize part of the property.
However, he added, the discussion is ongoing as the township continues its due diligence to determine “what kind of revenues [the township] could get” if it maintained all 18 holes.
Councilwoman Cindy Matute-Brown stated that West Orange Police Chief James Abbott would be “happy to hold another community forum” on the partnership between Ring and the WOPD after resident Khabirah Myers expressed concern.
During public comment, Myers requested an update the effectiveness of the police department’s recent use of the Neighbors App Portal, which is associated with Amazon’s video doorbell “Ring” and was approved by the council in August 2019.
She suggested that the township investigate whether using the app portal violates residents’ civil liberties and provide more information on how long the WOPD is able to keep videos in their records.
Myers also took the opportunity to urge the council to find ways to make West Orange more friendly to “aging in place.” She suggested looking to other towns that have initiatives, such as South Orange and Maplewood.
Council President Michelle Casalino responded that the Township of West Orange is currently working on an “age-friendly initiative” while also applying for a grant from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) that would enable older residents of West Orange to become engaged members of the community.
Councilman Jerry Guarino agreed that providing the ability for West Orange seniors to age in place would allow them to live productive lives within their own community with a significantly improved quality of life.
At a previous council meeting, the governing body noted that budget season is quickly approaching, and multiple council members requested an updated list of the township’s capital improvements.
“The budget is one of our most responsible and powerful functions that we provide here, and we can insist that we get the tools that we need to make the decisions,” said Councilman Joe Krakoviak, who commended his colleagues for joining him in reiterating the importance of having these tools available.
CLICK HERE to read more from West Orange Township Council.