WEST ORANGE, NJ – The West Orange Township Council rang in the New Year on Tuesday when Assemblyman John McKeon swore in Michelle Casalino as the new council president. Standing next to her husband, Casalino promised to uphold the constitution in her new role.

After thanking those in attendance, including Mayor Robert Parisi and colleague and former school board member Laura Lab, Casalino promised to run the 2020 township council meetings as smoothly as possible.

“Last year was a very busy year, and former Council President [Jerry] Guarino had his hands full,” said Casalino, reiterating that there was a lot on the agenda in 2019. “I’m sure we will this year as well, but I’m also very humbled to serve our beautiful community.”

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Guarino completed the transition of power by presenting Casalino with a brand-new gavel to preside over the meetings.

“It’s an honor to serve with you and of course the rest of our colleagues on our township council,” he said. “So, on behalf of your township council colleagues, I want to present you with a new gavel of office.”

Fellow council member Cindy Matute-Brown also celebrated the completion of her first year in office, stating that she looks forward to “continuing the work that helps to move us all forward in progress and seeing wonderful things happening in West Orange.”

Matute-Brown also looked to the future, referencing projects like the planned senior citizen facility and the recent approval of tax credits in support of the facility, which will be situated at the current location of the West Orange Public Library (WOPL).

“[It’s] exciting to see that the approximately 7,500-square-foot project—which will have an auxiliary library on the site—is expected to take 12 months,” she said. “I’m really, really excited that this is something that we’re going to look forward to providing our community—our new library. There’s going to be a lot happening [this year].

During public comment, Marge Mingin, president of the WOPL Board of Trustees, announced that the library board intends to present its decision on whether to move the WOPL from its current location later this month.

In other news, the council also voted unanimously to table an amended ordinance related to medical marijuana dispensaries in West Orange on its first reading.

Assistant Township Attorney Kenneth Kayser explained that fellow Township Attorney Mark Moon wanted to move the ordinance along in order to be in compliance with the State of New Jersey.

Casalino explained that in response to New Jersey’s recent adoption of legislation on allowing access to medical dispensaries, many townships “were proactive and banned dispensaries,” but added that those bans “may be overturned [by the state].”

Matute-Brown and Councilwoman Susan McCartney both stated that they still have a few questions they want to see clarified about how the proposed ordinance would be applied in West Orange.

Regarding the redevelopment of the Edison Lofts, Business Administrator John Sayers said during the meeting that the developers plan to present their site plans for phase two in February. He stated that these plans will focus on the retail portion of the property, which currently has 214 residential units filled.

The council also voted unanimously to approve two ordinances supporting the purchase of new equipment for the West Orange Police Department (WOPD), including the approximately $60,000 replacement of three “Vigilant Mobile License Plate Readers.”