WESTFIELD, NJ - At the May 8 Westfield town council meeting, the council held a hearing to discuss Comcast’s franchise agreement with the town, which will be up for renewal in the fall. Charles Smith, Comcast’s director of government and regulatory affairs in New Jersey, was on hand to explain why the company believes it should have its agreement renewed and to answer any questions. Only one was asked—by Councilman David Haas—regarding bandwidth, which Smith was unable to answer at the time. Town administrator Jim Gildea said that there would be additional public hearings on the matter between now and November.
The council adopted an amended 2012 municipal budget, which received minor changes by the state of New Jersey before the state would approve it.
Mayor Andy Skibitsky gave a public service announcement regarding Westfield’s twentieth year of participation in the Stamp Out Hunger food drive, which will take place on Saturday, May 12. Residents can leave bags of non-perishable food by their mailboxes that day and Westfield letter carriers will pick them up to be donated to Holy Trinity Food Pantry.
During open discussion by citizens, resident Greg Kasko once again questioned the mayor about who drew the first sketch of the hotly contested mid-block crosswalk on Central Avenue.
Kasko, Adina Enculescu and Maria Carluccio regularly attend Westfield town council meetings, arguing again and again against the HAWK light and crosswalk on Central Avenue just in front of Enculescu’s home. They have complained that the system is confusing and dangerous where it is, that Enculescu’s driveway now appears to be a road on which to turn and that the signal devalues Enculescu’s property.
“We already know that Mr. Meth did not draw the sketch attached to his report,” said Kasko of the engineer. “Would you please do me a favor and look into that and tell me who drew that?”
Mayor Skibitsky answered that the answer was irrelevant; that it was someone from Meth’s firm.
Kasko argued that plans for the crosswalk were changed after the public was informed that it would be put at the intersection of Central and Clover, and that the cul-de-sacs built on nearby streets were put there because they would prevent the cut-through traffic that might be caused by a light at the intersection.
When she approached the microphone, Enculescu told the mayor, “You pushed and pushed in five minutes the council members to vote against the recommendations of the Pennoni report.” She then gave the council what she said was the “real data” regarding traffic accidents in the area before and after the HAWK system was put in place. She argued that the presentation Mayor Skibitsky gave regarding the report was misleading—that there has been a dramatic increase in traffic accidents in that area since the light was installed. Skibitsky has argued that the light has not increased the number of accidents in the area.
Regarding the placement of the light and crosswalk, “This was done to please somebody,” said Enculescu, who called the it a “mistake.”
“This is why I came again with this data—this real data,” she said. “We have to have conscience,” she said to the council. “Correct your vote and tell the truth.”
Resident Tony DelDuca then came before the council to say about the HAWK system, “We’ve gone through this, Mr. Mayor, for a number of years. This is bordering on absurd.” He said the amount of publicity the system has gotten “makes it sound like this is a monumental issue, and it’s not.” He also said he believed the accidents in the area were caused by increases in traffic, not the light.
Resident Danny Lynch told the council that three people cannot say that the HAWK light is unreasonable when hundreds find it reasonable. Another resident came to thank the town for putting up signs at Tamaques park telling cyclists which side of the path to ride on, saying it improved safety.
When open discussion was finished, Mayor Skibitsky said that, if the HAWK issue seems to be dominating the council’s time, “Believe me, it’s not.” He estimated that the issue actually takes up about one percent of his time as mayor.
The council then passed a vote authorizing $165,000 to be spent on improvements to North Euclid Avenue from East Broad Street to Mountain Avenue, utilizing a grant that the town has received. The town hopes to implement these improvements by this fall.
The council also passed a vote supporting the seatbelt enforcement campaign “Click it or Ticket.”