Westfield Town Council Discusses New Parking Pay Stations, Re-Turfing Fields and More at Meeting

Credits: Jackie Lieberman

WESTFIELD, NJ — At a brief regular meeting Tuesday night, the Westfield Town Council passed resolutions to approve the demolition of a single-family dwelling at 515 Kimball Ave. and another at 725 Willow Grove St.

The council conference meeting held earlier in the evening was longer, with reports given by the head of the finance policy committee, the Downtown Westfield Corporation liaison, the Green Team, the Recreation Commission liaison and the town attorney.

Town Administrator Jim Gildea said the Westfield Green Team met on Monday and discussed improvements being made the recycling center. Already the town has received $10,000 of a $20,000 grant to improve its recycling operations. He expects the town will get the rest of the money when the project is completed later this year.

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The Green Team also plans to educate the public through its new “Rescaping the Suburbs” program, with help from the Audubon Society. Among other things, residents will have opportunities to learn ways to bring native species back to their yards, according to Gildea.

Councilman Frank Arena, the liaison for the Recreation Commission, said the commission was working on re-turfing Houlihan/Sid Fey fields. The current turf is 10 years old and in constant use, he said. According to Arena, bids will come out in February and work should be completed by August. The cost is to be covered by a combination of a grant from Union County, money from a recreation trust fund and from the town.  The commission hopes to repurpose some of the turf from these fields for school fields.

At Tamaques Park, “We’re looking to redo the tennis courts,” said Arena. “We start work in the fall and it would be finished in the spring.”

The commission is talking to the board of education, the Westfield Tennis Association and the Boosters about help funding more and bigger (official size) tennis courts there, according to Gildea. Plans for more parking at Tamaques Park are also underway.

Gumpert Field is also to see improvements, specifically to fields two and three, with regrading, sod and a new batting cage on the list.

Councilman Sam Della Fera reported from the Downtown Westfield Corporation’s meeting Monday night. The DWC welcomed new board member Frank Isoldi.

The DWC ran a slight surplus last year, according to Della Fera, thanks in part to the success of the annual 5K.

Downtown Westfield will have new businesses opening in the near future, Della Fera told the council.  “Many of the vacated spaces have already found new tenants,” he said.

Gildea added that new pay stations for the downtown parking lots have arrived and will likely be installed in February. The more user-friendly stations include a “pay by app” feature currently used in Westfield’s pilot program, and take cash, credit cards, debit cards, tokens and smart cards, as well.

Della Fera also gave the finance policy committee’s report. The town saw increased revenues from construction, code fees and permits, and tax collection rates continue to increase, he said.

The new budget will be introduced at the March 18 town council meeting and Della Fera said he expected it would be adopted on April 22.

With regard to the town’s revenues, which suffered along with the larger economy over the past several years, Acting Mayor Jo Ann Neylan noted, “It appears as though we’ve turned the corner.”

Town Attorney Russell Finestein announced that the case of James Hughes against the Westfield zoning board regarding the expansion of Trader Joe’s had been dismissed for lack of timeliness.

The council heard requests from the Westfield Baseball League, the Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Westfield Corporation, Westfield Neighborhood Council and the Westfield Area Y for event dates throughout 2014.

Harold Cohen, president of the Westfield Neighborhood Council, and Mary Withers, their vice president, told the town council about their upcoming fundraiser—a basketball game between professional players and Westfield volunteers to take place March 29 at Westfield High School.

“We always have a wonderful turnout,” said Withers.

Mayor Andy Skibitsky, Councilwoman Vicki Kimmins and Councilman David Oliveira were absent from both meetings.

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