The agenda at the June 10th Montclair Township Council’s most recent meeting looked a lot like the agenda at its previous meeting, going over issues it had gone over on May 20. One issue was resolved — the budget —passed 7-0.
Nishuane Well Proposal
Montclair Water Bureau Director Gary Obszarny testified again on the Nishuane well and the two options available for developing it: either building a facility at Nishuane Park where the well is located, or building an innocuous-looking gazebo over the well and diverting the water to a facility that would be built next to the treatment building in an obscure corner of Glenfield Park.
Obszarny revisited the issues and questions he addressed at the council’s April 29 meeting, in which he said that he went through the and found hat state requirements mandated different electrical services to power the separate plants, although it could use a common generator. The cost of a facility at Glenfield remains estimated at $4.1 million.
Obszarny said that he needed a service connection to power up the well and the availability to check the pumping level with access for maintenance. It could not be a pit-type well, he said, because rain runoff could infiltrate it. He thought the gazebo design would protect the mechanization and keep the well head above the ground level.
Montclair residents, having patiently sat through Obszarny’s highly technical explanations, made clear that they wanted none of it. For their part, their only recourse was to leave the well alone and find other ways to solve Montclair’s water deficit problem. Local environmentalist Pat Kenschaft said it would make more sense to cut water usage. Resident Patti Grunther, who has been vocal in her opposition to the well, said that there was the issue of destroyed parkland to consider and that no one has seriously looked at water conservation or collecting rain water as an issue. She also suspected that the work-in-progress master plan, which anticipates future development, may have influenced the plan.
“Why wasn’t there and why hasn’t there been any effort whatsoever on the part of the township to set up a sustainable water conservation program?” she asked Obszarny. “When you started planning for tapping the well near Carey’s Woods, Gary, what had you heard about the proposed new master plan and how did city planners’ vision of future development for our town affect your planning decisions?”
Obszarny said that some measures to gather rain water have been pursued, such as Environmental Affairs Coordinator Gray Russell’s initiative to sell rain barrels and instruct purchasers how to use them – a plan the council had apparently been unaware of, leading Grunther to opine that no one in the municipal government seemed to know what each other was doing. As far the proposed master plan, Obszarny said that he relies on long-term outlooks to give him an idea of how to handle aging infrastructure and plan for droughts, and Township Manager Marc Dashield added that the town is looking more at current water use than future demand.
“We are currently in deficit,” he said. “We have a residential development, one, single-family developments, that can’t get connections without getting approvals from the state. That’s the condition that we’re in right now. That’s what’s pushing it, not the future development.”
Nevertheless, resident William Scott was still concerned that, despite the fact that current development and planned projects like the Kensington assisted living facility and the MC Hotel are within Montclair’s firm capacity, it could lead to more projects, necessitating more water, and leaving residents to foot the bill for increased development that would enrich people not part of the community.
Mayor Robert Jackson bristled at suggestions that the Fourth Ward was being singled out for such a facility for racial and economic reasons. The mayor, a Fourth Ward resident, said that geography put the well in the Fourth Ward and that the conversation would be no less contentious if the well had been located elsewhere. Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager suggested a pilot program to see how much water was used and how much could be conserved to determine whether developing the Nishuane well was absolutely necessary.
“Let’s see what six months, what one year brings us,” she said.
The water controversy and the “conservation conversation” overshadowed the passage of the 2014 budget, which included the amendments Dashield had itemized at the May 20 meeting. The public hearing on the amendments, set originally for June 17, was held at this meeting, but no one wished to speak on the changes. A $77.5 million budget was then advanced, and it passed unanimously. There are no changes in the tax levy, the zero percent increase remaining intact.
Afterglow Way Paving
In addition, Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller went over the results of his various meetings over the Afterglow Way/Parkhurst Place paving controversy. He recommended using brick pavers in redoing the two streets, along with replacing depressed areas of the street surface, which was expected to come in at around $50,000. Repaving the “yellow brick road” comprised of the two streets should be part of the township’s repaving plan for 2015. Resident Carol Hobson thanked Councilor Spiller for his leadership.
The council also passed on first reading an ordinance re-appropriating $150,000 no longer needed for their original purpose in order to fix and maintain the elevator in the Montclair police building, and it also passed a resolution authorizing purchase of new senior citizen bus.
Earlier in the evening, Oxford Street resident Madeline Till presented a petition to have commuter parking on her street curtailed, saying that the two-hour parking limited needed to be better enforced and advocating for a traffic calming study to address motorists who don’t slow down.