Montclair, your days of parking at countless broken meters all over town might finally be over.
The big news from last night’s Montclair Council meeting. Mayor Robert Jackson’s emphatic declaration that the township’s approximately 1,700 meters have to be replaced immediately – once and for all, with no further delay.
The topic came up when First Ward Councilor William Hurlock, citing a discussion he’d had with constituents about parking at his community meeting five days earlier, said that there had been numerous complaints about meters and why residents had to wait for the traffic and parking study currently under way to get the issue addressed in the main commercial areas. Councilor Hurlock wanted clarification on what the parameters of the study were.
Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon said there would be a pilot study of new meters during the study that would provide “a better handle” of where there should be meters, and that the pilot results would be done in tandem with the study. Resident Sandy Sorkin said that the residents’ parking survey was inadequate in allowing appropriate feedback on the issue, saying that the survey questions didn’t give residents the ability to communicate on the situation of parking in the business districts. And then it happened.
Mayor Jackson responded by saying that the township should just replace every meter it has, declaring himself to be “fed up” with studies and with waiting for results.
“We know we have 1700-odd meters,” he said. “We know we have the money to pay to replace them. Just replace them, and be done with it. I mean, this is ridiculous!”
Councilor McMahon reminded Mayor Jackson that the study was still needed for sorting out rules and regulations and also parking pricing, but the mayor said that new meters could still be installed and pricing could be adjusted later through a computer. He said that he didn’t care whom they bought the meters from, he just wanted them replaced, allowing parking consultant Tom Brown to concentrate on pricing and other parking issues.
Deputy Mayor Robert Russo quickly seconded Mayor Jackson’s proposal, saying that the meters have never been taken care of, particularly the ones that read “FAIL” or have windows so oxidized they can’t be read at all. He said that he would like to see the meters more for street parking than for parking in the lots.
“Street meters should be for the spot that you park in,” Deputy Mayor Russo said. “Maybe it sounds like we’re not advanced enough, but that thing works – if you’re sitting there, you put your money in, it works, if it’s a new one.”
Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager addressed the mess in the Watchung Plaza lot, saying it needs restriping, many spaces are taken up by merchants’ trash bins, and meters have been covered with poison ivy. She added that some of the bins are chained to meter posts.
The exasperated nature of the discussion prompted Township Attorney Ira Karasick to propose a resolution directing the Township Manager’s office to pursue a contract to replace the meters. “If that ‘s what you’d like,” Karasick added, to which a council member responded, “Yes, please.” Stafford said that he could contact someone at the IPS Group, the likely contractor for new parking meters, on November 12 to find out how quickly they can be installed. The parking study, to be completed by February, will continue to examine other parking issues.
Other issues were addressed in public comment earlier. Resident Robin Woods said that Glenridge Avenue headed toward Forest Street was too dark to walk along at night, and she said she had to rely on automobile headlights to find her way due to lack of street lighting. Local environmentalist Pat Kenschaft, proposing that 205 Claremont Avenue remain the municipal building, said that it could be solar panels installed on them, and she re-iterated her call for leaf blowers to be banned, calling them an addiction. She also said that operators of municipal vehicles should be more conscious of idling and cut down on the practice, more than three minutes of which is banned by state law. Her husband Fred Chichester concurred with a proposed leaf-blower ban, including disciplinary action be used on leaf-blower use at times when it’s not permitted and he added that something ought to be done about the Montclair Parking Utility’s apparent practice of ticketing cars with permits.
Among the second-reading ordinances passed were an ordinance to appropriate $1.6 million to refurbish the town’s sanitary sewer system and to create a bus stop on Church Street between Bloomfield Avenue and South Park Street. Resolutions passed included authorizations of change orders for the rehabilitation of sewer system’s collection system and water mains in Midland Avenue, as well as the awarding a contract to Cenova, Inc. and VIP Special Services, LLC for snow removal in Montclair parking lots.