The Montclair Township Council had a light agenda for its September 19 meeting, passing eight pending ordinances and six resolutions, as well as the bill list. One resolution that got much commentary from members of the council was the one awarding a contract to Abraham General Construction for improvements to Edgemont Park.
Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville said the improvements that members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee proposed for the park were “outstanding,” and she said that committee members hope to be more involved with the council in all issues regarding parks and open spaces. Deputy Mayor / Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager said that the Friends of Edgemont park group was also supportive. But Dr. Baskerville asked if the money was left over from a previous source for park spending, or “reprogrammed.”
Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford explained that funds were in fact reprogrammed from Green Acres funding for Edgemont Park. He said there was more funding possible through the state Green Acres program, and he added that Montclair has sent a letter to the state asking to be kept informed of such funding. Mayor Robert Jackson has a sent a letter to the state endorsing such funding.
Mayor Jackson also said the current Green Acres funding had been earmarked for past Edgemont Park improvements – primarily the dredging of the pond and the anti-erosion wall along the shoreline – and the town was required to use the money for other Edgemont Park improvements or lose it altogether. He said the emphasis on Edgemont Park – the new improvements for which include reconstruction of the paths and improving the parking area – should get the town focused on getting other town parks up to par in time for Montclair’s sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary celebration in 2018, citing the need for new benches, upgraded paths, and improved lighting. He said the town parks needed “a little TLC.”
While the council passed the Edgemont resolution 7-0, an ordinance regarding the placement of waste disposal cans within 12 hours before 6:00 A.M. on trash or recycling collection days was amended to specify that such cans must not be placed on sidewalks so that they do not block any pedestrian rights of way. Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon asked where the cans would be placed; Township Attorney Ira Karasick, who added the language about sidewalks, said it could be placed along the curb on the street or on the grass strip between the curb and the sidewalk. Resident Jerry Kapner objected to the new rule, saying that in his neighborhood, with its wide sidewalks and narrow streets, he and his neighbors would have no choice but to put their cans out on the street and block traffic. For that reason, Councilor McMahon voted against the ordinance, though it passed with the rest of the council voting for it.
Also, the council unanimously passed an ordinance to repave Valley Place, a private street in the First Ward. Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller said he was concerned that the township has been adding new streets to the list of private streets to be repaved before the streets already on the list get done. He said there was one street on the list from 2015 that still hasn’t been done. “My concern,” he said, “would be around, are we backed up to that point? Are we missing some and moving on to others? That’s something I’d like to make sure we’re addressing.” Manager Stafford said he would continue to press the issue from his end, calling Councilor Spiller’s comment a “valid point.”
The council also passed a few proclamations at the start of the meeting. One honored former resident Juliana Belcsak, who has since moved to South Carolina, for her work in helping Montclair establish “sister city” relationships with numerous towns in other parts of the world, and another honored Shirley Cobert, who has long been renowned in the community for her work with the League of Women Voters. Another proclamation was for declaring Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Week, which focuses on a disease that causes mitochondrial organelles to fail to produce enough energy for cells. It is the second most commonly diagnosed genetic disease, after cystic fibrosis. Cary Africk, who represented the Second Ward on the council for the term between Deputy Mayor Schlager’s first two terms, accepted the proclamation with his wife Elizabeth, and he spoke with pride of how the township was taking the initiative to publicize awareness of the disease, which includes illuminating the war monument at Edgemont Park. It was the most bittersweet proclamation of the evening; former Councilor Africk’s nephew Evan Shulman’s son Noah died of the disease in infancy.