DPW Director Anthony Nesto announced at last Monday’s conference meeting that results had come in from a contest to choose a slogan to grace new “Welcome to Bloomfield” signs that will be put in place to greet motorists entering the Township on several major thoroughfares.
The contest was initiated by Nesto two months ago with the help of Parks Director Mike Sceurman, Bloomfield High School Principal Chris Jennings (who agreed to invite the high school students to participate in the contest), and the Bloomfield Educational Foundation, which authorized a $500 prize for the winning slogan. The final choice is to be made by the Mayor and Council.
On Monday evening, Nesto thanked Sceurman, Jennings and the BEF for their contributions, as well as Municipal Clerk Louise Palagano and the seven Department Heads for helping him narrow the field. He said they had received 124 submissions from the students. The most popular among the students was #62, he said, which was “Our Unity Makes Our Community.” He said he and Palagano had each picked their 15 favorites, and had only one overlapping choice. “A perfect married couple,” quipped Mayor Michael Venezia. “Mine were better,” Palagno responded.
Other popular slogans included “A Community Built on Unity,” “Growing our Future Leaders,” and “A Small Town with a Big Heart.” The Mayor and council members were asked to each pick their three favorites by Thursday, June 11, in time for the next conference meeting on June 15, when the governing body will vote to choose the winning slogan. “I just hope we don’t get 21 different choices,” said Nesto.
Trish Comstock, President of the Bloomfield Tenants Organization, spoke during public comment about the long delay by the council on voting on a rent control ordinance. She compared the recent real estate boom to the Gold Rush. “The new “gold rush” is real estate on the East Coast,” she said. “We are left to bear the burden. It’s no longer rugged individuals, it’s… essentially, big corporations just buying up everything they can, making a few cosmetic changes and then reap the rewards. The rents just keep going up, up, up. Somehow you manage not to vote, and it’s very upsetting.”
Mayor Venezia explained that the council did not yet have a final ordinance to vote on. He said, regarding the ordinance that was provided to them, that the township’s attorney and administrator had both recommended going “back to the drawing board” and writing something else.
Comstock countered that she and others had worked hard on the ordinance last summer, and said the recommended ordinance should have been perfectly legal, given the extensive research they had done.
Township attorney Brian Aloia said that he had a meeting set up for Wednesday of that week with Ron Simoncini, who represents the Bloomfield Property Owners Association, and he will then reach out to Comstock and Kevin Lindahl, Vice President of the Tenants Organization. He said the goal was to get input individually from each stakeholder and then sit down as a group to ensure all issues are heard.
The Mayor and council voted unanimously to approve a resolution stating the historic nature and purpose of the Collins House as part of the Bloomfield Morris Canal Greenway. The resolution was read aloud by its sponsor, Councilman Carlos Pomares, and states in part,
…effective May 18, 2015 the Township hereby permanently dedicates the Collins House and property as a historical and cultural resource with the purpose of educating the public about the significance of the Collins House, the Morris Canal, and Bloomfield’s history through dedicated exhibit space and a center for learning to be organized by community groups such as the Bloomfield Historical Society and Bloomfield Morris Canal Greenway.”
The historic house and its grounds, which are off Baldwin Street next to Kinder Tower, are owned by the Township. The house is currently undergoing stabilization in preparation for restoration and adaptive reuse.
The governing body voted to approve a signed contract with Bergen County Humane Enforcement/North Jersey Humane Society, formally finalizing the agreement established by the acceptance of the organizations’ bid in late 2014. The final agreement, Township Attorney Brian Aloia said, is for $265k annually and will be in effect through December 31, 2016.
The amount is a fixed price, all-inclusive, no add-on contract, Aloia said. He said that the shelter had not been paid for a “couple of months” while the process of finalizing the contract was going on.
The governing body approved the award of a contract for the spring tree planting program. It calls for 100 new trees to be planted in areas that qualify for CDBG funds.
They also discussed at length an amendment to the tree removal ordinance, which currently requires homeowners to get permission to remove trees on their property. Engineer Paul Lasek said from the engineering perspective, it is really a safety issue. They do not want “weekend landscapers” going out and cutting down trees with a chainsaw. There was discussion over the best way to accomplish that. Mayor Venezia said that a requirement for a permit could ensure that trees were taken down by licensed operators.
Councilman Joe Lopez pointed out that the original ordinance includes language describing the purpose of the ordinance to be not just for safety, but for environmental reasons. He cited several passages pertaining to the benefits of trees, including mitigation of water runoff. “I believe the purpose of the ordinance was for environmental protection and also to make sure that it doesn’t have a devastating effect on the houses close by,” he said.
Councilman Pomares added that on historic properties, trees can have great significance and may pre-date the Township’s incorporation. He suggested the Historic Preservation Commission should be consulted.
Township Engineer Lasek said that it is usually an isolated tree, not a large number. Councilman Joanow said it should be decided on a case-by-case basis, while Councilman Chalet felt that if the tree or trees are on private property, the owner should be allowed to do as he liked. Mayor Venezia asked Lasek to work with Township Arborist Steve Schuckman to design a revised ordinance for the governing body to review.
It was announced that Joseph DelGuidice had resigned from the Zoning Board, leaving an opening on that board.
In addition, Councilman Joanow reported that two members of the Open Space Trust Fund have resigned.
Mayor Venezia also announced that the Board of Health is working toward state accreditation, and said they are required to have a registered nurse or a doctor on the Board. He encouraged anyone who is interested and qualified to apply for the position.
Food Truck Event
Mayor Venezia referenced a recent Food Truck festival held in East Hanover and said he would like to have a similar event in Bloomfield, possibly in September or October. The group discussed various potential locations, including Broad Street in the North Center. Pulaski Park was also mentioned, but it was felt the location would not be large enough.
Parking in Bloomfield Center
Councilman Lopez asked whether further thought had been given to constructing another parking deck, possibly behind Town Hall, as had been previously discussed, given the increased need for parking due to new development.
Community Development Director Glenn Domenick, who oversees the Parking Authority, said that last Wednesday the Parking Authority agreed to commission a parking study in and around Bloomfield Center.
“We do have short term solutions which I’m currently negotiating with the hope of alleviating some of the parking issues,” he said. “What you’re seeing now is a lot of spots eliminated for construction, a lot of contractors in the garage, and as things begin to slow down, Lackawanna opens up, we pick up some more spots on the street, I think you’re going see it calm down.”
He also said, “It took us 20 years to build the first garage, and we’re already working on the second within the second year… so we’re way ahead of schedule.”
Both the Nevada Diner and the owners of the bar/restaurant, The Tilted Kilt, which will be coming into the new Center redevelopment area at 80 Washington Street, received approval for liquor license transfers.
The governing body rejected a request by Moon Palace, which has been fined or closed numerous times due to ABC violations, to extend its closing time from 12 midnight to 2 a.m.
The council agreed to proclaim May 17-23 as National Public Works Week. DPW Director Anthony Nesto discussed the successful Electronics Recycling/Big Truck Day held the previous Sunday to kick off the week. He said about 400 people attended, including 150 children who enjoyed climbing in and out of the various vehicles. He reported they collected two dumpsters full of electronic waste.
The next meeting will be a regular council meeting to be held in the Council Chambers on Monday, June 1, 2015 at 7 p.m.