Just over a week before the upcoming township elections, First Ward Councilor William Hurlock, joined by Mayor Robert Jackson, hosted a First Ward community meeting at the Bellevue Avenue branch of the public library on Wednesday, May 4.
A resident questioned the timing of the municipal election scheduled for May 10, 2016, asking why the township doesn’t hold the municipal election in November, which he said would save money and ensure a larger turnout.
Mayor Jackson responded, “It’s a fair question,” and went on to explain that because Montclair has non-partisan elections, they did not want their elections to be connected with the partisan elections that take place in June and November, as it would result in more “party machinery” involvement. In addition, he said, local issues get drowned out when the local elections are held at the same time as the national parties are competing.
One resident pointed out that even if the turnout in a November election is higher, the local elections might still not receive as much attention since not everyone would go farther down on the ballot to vote for the local candidates. A suggestion was made that more advertising for the May election might be helpful. However, another resident said that he had received his sample ballot in the mail, which should serve as a reminder to those who may not have realized the election was coming up.
All of the incumbents are running for reelection without opposition, with the exception of the Third Ward council member. In that ward, incumbent Sean Spiller faces a challenge from Maureen Edelson.
A resident asked about the status of the township’s water quality. A study released in January evaluating the township’s water quality indicated that in 2014 there were elevated levels of PFOA (perfluorooctanic acid, used in making Teflon and other products) in the three wells that contribute to Montclair’s water supply.
Councilor Hurlock said the wells are shut down during the winter and they always take readings before reactivating them. He said that Water Department Director Obszarny plans to install screening technology to make the levels of PFOA in the well water undetectable. In addition, until that happens, the township has entered into an agreement to rent additional water capacity until they can confirm what the new levels of PFOA will be.
Hurlock also pointed out that the levels that were measured in the last water analysis are still well below federal standards, explaining that the New Jersey DEP has stricter standards than the federal government.
Senior Bus Service
Sandy Sorkin spoke about the Senior Citizens Bus that runs through the various wards of the town. He said they are trying to add additional services to address the needs of senior citizens and are trying to identify which routes are crucial and which are not needed.
He offered the residents three options:
1) Eliminate the senior bus from the First Ward and improve services in the Third and Fourth Wards where they get more clients.
2) Adjust the current route.
3) Introduce a voucher program where clients can use a taxi service that takes vouchers.
Most of the residents at the meeting did not seem to use the service. Some residents pointed out that Cedar Grove has a service that picks up people at their homes with an advance reservation. Their shuttle takes people to the grocery store and waits for them to shop.
Sorkin said that if anyone had suggestions or ideas regarding the senior citizen bus service, they can contact the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee at SCACnewsmontclair@gmail.com
Historical Society Events
Helen Fallon of the Montclair Historical Society announced there would be a Family Fun Day at the Crane House on Sunday, May 8, 2016. She said there is also a fundraiser during the weekend of May 12-14 at the Crane House.
Sergeant Tyrone Williams, who heads the Community Service Unit of the Montclair Police Department, spoke and said his department was the “softer side” of policing, as they deal with crosswalks, schools, and the like. He said the department was undergoing some shifts and would be enforcing traffic issues. He warned the residents, however, to keep in mind that many times the people who are flouting the law are your neighbors. “A lot of times people say we want you to come to our neighborhood to write tickets” – but they don’t want to get a ticket themselves.
Williams said each ward has a police liaison, and in the First Ward, that liaison is Travis Davis. He said that Davis usually works from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. but citizens should feel free to contact the Police Department and ask for him to address any issues that arise. He said Davis would either have the answer or point residents to the right person or department to address the concern.
St. James Parish Church
James Cott of the St. James Parish spoke about the restoration of the church’s Memorial Tower, which was built in 1919 following World War I to commemorate the lives of those who died in the Great War.
He said the tower is 97 years old, and that during renovations the bells, which usually ring on the quarter hour, will be silent during the week while work is being done, but will continue to sound on weekends. He offered the attendees a booklet with more information about the history of the church and tower.
Friends of the Bellevue Avenue Library
The Friends of the Library announced there will be a tour of the historic Bellevue Avenue branch of the Montclair Public Library on Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 4 p.m., conducted by Lisanne Renner. This event will be free and open to the public.
In addition there will be a Last Ditch Book Sale fundraiser from 12 to 6 p.m. that will help pay for purchasing of new books and library upgrades.
The first part of the meeting was taken up with questions regarding the schedule of paving of various streets in the First Ward, including two private streets, whose residents had to apply to the town to get the streets paved, with a petition signed by all residents. Cost of paving would then be applied equally to residents’ tax bills over a period of ten years. One resident said that they had submitted their petitions and had hoped the street would be paved by last April, but it had not yet been paved. Councilor Hurlock apologized for the delay.
Hurlock also explained to residents that Belgian Blocks were actually not more expensive than regular cement curbs, as the cost of installation for cement curbing offset the cost of the materials for Belgian Blocks.