Mayor Robert Jackson, Councilor-At-Large Robert Russo, Montclair Library Trustee Ilmar Vanderer, Helen Fallon of the Monclair Historical Center and Deputy Township Manager Brian P. Scantlebury were among the guests at First Ward Councilor William Hurlock’s Community Meeting on Thursday, March 22. Hurlock ran an efficient meeting, briefing the audience of about 30 people on clean up from the four recent nor’easters, chatting with Montclair Police Officer Garth Guthrie on Community Police efforts and fielding questions from the crowd.
During the Q&A session when Mr. Vanderer asked Hurlock if he intended to run for U.S. Congress. United States Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican from New Jersey, announced in January he would not seek re-election. Hurlock was coy, saying he’s carefully considering a run but hasn’t made a decision yet.
“I enjoy public service,” said Hurlock, who said he will make an announcement on April 2.
Infrastructure Takes Center Stage
The safety and maintenance of the First Ward’s streets was a common theme throughout the meeting. Hurlock reported the raised intersection at Park and Alexander Street would be a tremendous help in reducing the number of cars speeding through that area. The Township installed crossing lights by Starbucks and Kings Supermarket on Valley Road and intends to put another set Grove Street in the First Ward.
Old Man Winter and the utility PSE&G have ravaged the First Ward’s streets. One resident who lived on Gordonhurst said his street was pock mocked with potholes. Hurlock reassured him that Gordonhurst would be taken care of.
Another resident said PSE&G did work on his street and the repairs latter settled, creating a trench. Hurlock responded by saying the town has passed an ordinance requiring companies like PSE&G to come back and bring the street to its original height after their initial repair work settled. He went on to say, that depending on the extent of the work, the utility would be required to repave the street from curb to curb. The cold weather snap is also hampering street repair work because asphalt can’t be layed down if the temperature is lower than 47 degrees, according to Hurlock.
Big Belly Trash Cans — solar-powered “smart” trash cans/compactors — installed on Bellevue Avenue by St. James Church was another topic of conversation. Hurlock said the cans — which notify the company’s truck dispatching center when they are full — were working “extremely well and were saving a tremendous amount of money.” He also spoke about an ordinance the Township recently passed requiring restaurants serving take-out food to place a trash receptacle outside their place of business. Because many trash-related code violations seem to happen on the weekends, Hurlock said the Town has allocated funding for code enforcement officers to work during that time.
April 3 Tree Debris Pickup Scheduled
In response to a resident’s questions about clean up after four nor’easters, Hurlock said the Township will have trucks picking up tree limbs left on the median between the sidewalk and curb on April 3. Branches left out should be no bigger than 10 inches in diameter. Another storm is expected on Sunday, March 25.
The Township has authorized a long-term plan to address the scourge of fallen trees by instructing its arborist to plant trees that will only grow to a certain height, decreasing the potential for a tree to fall on a house. Currently many tall trees in the town that grow between the street and sidewalk have shallow roots because their root growth is constricted by either the sidewalk or street. Shallow roots increase a tree’s chances of tipping onto power lines or houses.
“We’re as Hot as a Firecracker”
During the Q&A session, one resident asked what the town was doing with the extra revenue it collected from prepaid their property taxes. The township allowed these prepayments in response to President Trump’s December tax reform law restricting homeowner’s ability to deduct local property taxes on their federal income tax return. Hurlock mentioned that part of those prepaid taxes goes to Essex County. Mayor Jackson added that the extra revenue has allowed the town the negotiate better rates with banks, saving approximately $400,000. Jackson reminded residents that money from those prepayments is earmarked to pay for expenses that will be incurred in future fiscal quarters.
A resident asked that in light of the tax law passed in December and its implication on the property tax deductions, did either Mr. Hurlock or Mr. Jackson expect Montclair to become a ghost town because of the township’s high property taxes. Mayor Jackson responded by saying property values in Montclair are good.
“We’re as hot as a firecracker.”