Library Renovation, Street Paving and Quality of Life Issues Focus of Montclair First Ward Community Meeting

Montclair First Ward Councilor William Hurlock led a First Ward community meeting on Thursday, June 28 at the Bellevue Avenue Public Library. He briefed the audience of about 20 people on some of the projects he has worked on and addressed their questions.

Deputy Township Manager, Brian P. Scantlebury; Police and Officer AnJennette Sanders commented on some issues as well.

Hurlock kicked off the meeting by showing off the Bellevue Ave Library’s huge restored windows. The 103-year-old windows were designed so the upper and lower sashes simultaneously move in opposite directions to provide better ventilation compared to traditional windows. The restoration, by Dell-Tech of Trenton, NJ, includes other features from the original windows such as glass that looks wavy when you peer through it. Ilmar Vanderer, a member of the Friends of the Bellevue Avenue Library Board of Trustees of the Montclair Public Library, thanked Hurlock for his leadership during the restoration. Vanderer mentioned future renovations would include an elevator. No timetable for that project has been set because funding is being determined.

Hurlock reported on the First ward’s clean-up day on April 21. About 200-250 volunteers beautified eight locations including the uptown Montclair business area, Yancataw Brook park, Mountainside Park, Carlyle Woods and Bonsal Preserve.

“It was a great private-public partnership,” Hurlock said. “The town provided the mulch, the trash bags and the recycling bags and the people provided the muscle.”

Next, Hurlock updated the audience on street paving. “We’ve done more in last six years than what was done in the past 30 years,” said Hurlock. Several people in the audience asked when their streets would be paved. Hurlock said he could make recommendations. He explained the Department of Community Services evaluates the streets in all four wards, then prioritizes which ones get paved. The councilor also explained that while the Belgian block (cobblestone) curbs may be more expensive to install compared to traditional concrete curbs, they’re more economical in the long run because they are more durable and easier to replace.

Officer Sanders and Hurlock answered questions from the audience. Some of the issues they addressed included:

Suspected drug activity around Yantacaw Park. Officer Sanders said she’d work to increase police presence in the area.

Stopping for pedestrians in cross walks. Both Officer Sanders and Hurlock said drivers should abide by this Town law.

Cars blocking driveways. Hurlock stated cars shouldn’t park within four feet of either side of a driveway. While that’s the law, there’s no signage to let people know. Painting four feet of curb next to each driveway isn’t an option, according to Hurlock. Sanders said residents could call the Community Police Unit at 973-744-1234 to report non-emergency matters (ones that don’t include medical emergencies or violence) like this.

Conducting political activities in municipal buildings. Scantlebury said the Town forbids any partisan political, commercial endeavor or religious activities on municipal property.

After Officer Sanders left the meeting, Hurlock, addressed more attendee questions. Brian Scantlebury added to the conversation about the parking configuration at Edgemont park.

Status of the Bellevue Theater. Ilmar Vanderer, who sits on a volunteer committee for the theater, reported negotiations are underway but couldn’t elaborate.

Managing the Town’s bond rating. Hurlock talked about the Council’s work to reduce the Town’s debt load and improve its bond rating. When the current council members came into office the town had about $223,000,000 in debt and an AA-minus bond rating. Today the Town has about $170 million in debt and a AAA (the highest) bond rating. A high bond rating makes it easier for the Town to borrow money at a reasonable interest rate. Hurlock stressed his commitment to responsible stewardship of the Town’s budget. He does not support one-time fixes such as selling capital assets like schools and using that money to plug holes in the Town’s operating budget.

The new parking configuration at Edgemont Park. Attendees at the meeting complained the renovations make it difficult for seniors to use the park’s main house. Hurlock mentioned the area was not in the First ward, so he had no say in the renovation’s planning or execution. Edgemont Park is in the Second ward. The issue has been escalated to the full Town Council and is on the agenda for the next meeting. Hurlock said he was gathering the facts and would make a decision after reviewing the relevant information.

New construction proposed for 256 Park Street. This area straddles the First and Second wards. Hurlock explained that from a legal perspective, the matter was not a Town Council issue, but a Planning Board matter. “It would be inappropriate of me to take sides on an issue before the Planning Board,” he said.

Hurlock concluded the meeting by thanking the residents and Town officials for attending.

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  1. “Hurlock mentioned the area was not in the First ward, so he had no say in the renovation’s planning or execution.”

    I have to believe this was a misquote. This is the Township’s interim Senior Center and a Township park and the Council appropriates the funds, including approving the Change Order. If not a misquote, does that mean the other 2 ward councilors will join the 1st Ward councilor in recusing themselves from the discussion?

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