Absences, light attendance by the public, a disruptive thunderstorm and the National Night Out event on Church and South Park Streets resulted in a shorter than usual Montclair Council conference meeting Tuesday night. Mayor Robert Jackson and the councilors in attendance (Councilors Robin Schlager [Ward 2] and Renée Baskerville [Ward 4] were away) used the meeting to clean up some unfinished business and take pre-emptive action on new items originally scheduled for action at the regular meeting on August 28. Among those new items were authorizations of purchase of new vehicles for the police and for the township fleet, as well as a professional services agreement for the Connelly and Hickey architectural firm to provide service and guidance for taking care of the township’s historic buildings.
The unfinished business included final passage of the ordinance authorizing a 13th liquor license to be sold by the township. It was not a fait accompli, however. Before the vote, Deputy Mayor / Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller asked if there was a time frame for how the license would be offered. Township Clerk Linda Wanat explained there would be two public advertisements for a public sale / auction, and the ads would be placed one week apart. The sale/auction would be held 30 days after the second ad was placed. The earliest the ads could be placed as of August 7 would be first August 17 and then August 23, meaning an auction as early as Monday, September 24. The intervening month would give Montclair time to see if all the prospective bidders are qualified and can give a 10 percent bond when they issue their bids. The biggest concern was ensuring that enough potential bidders see the ads, meaning that they should ideally be placed in publications where those interested are likely to see them.
Township Attorney Ira Karasick said the ordinance merely authorizes the license, but in order to sell it, he recommended a resolution calling for the sale and authorizing an auction for bids, which could theoretically be done at any time. Mayor Jackson said the logical thing to do would be to advertise the license auction after Labor Day, when more people interested in setting up a new alcoholic-beverage business were more likely to be engaged in the process. Deputy Mayor Spiller said perhaps the ads could be placed online as well as in the Star-Ledger, and he recommended that the council consult Township Communications Director Katya Wowk on the matter. Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford suggested a New Jersey business magazine, the name of which escaped him at the moment. Attorney Karasick promised to have a resolution setting the parameters for a license auction, with a minimum bid, for consideration at the council’s August 28 meeting. For the time being, the council passed the ordinance authorizing the license by a 5-0 vote.
Resolutions and first-reading ordinances already scheduled for a vote at the conference meeting included a first-reading ordinance approving a utility easement grant to Clifton for a sewer line that would run through the Bonsal Preserve on the Montclair side of the line. However, First Ward Councilor William Hurlock, whose ward includes the preserve, successfully had it postponed until August 28 because he preferred that community discussions over the project could continue until then, with more time to go over the proposed easement. Numerous trees have already been felled in the affected area to prevent damage to a water pipe.
Among the resolutions up for a vote was one for a new gate at the Crescent Deck. It passed unanimously, although Deputy Mayor Spiller had an issue with the cost of $267,000. Manager Stafford explained the cost of gate costs that much because of the high-tech operations for it, particularly for credit-card processing and electronic signage announcing how many spaces are available. Also discussed at the meeting was another resolution, concerning the Clary Anderson Arena, that is up for consideration on August 28 but was not immediately voted on at this meeting. This resolution would award a three-year contract to a vendor for running the arena, with options for the township to extend it for two one-year periods. The vendor would pay 5 percent of its gross revenue to the township, with 6.5-percent payments for the second year and 7 percent for the third year. The vendor would pay 7.5 percent for the fourth and 8 percent for the fifth, if so extended.
Deputy Mayor Spiller said he was aware that some capital improvements were needed at the arena and that any discussion of capital outlays should take them in consideration. Township Recreation & Cultural Affairs Director Pat Brechka was on hand to brief the council on the latest arena upgrade – LED lighting, which would be installed in September. Deputy Mayor Spiller encouraged her to assess the priorities for the arena and to reach out to the Council Finance Committee. Brechka said discussions are ongoing within her department about priorities for the facility.
Also, in public comment, resident Fred Chichester alerted the council to a problem with motorists turning onto Bloomfield Avenue from Valley Road in either direction on red lights in the shadow of the police building. The mayor noted that many motorists enter the intersection to turn left on a green light but have to wait until the light changes to complete the turn, but he said a county effort to revamp the signalization on Bloomfield Avenue from Lloyd Road to Pine Street and Maple Avenue in 2019 should correct the situation. He added that signal timing could be done in the meantime, and he recommended that he consult Manager Stafford and Police Lieutenant