Montclair Council: New Liquor License, New Township Vehicles, Clary Anderson Arena

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 Montclair Township Council

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 

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  1. Why in heaven’s name do we have to spend $267,000 on a new gate for the Crescent Deck? Are customers of that deck really clamoring for “electronic signage announcing how many spaces are available”? Could the Council not have asked Mr. Stafford to come back with less expensive alternatives so it could decide if that massive expenditure really is worthwhile? And where does the private company we hired to run the deck fit into this proposal?

  2. Jeff,

    The Township pays for all capital expenses for all decks. Imperial Parking now manages all day-to-day ops. They get a max of $352k/yr.

    Payment services is provided separately to our Parking Utility. This is split by monthly and daily payers. Further, the components are currently split between ImPark and Parkmobile both between and within location. Basically, ImPark will processe about 60% of the total 890 spaces among our 3 decks.

    Clearly, The Crescent Deck is increasingly full with increasing frequency. While an LED sign @ the entrance indicating it is full is nicer looking than a sign on a sawhorse, it doesn’t help to solve the customers parking need…or reducing circling the blocks. This will be more of an issue with Seymour construction and when it comes online.

    I hope this investment offers multi site integration capabilities.

    I’m sure the township has a strategy to address Seymour, the Midtown deck construction, North Willow and Glenridge Av., any delay in the Orange Rd deck and of course, my favorite, Lackawanna Plaza.

  3. I appreciate the information, Frank, but I’m not sold. Yes, the Crescent Deck is a major township asset. Whether we’re maximizing that asset and how we should be improving our other business district decks are topics for another day. The question I’m asking now is what are the alternatives to a $267,000 gate system. Why not find out how much can we save by foregoing the “electronic signage,” so we can make a reasoned choice as to whether that bell-and-whistle is worth the expense? And if the added frill of electronic signage will increase Imperial Parking’s revenues due under the contract, why not get them to share that added expense?

    My fellow NJ Transit commuters and I are seeing what happens when the government entity we depend on runs out of money. We have a lot of capital needs in this town and I have a very hard time believing that this is the highest and best use of scarce resources. Remember the MPD Command Truck? Well, here we go again. All I’m asking for is a little pushback when the Town Manager says we “need” something.

  4. I agree with you about questioning the capital outlay. I wasn’t at the Council meeting so I don’t know the extent of the discussion. I would be disappointed if this was not vetted by the Capital Finance Committee. This Council doesn’t have a good record on transparency when it comes to capital priorities & project review.
    The latest example was the $1MM Edgemont Park project.

    In considering any capital outlay, the first question is what is the return on investment. Not understood by the public as you pointed out. I brought in the parking capacity issues because it should be related to this expenditure. Seymour will take 160 spaces offline. Mr Plofker’s 172 Glenridge is an approved mixed use plan that will take another 50 ‘event’ spaces offline. This is equivalent to the total capacity of the Fullerton Deck. I also have no idea now whether the hotel’s 116 spaces will, due to the design issue, come online in time for its Jan 2019 opening.

    My point being is if this system can offer features like peak parking demand pricing, then our revenue stream could rise significantly. If this system can distribute space availability to smartphone apps, then it will could direct customers to other locations before they arrive. If the electronic capacity signs were place out on the streets (especially @ Park & Blmfld), it could help reduce congestion. If this system’s merchant validated parking actually works, it would alleviate the needless queuing that’s slows turnover.

    To your point, we could just put in a half dozen new pay stations & new dumb gates for about half this expenditure…but nothing to speak of on the revenue upside. So, it is about he payback, not the cost.

    PS: and it better be able to take smartphone payments, e.g. Apple Pay

  5. And I can’t let the NJT reference go unchallenged. Yes, we seriously screwed mass transit funding in NJ…which has been led by the Democrats in Trenton. If it wasn’t for Albany, we would have the most dysfunctional legislature.

    Anyway, the NJT leadership has been a model of patronage and incompetence regardless of funding. The organizational culture is perverse. Murphy should know he can’t fix it because of these two factors are not changing.

    You’re just going to have to live with this.

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