West Orange Council Wrap-Up
Council works on old and new business.
A resolution to amend the July 2011 contract for the installation of hi-tech
equipment in police vehicles, as well as several other debt-related issues, dominated the conversation at last week's township council meeting.
The council discussed modifying the electronic ticketing payment contract for the ten upgraded police cars so that the 809 tickets issued prior to December 31 could count toward the 10,000-ticket minimum for 2012.
The topic was brought to the council by West Orange resident Mark Meyerowitz, who said he was “a bit concerned” about the ticketing resolution. What appeared to be at issue was the township's goal to issue a certain number of tickets.
The police equipment, which includes state-of-the-art video cameras, global positioning systems, microphones, handheld devices, license plated readers, and electronic ticketing software is costing the town approximately $394,000.
The bill was to be covered over a five-year period specifically through an e-ticketing agreement with Gold Type Business Machine, Inc. (GTBM) of East Rutherford. The initial contract, which provides that a total of 50,00 summonses be issued, has caused apprehension amongst town residents and council members since it was first put into effect almost two years ago.
“What happens if the police find drugs or illegal arms in the car?” Meyerowitz asked. “A lot of the serious problems start with traffic stops, and if our traffic stops are no good, the serious problems are not being taken care of.”
Councilman Joe Krakoviak also brought his doubts about the resolution to the table “A quota puts the strength of our stops and evictions at risk,” he said.
Mayor Robert Parisi, who had voted in favor of the contract, said, “We don’t set up corners just for people to speed. Government should be a partner in people’s lives, not just something to rule them.”
Krakoviak continued to stress his uneasiness with the ticketing standard and said, “My concern is that if we don’t write the minimum amount of tickets, we will have to pay for all of those (unwritten) tickets.”
Township attorney Richard Trenk responded, “If we don’t write the tickets, all it means is that a smaller chunk of revenue goes to the bottom line.” Trenk continued, “We know that this equipment will do what we want it to do: mainly, effectively give out tickets.”
Business administrator Jack Sayers said, “I am optimistic that we will exceed the (ticket) quota for 2012.”
The council approved the resolution to modify the E-Ticketing Turn Key System contract for the inclusion of the 809 tickets towards the year’s quota. Krakoviak abstained from the vote.
In the public comment portion of the meeting, two West Orange residents cited a recent Star-Ledger article that talked about the risks of guaranteeing debt to private developers. New Jersey municipalities such as Collingswood, Salem, Hoboken, and Hudson County are currently in danger of facing large debts due to guaranteeing such debts.
In response to the residents’ fears that West Orange could be facing a similar financial crisis, Councilman Sal Anderton said, “Even the $6.3 million general obligation debt does not make us a community strained by the debt perspective. The level of debt that our town’s government has is not high.”
In efforts to further assure the residents, Anderton, said, “West Orange is not a community that has overextended its finances. We are not a debt-strapped community.”
Councilwoman Susan McCartney noted that the examples presented in the article were “extreme cases” of municipalities backing private enterprise projects.
“We recognize the need of a particular debt,” said Parisi. He spoke about the 47 jobs taken off the payroll two years ago, as well as the raises that had been given, he said, “With the elimination of those jobs, the administration requires that employees fulfill additional roles.”
He continued, “Yes, we’ve given raises, but they were for very specific reasons, mainly, to offset the 47 jobs lost and maximize efficiency. We’ve made major strides and we should all be proud of that.”
After addressing the concerns of the public, the council approved a resolution calling for the restoration of energy taxes to municipalities.
“It is frustrating for all of us that we’ve been paying taxes that seem to be going somewhere else,” said Parisi. “We are the 29th or 30th largest town in the state, yet we’re only getting five percent. This is just another example of the disparity in the way the state collects our funds.”
Councilman Victor Cirilo said, “This is a request that the state return money to
the municipalities because it belongs to the taxpayers.”
Additional Notes from the Meeting:
- Members of the West Orange Emergency Medical Services were honored for their around-the-clock dedication to the health and safety of the community. Deborah Herr, public information officer for the First Aid Squad, thanked the township for its display of gratitude during National EMS Week.
- Anderton expressed his appreciation for the community’s support and formally requested that residents leave their political opinions outside of the boardroom in future conferences. He said, “Let the polarization go somewhere else. As a community, we need to work together for the benefit of all of our residents, taxpayers, and property owners. For as much as we all may have our political ideology, I would request that we keep it out of this room. It is a right that we have to step up to the microphone and air our grievances and frustrations, but it should not be abused.”
- The council approved an amount of $54,000 to improve the curbs and pavement of Hillside Avenue from Mitchell Street to Wellington Avenue.
- The Essex County Codey Arena ice rink will reopen in several months after its upgrade has been completed.
- The West Orange African Heritage Organization will present its 8th annual “Men Who Cook” fundraiser to benefit the Thomas Holcomb Scholarship Fund on Sunday, June 3 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.