No sooner than Councilman Mark LoGrippo had taken his seat on the Town Council Tuesday evening then he was plunged into taking a public position on the most controversial issues in the third ward that he now represents.
LoGrippo was formally appointed Tuesday night by a unanimous Council vote to fill the remaining six months of former Councilman Mark Ciarrocca’s term. Ciarrocca resigned last week following his confirmation by the state Senate as a state Superior Court judge. LoGrippo, the preferred candidate of the town’s Republican organization, was appointed over Board of Adjustment members William West and Maryalice Ryan, who were also submitted by the town GOP to comply with a state law requiring three nominees.
LoGrippo is facing off in November against Democrat Matt Sontz and independent Greg Kasko for a full four-year term.
Within minutes of settling into his leather chair on the dais, LoGrippo was questioned by Central Avenue resident Adina Enculescu regarding the pedestrian activated stoplight on Central Avenue near Clover Street. The light, which is on Enculescu’s front yard, has become controversial as Enculescu and her neighbor, Maria Carluccio, have come before the Council for 10 months asking for it to be moved 150 feet to the intersection with Clover. Kasko and Sontz both support moving the light.
LoGrippo repeated comments he made to Patch on Monday that he is still studying the issue and awaiting data from a study currently being conducted by the police department regarding the light’s current placement.
“I am new to the Council and was not part of the decision,” he said.
Enculescu said she was not surprised with LoGrippo’s statement.
“I read in the Westfield Patch last night and I expected that,” she said.
LoGrippo’s comments drew thanks from Enculescu, Carluccio and Kasko who thanked him for addressing them. The trio have spoken out against the Council’s Republican majority not answering their questions in previous meetings. Mayor Andy Skibitsky announced in February that questions regarding the light would not be answered.
LoGrippo’s answer came after Skibitsky tried to block Enculescu’s question. When Enculescu began to address LoGrippo directly, Skibitsky stopped her saying that she could not address him directly and all comments flow through him as the Council’s presiding officer.
“Mrs. Enculescu this is a time for comments to me,” Skibitsky said.
“I speak to the government of Westfield,” Enculescu said.
“It’s amazing,” Carluccio said from her seat in the audience.
“Mrs. Carluccio please keep your comments to yourself,” Skibitsky said.
Skibitsky was using a parliamentary procedure which directs questions to parliamentary bodies be directed through the presiding officer to base his decision. He has made similar procedural decisions in the past. LoGrippo jumped in on his own to address Enculescu’s question.
Enculescu said she had spoken to another Republican who was interested in the Council seat who gave her an opinion on the light.
“I heard the same thing I heard from everybody else that it’s a crazy location,” Enculescu said the Republican said to her.
Enculescu did not identify the Republican she spoke with. Diane Barabas contested Sunday’s Republican Committee vote that chose LoGrippo for the seat and November campaign.
Aside from the stoplight issue, LoGrippo’s first meeting passed without event with the new councilman casting his first votes to approve a routine public works ordinance and abstaining on approving the minutes of the last Council meeting. LoGrippo’s committee assignments have not been announced. Ciarrocca’s resignation leaves vacancies on the finance and public safety committees, along with spots as Council liaison to the Downtown Westfield Corporation and the Board of Education.
Skibitsky welcomed LoGrippo to the Council, saying he believes the rookie councilman would benefit town government.
“I am excited about it,” he said of LoGrippo’s appointment. “Mark has done a great job on the planning board. He has a lot of energy and enthusiasm. He’ll be a great addition.”