Tuesday night marked the first meeting of the Town Council since two tragic events struck the town, so it came as no surprise that much of the night's discussion centered around a renewed focus on public safety.
Less than two weeks removed from the that ruined a string of businesses along South Avenue and less than a week after an accident on North Avenue, both citizens and Council members discussed the state of safety within the town and what can be done to improve it.
“We hold public safety in the highest regard possible,” said Councilwoman Joann Neylan, chair of the Public Safety, Transportation and Parking Committee.
Mayor Andy Skibitsky expressed his condolences on behalf of the Council for the recent local hardships and encouraged residents to check their homes and businesses for potential fire hazards. Though he said he could not comment on last Wednesday night’s accident because it is under investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, he did stress the need for drivers and pedestrians to take responsibility for each other’s safety.
Ted Ritter, a resident who lives on North Avenue, addressed the Council and asked it to renew its commitment to safety. He said the town should be able to allocate the resources necessary to improve street lights and other safety measures, particularly given the amount of taxes that residents pay.
“Our residents should be able to count on a higher level of public safety – perhaps a higher level than what we’ve come to accept,” Ritter said. “There are lots of accidents waiting to happen on our streets.”
Ritter encouraged the Council to be proactive and to consider alternative ways to help subsidize the cost of improvements, including grants or possibly sharing services with other towns. He said he has been particularly alarmed with the behavior of drivers along North Avenue, who he said often disregard pedestrians unless a police officer or police vehicle is visible along the road.
“You really take your life in your own hands when walking to the train station,” Ritter said. “That shouldn’t be the case in a town like this.”
Neylan encouraged drivers to slow down and limit distractions when behind the wheel in order to help avoid accidents like the one that occurred last Wednesday night.
“If everyone took heed of that, this town would be easier to live in," she said.
Public safety also arose during the continued discussion of the Central Avenue stoplight. Maria Carluccio, a resident of Central Avenue, said the stoplight has played a role in five accidents during the past seven months. Carluccio, who said the light is located in a “preposterous” spot, continues to press the Council to move the light. However, that does not seem to be likely to happen anytime soon.
“I’m not reconsidering moving the light,” Skibitsky told Carluccio.
Emotions peaked later in the evening when Greg Kasko, a retired police officer, addressed the Council. The meeting was temporarily adjourned for about a minute following his 10 minutes at the microphone, which included Kasko and Skibitsky cutting each other off several times.