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Calls For Improved Public Safety Dominate Town Council Meeting

Council members urge drivers, pedestrians to slow down, be more careful

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. 

Adina Toescu-Enculescu February 01, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Speaking of the “safest location” Mayor Skibitsky considered for the crosswalk in the middle of the road on Central Avenue, I would like to inform you about a near miss accident that happened today around 10 am. While the mail man crossed Central Avenue on the crosswalk with the pedestrian light permitting that, a silver car heading South succeeded to stop in front of the driveway of 1310 Central Ave. residence only 2-3 feet (instead of 20 ft.) away from the crosswalk, probably 2-4 seconds before a really terrible accident could happen. This is a daily common situation at the “safest location”, and still Mr. Skibitsky declared last night “I’m not reconsidering moving the light”. I paraphrase Mr. Ritter who spoke last night in the Council meeting: you really take your life in your own hands when walking this crosswalk in the middle of the road, and I agree with him in saying “That shouldn’t be the case in a town like this”. It appears that the mayor is waiting another North Avenue accident to happen on Central Avenue. Until then, he has viciously attacked all the residents who tried to express concerns and opposition to his decisions regardless that no document backs up his ideas. By contrary, all the studies contradict his opinion. He simply prefers to cover a mistake, continuing to try to deceive the Westfield residents, instead of correcting it, like 5 major multiple car accidents in 7 months at “the safest location” are not enough.
NR9 February 01, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Mayor Skibitsky said: “I’m not reconsidering moving the light.” Why not Mayor? Is it because FIVE(!) accidents in SEVEN(!) months is not enough and you want to be absolutely sure by waiting for a few dozen more accidents to occur before concluding that you should have followed traffic flow expert Gordon Meth's recommendation to put the light where lights generally belong (at INTERSECTIONS). Or, is it because your ego won't allow you to admit that maybe, just maybe, disregarding traffic flow expert Gordon Meth's recommendation to put the light at the INTERSECTION might have been a mistake. And, just to be clear for those readers who may only have been following portions of this year-plus long debate... NO ONE wants to REMOVE the equipment. All that is desired (by the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY according to the Patch and TFOTM polls on this subject) is simply MOVING the equipment a few feet away to the INTERSECTION -- the place where drivers expect to see traffic lights, the place recommended by the town's traffic expert and the place that makes sense. And, by the way, the county has been willing to move the equipment for FREE- at NO COST TO WESTFIELD! Great leaders are willing to admit a mistake or even admit that they MIGHT HAVE made a mistake- and revisit past decisions accordingly - in an open and non-hostile way! Do we need even more accidents. We are at FIVE ALREADY!
Wally Westfield February 01, 2012 at 06:22 PM
The Mayor's comment indicates that this has become a personal and not professional issue. It is not YOUR town Mr Mayor, it is not called Skitbitskyfield, it is still Westfield, which is OUR town, of which you were elected to lead Perhaps since this issue has become to personal with you, that maybe you should recuse yourself from this issue
sue February 01, 2012 at 11:39 PM
People need to stay off their cell phones while driving!!! They don't think that they are behind the wheel of an automobile that weighs a ton and you need to pay close attention to the road!! Also the town needs to make improvements..All our tax dollars are going to the schools...how bout some road work!!
harry February 08, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Can we go back to the debate over parking garage now?
Jody Feldon February 08, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Mrs. Toescu-Enculescu - Have you tried to recruit any of the people involved in the 5 traffic accidents to attend the town council? Or tried to get a written testimonial stating their confusion from the traffic light? Perhaps this would be compelling evidence?

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