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Westfield Town Council Approves $1.295 Million Bond Ordinance; Residents Discuss Central Avenue Light

Maria Carluccio warns of thieving solicitors.

At Tuesday evening's meeting of the Westfield Town Council, a special ordinance was approved allowing for the issuance of a $1.295 million bond that would provide for the funding of property tax credits.

Following the meeting, Town Administrator Jim Gildea explained that the bond, which will enable the town to pay three-quarters of the tax appeals that have been made by Westfield homeowners, will put the town in the "best position possible going into the 2013 budget."

"When the refunds are given, they come out of the town's cash flow, cash on hand, not the county's or the school board's or the library board's, that's why we have a reserve. So we have to have the cash on hand in order to refund that money or provide the credit. That's why it's most difficult for the municipality portion of the budget to absorb as the appeals increase in one calendar year. These are all residential appeals," Gildea explained.

Gildea said right now the town is at "an appeal peak" and while a reevaluation is something that must happen it is not imminent as "timing is the key." He explained that most towns in Union County have not done a reevaluation in "quite a while," but he noted that following a reevaluation appeals tend to skyrocket intially.

"When you haven't done a reevaluation in so long, your appeals usually spike for one year. There's another school of thought (that says) 'Well, if you talk about a reevaluation maybe it scares people away from making the appeal,'" Gildea said.

The reevaluation process can take a year or two, he said and is a "very lengthy and costly process."

He also noted that Westfield's tax assessor has done an excellent job, with the help of the town's attorney, handling 600 filed appeals with just under 400 that were successful. 

"It's a lot to do in a very compressed time for one person," he said. "Tonight's important because we're doing everything to assist the town's financial outlook for 2013, so that from a budget perspective we have some flexibility."

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Adina Enculescu addressed the council and asked Mayor Andy Skibitsky if he had any "second thoughts" about the midblock location of the Central Avenue pedestrian activated HAWK signal. 

"The light is staying where it is," Skibitsky said. 

Central Avenue resident Maria Carluccio also addressed the council and, as she has done for the past two years, questioned the midblock location of the signal. She asked council members how they taught their children to cross a street and began to sing "Don't Cross the Street in the Middle of the Block." The song, a jingle from the 1960s that was used as a public service announcement in New York City to teach children about traffic safety, advises them to cross at the corner, something Carluccio said she has been telling the council is safest for quite some time.

"This is like the fable of the Emperor's (New) Clothes. Somehow you've been able to pull this off, Mayor Skibitsky. It's really incredible that you've managed to dupe-not us because we see it everyday-dupe people into thinking it's somehow safer to cross in the middle of the road," she said.

"Where did you teach your children to cross the street?" Carluccio asked Skibitsky, as she said all other council members seemed to be wearing "a mute button." When the mayor told her to "please proceed" she likened him to President Barack Obama debating Gov. Mitt Romney.

Deviating from her usual topic, Carluccio mentioned that she was recently robbed by solicitors whom she described as two young women selling magazine subscriptions. She said one asked to use her bathroom while the other engaged her in conversation. Days later Carluccio realized the girl who had used her bathroom had "done her weekly toiletry shopping" while in there. Carluccio said she reported the incident to the police when she realized what had happened. 

Greg Kasko, who also routinely questions the location of the HAWK, provided Skibitsky with a document that called into question accidents that had been previously reported to be at different locations.

Kasko said he continues to come to meetings because some of the questions he has asked have not been answered. On the document he gave to Skibitsky was a list of accidents that have occurred at Central Avenue and Clover Street dating back to March 5, 2003 and Central Avenue and Cambridge Road going back to August of 2002. 

Kasko said four of the accidents that the report Skibitsky presented in December of 2011 did not occur where the stat sheet reports them to have taken place. Kasko said an accident at Central and Clifton was listed as Central and Clover. A second accident which happened at Mountain and Orchard, across town, Kasko said, had been listed under Central and Cambridge accident history. Numbers three and four happened in driveways on Cambridge, not at an intersection. Kasko said he had obtained the reports from the police department and implied that Skibitsky used the stat sheet to justify the midblock location of the light.

"Can you tell me why those four accidents appear on that stat sheet?" Kasko asked.

Skibitsky said the report that was given to him by the police department. 

"So you trust the police department gives you up-to-date facts?" Kasko asked.

"I trust our police department," Skibitsky said. 

The meeting began with a presentation by Amy Lovato, who spoke about an upcoming fundraiser held by 117th Cavalry Association on Saturday, Nov. 3. The night will benefit the Family Readiness Groups of the 102nd Cavalry Squadron of the Army National Guard and help fund many programs for soldiers and their families which are not paid for by the government. Click here to learn more about the upcoming event. 

Sick of Kasko October 24, 2012 at 12:28 PM
I admire Kasko's dedication (or insanity), but perhaps his "passion" could be better used to promote a different cause. I'm sure the Food Banks could use some help, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brother/Big Sister? Volunteering might fill whatever void is missing from his life. I'm sure his family misses the guy they knew before this light (that allows pedestrians to safely cross a busy street) consumed him.
Keith October 24, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Agreed. This has become very sad and disturbing to watch.
Neighbor October 24, 2012 at 02:05 PM
What is sad and disturbing to watch unfold is the information Kasko has obtained that has made the mayor look foolish. This has carried on way too long. My only hope is that Mayor Skibitsky's legacy is not predicated on this debacle. Mr. Kasko's desire to assist other residents in need is admirable. Mr. Kasko, keep up the good work and know that there are many that support your efforts.
Where's your "Blakey" now! October 24, 2012 at 02:05 PM
So it's ok for the Jedi Town Council to float a bond to help those that won tax relief but it's not ok to have a bond to repair roofs in our schools? Are you kidding me? Where is the outrage? Where are the Lawn Signs? How did this happen? and where is good o A John Blake to set fires..- I am sure Vicki Kimmins did not stand for this- she seems to be the only voice of reason on that Council....make her mayor please!
Wally Westfield October 24, 2012 at 02:30 PM
why don't either one of you trade houses with this poor woman and then we can all move on
Taxman October 24, 2012 at 02:50 PM
The bond floated for tax refunds is not a public vote. The council voted in it. The bigger question should be how many I the refunds were obtained through the help of Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Foerst. Isn't it a conflict I interest for him to be voting on this bond when he is making money on Westfielders filing tax appeals? Something smells fishy.
Boynton Ave Resident October 24, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Why can't pedestrians safely cross at the intersection? I have crossed there for over two decades and while I admit that not having a light there made it sometimes difficult because drivers just dont stop for pedestrians, this new light should have been put there. It doesn't make sense where it is and if it is true the town put it where it is now because of pressure from a few residents, thats wrong.
Elizabeth Alterman (Editor) October 24, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Council members Jim Foerst and Keith Loughlin were absent from Tuesday evening's meeting.
Taxman October 24, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Than you for the info On Foerst not in attendance. I wonder if the vote last night kept him away? Can Patch find out if it is a conflict of interest for Jim Foerst to represent Westfield residents filing property tax appeals?
Jeff B October 24, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Taxman, I think the bond vote by Town Council is pretty much a routine matter - but, since the lawyers are typically paid a percentage of one year's tax savings, Mr. Foerst would have been well-advised to abstain from voting if indeed he does represent residents (had he been at the meeting). However, given that it is in the town's interest to have no tax appeals, it would seem that your raising a potential conflict of interest on the basic representation issue is reasonable - and conceivably a challenge for town employees to handle appeals where he is involved.
NR9 October 24, 2012 at 08:50 PM
@Bob Centrella, CFA- Far more than 1 person has been affected. The individuals involved in the 16 traffic accidents that took place at the Cambridge/Clover portion of Central Ave. subsequent to the start of construction from July 1, 2010 to present come to mind. Don’t forget the nearby property owner that was also affected when one of the confused drivers drove right through their wooden fence into their backyard. Far more than 1 person has been affected and far more can become affected as drivers continue to be confused by this ridiculous light at this ridiculous mid-block location. The light belongs a few feet to the north, at the INTERSECTION of Clover, where it was ORIGINALLY RECOMMENDED BY THE TOWN AND COUNTY TRAFFIC SAFETY EXPERTS and not where the mayor chose to install it instead.
Adina Toescu-Enculescu October 25, 2012 at 01:08 AM
To Sick of Kasko. I wouldn’t be surprised that you are the same person who spoke about our insanity in pursuing the justice and the truth, the same one who compared our residential community with Menlo Park and Lord & Taylor areas. It is bizarre to me that there are people, thank God, only very few, who would stick with injustice probably for special interests and absconded favors or simply forgetting that they could be one day in my shoes. Mr. Kasko, I am very grateful to you, to Maria Carluccio and to each and every one of my fellow Westfield residents and home owners for the help, for the comments in the Westfield Council meetings, for the articles in papers, for the comments in Westfield Patch during the last two years. Mr. Kasko, we know that you have always stated only the truth and you always backed your statements with documents obtained from the Town Hall, from W Police Department, from the County or State and with the reports of the traffic experts. Mr. Skibitsky and his acolytes know it too, but not having any justification, they use personal attacks and insults as intimidating answers. The Mayor better listened and accepted the County’s offer to correct the mistake. I am convinced that the vast majority of the Westfield residents are decent, honest and justice-seeking, and I am confident that the truth and the justice will prevail.
Adina Toescu-Enculescu October 25, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Keith, I agree with you; it “has become very sad and disturbing to watch” your front yard defaced with traffic lights and a traffic sign , your new driveway destroyed and placed in between two traffic lights simulating a non-existing street, to have in the house red lit hands penetrating through the windows, to hear everyday cars screeching, to assist at more than 14 accidents in the last two years while in the previous two years were zero accidents, and during the last ten years were only 8, to have cars entering your driveway so many times. It is very disturbing to receive in writing Skibitsky’s opinion “safety is not applicable to you and your property”. You are right; it is very disturbing to see all these in the name of the safety of hundreds of kids when in reality 2-5 kids accompanied by their parents cross the street daily in this disturbing unsafe place. Do you think these parents are not capable to cross the street with their children on a crosswalk at the intersection controlled by lights? What is even more disturbing is to hear and see the people you trusted and voted for, shamelessly telling only untrue things, deceiving the residents of our nice town with false information, refusing to correct a mistake and even more daring to treat disrespectfully and insult all the people (more than 20) who came to ask the situation to be corrected relocating the crosswalk and the lights to the intersection where they belong
NR9 May 13, 2013 at 05:30 PM
ANOTHER accident TODAY (May 13, 2013) on Central Avenue between Cambridge and Clover- see link- http://07090.blogspot.com/2013/05/another-accident-intersection-of.html Meanwhile, from the October 2012 article above: "During the public comment portion of the meeting, Adina Enculescu addressed the council and asked Mayor Andy Skibitsky if he had any "second thoughts" about the midblock location of the Central Avenue pedestrian activated HAWK signal... "The light is staying where it is," Skibitsky said. Dave Haas for Mayor this November!
S_O_G May 14, 2013 at 01:20 AM
Please ignore this account, it is someone that just wants to cause problems.
S_O_G May 14, 2013 at 01:20 AM
Please ignore this account, it is someone that just wants to cause problems.

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