The Westfield Town Council began its Tuesday, June 5 meeting by approving a special ordinance providing for the refunding of outstanding bonds that will save the town and the swimming pool utility just over $182,000.
Finance committee chair Sam Della Fera explained that the refunding was similar to a refinancing and that lower interest rates allowed for a substantial savings for the town.
The council, minus Mayor Andy Skibitsky and Council member Vicki Kimmins, also approved two general ordinances that amended salaries for town officers and employees as well as employees of the police and fire departments. (Check back with Patch for a complete list of job titles and salaries later this week.)
The council also approved a resolution to award a contract for the 2012 Improvement of First Street.
Councilman James Foerst thanked the residents of First Street for their patience in what he referred to as "long-awaited" improvements and said that the work on the street and curbs will begin soon after school closes for summer vacation. The work is expected to be completed by Aug. 17.
During the open discussion by citizens, Greg Kasko, Adina Enculescu and Maria Carluccio spoke before the council to once again urge members to reconsider the midblock placement of the pedestrian activated HAWK signal on Central Avenue.
Both Kasko and Carluccio said police have begun ticketing drivers who have failed to stop when the light is activated. Carluccio described a recent event during which a driver, who turned out to be a Cambridge Road resident, ran the light while a crossing guard and child were about to enter the crosswalk.
"Is that irony on top of irony?" she asked. "If there's anyone who should be aware of the logistics of this light and how it works, wouldn't it be someone who lives on Cambridge? And yet they managed to not see the light with a child and a crossing guard entering the crosswalk."
Carluccio said the resident was issued an $85 ticket and concluded by telling council members she would see them in two weeks. "Unless the light moves, I'll be standing here."
Kasko asked the council why, if this is the safest location for the light as the mayor has stated, does it need to be patrolled by police officers. Kasko also said he witnessed crews installing more signs in the area during spring 2011 and again asked why this was necessary if the light is in the safest location as the mayor had stated "from the get-go."
During his allotted 10 minutes, Kasko also referred to statements made previously by Town Administrator Jim Gildea. Gildea announced that the Town was seeking grants to increase manpower on both the police and fire departments. Kasko recalled that Gildea stated that the town had alternative plans if the grants fell through. Kasko asked the council what those plans were, to which acting mayor JoAnn Neylan said, "I hear your question and we'll get back to you."
The retired police officer also questioned why the town of Westfield and Union County both have their own emergency service units. Kasko said overtime and training were expenses the town could look at cutting in light of limited incoming revenue.
Kasko also questioned the purchase of an unmarked Dodge Durango that was intended for the detective bureau at a cost of $24,161. Kasko asked why outgoing Westfield Police Chief John Parizeau's car couldn't have been put to use rather than incurring the additional expense.
Council members did not offer an answer nor did they address his inquiry regarding possible duplication of emergency service units.
Following the regular meeting, the Council went into an hour-long executive session and returned to approve two resolutions. The first authorized the mayor to execute a letter and a resolution regarding NJ DEP vs. Occidental Chemical Corporaton, et al. urging action on behalf of our state's legislators.
The second resolution authorized the town through its various agencies and the mayor to execute a settlement in the matter of Sunnyside Senior Housing Corporation vs. Town of Westfield.
Councilman Foerst explained that both of these matters are, at this time, confidential. When that is no longer the case, more information will be made available to the public.