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NEWS & EDITORIAL
Is Westfield Town Hall Broken or Simply Locked In A State Of Confusion?
A new town clerk, administrator, assistant administrator and assistant engineer are in place, with a new police chief and fire chief to follow. The hallways and a few of the offices in Town Hall have been painted for the first time in memory. A workable email system has been brought online and TV36 will soon have expanded service for the public. Yet, despite all this new blood and a sense of renewal, Westfield’s government appears broken. The past six months at Town Hall have not been rosy.
Case in point is the status of replacing Police Chief Anthony J. Scutti and Fire Chief Paul A. Battiloro, Jr. They both retire in little more than a month. No progress is evident in filling the positions. Through the urging of Administrator Thomas Shannon, the council has approved spending $9,000 to hire an outofstate police association to screen the candidates to head up the town’s police department. Mr. Shannon also has indicated he might consider contracting with a fire chiefs group to assist in that hiring process. We understand that Chief Scutti and Chief Battiloro have made recommendations on who they feel would be best capable of running their respective departments.
Why do we need all these consultants? Is it not possible for Westfield leaders to arrive at a decision? The two deputy chiefs are now running the fire department. It seems shortly that the police department will be in the same situation due to inaction. Is that the way to run departments in which leadership is of such vital importance?
In order to reduce the load of work on the Engineer and Public Works offices and Town Engineer Kenneth B. Marsh, the council agreed some time ago to add an assistant engineer. That person has only been recently hired. Why did it take so long to fill a post that is so important to town operations?
Let’s not forget the legal department. Recently, the town’s recycling contract with Advanced Recycling Technologies (ARTS) nearly expired because a renewal option was mistakenly left off the council agenda. Emergency action had to be taken, and it was disruptive to the meeting.
Also, many memos from Town Attorney William S. Jeremiah 2nd are listed as “confidential.” We think this is wrong, and that it infringes on the public’s right to know. According to state law, there are only two areas where local government can operate behind closed doors. These areas involve contract negotiations or pending litigation.
Another matter in Westfield government that is spinning in all directions is the deliberation on parking. In our view, it is not being handled in a
forthright and businesslike manner. Regretfully, there is so much bickering that other immediate and important issues before the council are falling through the cracks.
The council meetings have been fouled up for a long time. Meetings run late into the evening and committee reports often don’t even begin until 10 p. m. or later. Too much debate occurs on matters that should be resolved in committee. The debate is contentious and marked by personal attacks. Last week, two councilmen actually walked out of the meeting at the same time.
Committees and department heads need to be empowered, and they must be charged to get their work done. If it turns out not to be possible to achieve consensus in committee, note that fact in the minutes of the council meeting and move on.
Also, why is it that there are no “real” minutes being taken at council conference meetings?
The written record should include information of the debates and not simply be a truncated report of votes and items discussed. All meetings should be tape recorded. In this way, an accurate archive is available for public review and research.
Where is the budget audit for last year? When will it be received and made public? Surely, with so many expenditures being considered, one would think that it’s important to know where financial matters stand. And we presume and hope that all current expenditures being made, such as for the many consultants, are in compliance with the existing budget authorizations.
To us, the problems are at the top, encumbered by political impasse and guises of hidden agendas. How can anyone working for the town be expected to get things done without clear organization and direction? How can businesses or citizens understand the issues under these circumstances?
In spite of everything, there are success stories because there are many good town employees in the center and bottom of the heap. Town Clerk, Bernard Heeney, has enhanced the efficiency of that office. It is now computerized, and the parking permit requests are no longer kept in shoe boxes.
Congratulations. Can Town Hall be fixed? Of course, and it will happen. The time is now for everyone to break for their vacations. Regroup. Then, return and work on getting the job done with the interest of the entire town as the only priority — and with comportment worthy of their positions and in the tradition of Westfield.
Letters to the Editor
With summer upon us and with school out, Union County has plenty for families to do. The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has invested in a wide range of programs and activities throughout the county.
Here’s a list of 10 activities you and your family can enjoy:
1. Take a hike! Union County has more than 40 miles of walking trails through the Watchung Reservation, and many paths and trails in our other parks. Union County has 26 parks, and a total of 5,574 acres of parkland to visit. Two park areas, Trailside Nature and Science Center and Lenape Park, have been named “Watchable Wildlife” sites by the State of New Jersey for the great diversity of birds, plants and animals there.
2. Trailside Nature and Science Center is a fun and educational place on a summer afternoon. (It’s air conditioned, too!) The center, with its natural history museum, interpretive center and planetarium, is located on New Providence Road in Mountainside. On Wednesday afternoons catch a live performance matinee and on Thursdays, you can check out a show at our planetarium, both at 1: 30 p. m.
3. Take a walking, selfguided tour of the Deserted Village of FeltvilleGlenside Park, located off of Cataract Hollow Road in Berkeley Heights. Nine of the homes built nearly 150 years ago as housing for mill and lumber workers have lived on, as well as a church/ general store, which is being restored. Tour booklets are available at the site.
4. Splash around in our county pools in Linden and Rahway, or enjoy the giant water sprinklers in three of our parks. The sprinklers are at Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield, Mattano Park in Elizabeth and Warinanco Park in Roselle.
5. Jump in a boat at one of the county’s two boathouses. They are located in Echo Lake Park in Mountainside and Warinanco Park in Roselle.
6. Hit the links on one of Union County’s three golf courses, or enjoy a game of Pitch ’n Putt at Ash Brook Golf Course in Scotch Plains or Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth.
7. Take in a free show at Echo Lake Park any Wednesday night throughout the summer through Union County’s Summer Arts Festival. Shows are held on a hillside in the park or in nearby Cranford High School if it rains.
8. Visit the museum. There are more than 20 house museums throughout Union County. They are open sporadically, but you can find a list of them on Union County’s website. The address is below.
9. Ride the horses at Watchung Stables in Mountainside. Horses are available on a firstcome, firstserved basis, weather permitting.
Riders go out at 9: 30 a. m., 10: 30 a. m., 1 p. m. and 2: 15 p. m.
10. Finally, if you haven’t visited our playgrounds and athletic fields lately, you’re in for a treat. Over the past three years, Union County has replaced all but two of the playgrounds in its county parks and has rebuilt baseball, soccer, tennis and basketball facilities, as well as running tracks, throughout the parks system.
It’s a good idea to contact our parks department before visiting many of these facilities, as many
"COMMENTING ON UNION COUNTY"
By DANIEL P. SULLIVAN
Chairman – Union County Board of Freeholders
Freeholder Chairman Outlines List Of Summer Union County Activities
charge fees, have limited seating or availability, or may not operate in inclement weather. Fees are charged at the stable, Pitch ’N Putt courses, for Wednesday and Thursday activities at Trailside, and for boat rentals.
The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has made parks and recreation a priority by protecting open space, funding improvements to county and municipal parks and playgrounds and providing grants for artists, theater groups and historians throughout the county.
Union County has much more to offer through its parks, cultural and heritage programs and ongoing initiatives, like the Newark Museum Connection. For some of these activities, such as our pools, advanced registration is required.
For more information, you can contact our Department of Parks and Recreation at (908) 5274900 or look on the Internet at www. unioncountynj. org. You can also contact the Union County Information Line tollfree at (877) 4241234 for information on any county program or service.
* * * * *
Daniel P. Sullivan is chairman of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
While it may sound like a fast food chain, gaucherie is merely a medieval French word for lefthanded. Gaucherie was the source of a later French word gauche, also meaning “lefthanded.” The English borrowed the word gauche without a spelling change, but did quite a job redefining it.
The English did not invent the superstition that lefthanded people were treacherous or awkward. In fact, this belief is quite ancient. But the English bias against lefties survives in the current definition of gauche: “awkward, clumsy or tactless.”
This intolerance for “southpaws” (lefthanders) explains why generations of mothers forced righthandedness on their lefthanded offsprings, regardless of their natural tendencies. Gauche has several derivatives that also reveal this prejudice including: gawk, meaning “clumsy, stupid;” and gawky meaning “awkward.”
The word gauche has pretty nearly righted itself, having lost its earliest left wing affiliation. To indiscriminately call a lefthanded person gauche today, therefore, would really be gauche.
Letters to the Editor
DPW Worker Rebuts Several Issues In Recent Field Maintenance Article
Editor’s Note: This Letter to the Editor, written by a Westfield Department of Public Works employee, is in response to a July 13 story reporting on a Westfield Recreation Commission meeting in which the condition of the town and school fields was discussed.
* * * * * This is a rebuttal to a previous article written about town ball fields deteriorating.
I am a Department of Public Works worker and personally take care of the ball fields throughout the town. Being that the ball fields have been such an issue in the past and over the past few seasons the Parks Department has concentrated on improving them. I’ve yet to see any positive writeups about the ball field maintenance. Taking care of the fields 80 percent of the time out of a 40hour week, I think the ball fields have improved 100 percent over the past few seasons. Where is a reporter when you need them?
My rebuttal should now let reporters who write articles in the paper know that information and both sides of a story are important and that I, a Department of Public Works worker, am not going to sit back and watch what little livelihood I have be negatively displayed without good reason.
There’s already enough low morale within public works and even lower morale in the parks department, or known as the penal colony. The parks department, using handmedown equipment and understaffed, takes on a big responsibility in town. More of an effort to see its needs as a department should be made.
That should be a management job within the Department of Public Works, but management are the same guys who sit on the other side of the negotiating table knocking down Department of Public Workers’ requests when new contracts are being debated. And the same guys who the next day tell us to go out and give the town a good day’s work. It’s about morale in the work place and the
1955 way of communicating and managing within the Department of Public Works that needs to be updated. Believe it or not a Public Works worker is more educated these days and has responsibilities like everyone else — houses, families, bills — and are ready to perform their job, and in return be treated with respect like any other town employee.
The point of the matter is that the Town of Westfield has grown over the years and continues to grow, so in order to keep providing service to the taxpayers, the management and workers need to grow also.
Hopefully, by reading this letter you’ll realize the workers at the Department of Public Works do care and are capable of maintaining this town as long as management and the public are on the side of the workers and not against them.
In ending, ball field maintenance was the issue of this rebuttal, along with some other issues that were brought up in the July 13 article. Could the ball field complaints or any other complaints about town maintenance have something to do with those other issues. Sure, why not? I do thank America for giving me the right to express my opinion and the taxpayers of Westfield for giving me a job.
John Russitano Jr. Dept. of Public Works worker,
Parks Department How To Reach Us EMail press@ goleader. com
Phone (908) 2324407
MailPO Box 250, Westfield 07091 PO Box 368, Scotch Plains 07076
In Person 50 Elm St., Westfield 1906 Bartle Avenue, Scotch Plains
Mountainside Resident Complains About Handling of New Ordinance
Drastic Measures Needed To Control Geese, Reader Says
On a recent Thursday evening at the band concert in Mindowaskin Park, I saw two toddlers running barefoot through the grass. The grass was littered with goose droppings, as were the sidewalks nearby.
Suppose either of those youngsters had a cut on his foot. Isn’t it possible that E. Coli or other bacteria in the droppings could cause a serious infection?
In June, according to a Georgia Public Health item on the Internet, an E. Coli outbreak in an Atlanta public park afflicted several children.
Health officials believe that fecal contamination was the source of the infection.
Long ago public health officials banned open sewers as hazardous. In a sense, that is what the goose droppings have created in our parks – open sewers.
The effort to discourage the geese with the plantings and fence around the Mindowaskin pond was laudable. But unfortunately, the geese are still there.
Isn’t it time we took more drastic measures to remove this threat to our children’s health?
Jody Melloan Westfield
Once again the residents of Mountainside have been subjected to the highhanded tactics of their elected officials, as the Borough Council rushed through an ordinance authorizing capital expenditures of $2.7 million without allowing sufficient time for public input.
The bond ordinance to authorize road and sewer improvements was based upon a report by Borough Engineer Michael Disko dated February, 2000. However, Mountainside residents were not made aware of the report until a letter from the Mayor dated Friday,
July 7, 2000, to all households stated that copies of the report would be available for inspection. The first day residents could pick up the report was Monday, July 10. The public hearing and scheduled vote was Tuesday, July 18. In addition to the fact that July is a peak vacation time when many people are away, it would seem that eight days is hardly enough time for those residents who were in town to get the report and review it.
In fact, it was evident at the hearing that a number of residents had questions about their own streets and individual properties. Many of these people described that they have for years tried to get service or at least some attention from Borough Hall about ongoing problems, which have remained unanswered. The usual “call me any time and we would be anxious to help you” was offered by council members. However, this is surely a hollow gesture at the very meeting when the vote was scheduled!
Wouldn’t it have been more inclusive to have provided the opportunity for all residents to respond to the report prior to the ordinance being placed on the Council agenda?
These are major projects which will progressively increase our property taxes for years to come, and affect the borough’s bond rating. It would seem that Mountainside officials are being disingenuous when they tell us, as the Mayor put it in his July 7 letter, “the Governing Body wants to be sure that every resident has had an opportunity to let us know what the resident thinks and get an answer to any questions he or she may have.” The “voluminous and detailed report” prepared by the engineer took the Mayor and council five months to digest. How could Mountainside citizens be expected to do the same in eight days?
Is this not another example of the arrogance of a Governing Body that is never subject to challenge of its rule?
Steven M. Brociner Mountainside
Daily Commuter Questions Wisdom Of Not Building Southside Deck
American Cancer Society Committee Extends Thanks for Successful Event
As chair of this year’s American Cancer Society Relay for Life committee, I would like to thank the residents of Union County for their generosity and support. Despite the heat and humidity, over 600 people participated in this year’s event, raising over $125,000 for the American Cancer Society’s research, education, advocacy, and service programs for cancer patients and their families in Union County. The outstanding support received proves that the people of Union County are truly committed to the fight against cancer.
I want to applaud all the survivors who participated in the opening lap and survivor recognition ceremony. They are the reason we continue the fight because each year there can be more and more people with cancer, beating this disease
and living remarkable lives. A special thanks to the many Relay for Life volunteers who worked to make this event a success. The Relay for Life committee did an outstanding job of putting the event together. We also appreciate the generosity of this year’s corporate sponsors and those organizations that provided food, beverages and other supplies. Relay for life would not be possible without them.
Again, thank you for supporting the American Cancer Society, and remember, it’s not too early to become involved with next year’s Relay for Life.
Pat Myska 2000 Union County Relay for Life
Chairman American Cancer Society
As a Westfield resident, daily commuter from Station Square and twoyear tenant on the waiting list for a South Avenue parking permit, I was discouraged to pick up the July 13 edition of The Westfield Leader to learn of the council’s mysteriously muted decision to eliminate the South Avenue lot from consideration and then quickly push for a decision on the remaining alternatives (all more costly and disruptive), before sanity might be allowed to prevail.
The inability of the council to reach a decision seems based on a conflict between rational facts and irrational motivations. The superiority of the South Avenue deck has been cited by external consultants on the basis of availability, ease of construction, cost, ingress and egress. (All rational facts.)
Concerns over aesthetics, traffic and other issues (rational motivations), can be managed by design, engineering and other disciplines. Despite these reasoned facts, the South Avenue site is no longer an option. I did not understand how the rational facts behind the South Avenue deck were so convincingly overridden until I read the article on the deck published in the July 16 issue of The StarLedger.
The article said: “Councilman Neil Sullivan favors the north side locations for the obvious reasons — that’s where most of the business district lies.” Mr. Sullivan was quoted in the article: “Who are we building for? The downtown,” said Sullivan. “You better add capacity there.”
The Downtown Westfield Corporation has done a wonderful job and I believe that the vibrancy of the downtown can be sustained by better management of the parking habits of the employees of the north side businesses. Based on The StarLedger article, it seems that Mr. Sullivan believes it would be unfair to free up northside spaces by requiring the employees of northside businesses to park in the South Avenue lot (irrational motivation.) I cite Mr. Sullivan again: “The whole scheme was predicated on virtually every employee parking at least several blocks away in that deck . . . .It was a leap of faith with no basis in reality. We have to be realistic about what we force people to do and how much we charge for parking.”
If members of the council wish to build for the downtown business area, then the downtown interests should pay
for it, not the homeowner. If you want to build for Westfield, develop the South Avenue site, which is a superior economic and logistic solution that provides longterm parking for commuters and employees of the downtown businesses and liberates shortterm parking for shoppers and visitors.
Mr. Sullivan, the reality is that most of downtown Westfield is within a few blocks of the South Avenue station. I just do not see the hardship for downtown employees to navigate this distance — especially compared to the daily ordeals of a mass transit commute. Please do not bring up public safety — commuters use the South Avenue lot at all hours, with little incident due to the fine work of our public safety officers.
Let me remind everyone of the reality for Westfield commuters waiting for permits to park near the station:
Wait over four years — if you apply today (no guarantee on timing).
• Choose any or all of the following means of getting to/ from the station:
— Walk back and forth to the station each day (good exercise if you are fit, live close enough to walk, have the time, it is not raining, snowing, etc., and you’re not carrying overnight. bags)
— Get picked up/ dropped off each day (now two people are inconvenienced — if you have someone to drive you)
— Arrive before 6: 30 a. m. to get one of the coveted longterm meters (availability not guaranteed)
— Take a cab (oops, sorry no cab service at Westfield station.)
— Once you get to the station, you can begin your commute say for instance, a NJ Transit train to New York. The trip will take about an hour, allowing for the aerobic track switch at Newark Penn Station and the miserably overcrowded platforms at Penn StationNew York. Good luck getting a seat.
— When you emerge from Penn StationNew York, walk/ subway/ bus/ cab to your final destination.
Assuming Mr. Sullivan’s standards on what people can realistically be forced to do, your final destination would be right next to Penn Station because who would dream of starting or ending their commute any further from their workplace.
Joe Malley Westfield
More Letters And Columns
On Page 16
Covering Fanwood, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (NJ)