OUR 108th YEAR – ISSUE NO. 3598 FIFTY CENTS 2324407
The Westfield Leader — Serving the Town Since 1890 —
Thursday, August 27, 1998 USPS 680020 Periodical – Postage Paid at Westfield, N. J.
Published Every Thursday
INDEX INDEX INDEX INDEX INDEX
Business ........ Page 17 County .......... Page 2 Editorial ........ Page 4
Mountainside Page 3 Obituary ........ Page 10 Religious ....... Page 9
Social ............ Page 6 Sports ............ Page 13
School Board Discusses Prospect of Increased Enrollment As Available Space Dwindles at Westfield Public Schools By MICHELLE H. LePOIDEVIN
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Westfield Board of Education, board members confronted the frustrating issue of dwindling space in Westfield’s elementary schools. They attempted to balance and juggle numbers while facing the prospect of a significant enrollment increase through the year 2003.
According to Dr. William J. Foley, Superintendent of Schools, one of the largest enrollment problems is with the third and fourth grades at Franklin Elementary School and the third and fifth grades in McKinley Elementary School.
“Currently, we are having difficulty with space,” he said. “This is a chronic problem and it is something that is not going to disappear anytime soon, and it is something we are going to have to address,” he remarked.
He discussed with board members, options for alleviating the problem.
“These increasing numbers seem to persist and show no sign of dropping off,” Dr. Foley concluded, and encouraged the Long Range Planning Committee to focus on the issue.
Board Vice President Ginger Hardwick noted that the enrollment issue is “a districtwide problem.”
Board representatives also discussed the proposed Sunday, June 20, graduation date for Westfield High School students this year. The idea may cause controversy because for many, Sunday is the Sabbath and also, it is Father’s Day.
The graduation date was decided upon approximately one week after
this year’s commencement. According to the board, a number of factors were involved in making the decision for this specific date.
Board member Dr. Carol Molnar cited a letter to the parents of Westfield High School students announcing the graduation date. She stated, “Parents should have been notified earlier. I’m not happy with the process.”
Board President Darielle Walsh asserted that she is counting on support from the staff of the Westfield school district.
Dr. Foley stated, “This year, I felt blocked with whatever way I tried to go on this.” He stated it is important that a better explanation be given to parents regarding the decision on this graduation date, and added that, in the future, it might be prudent to consider scheduling graduation up to two years in advance.
Earlier, Dr. Foley said the choice of day also involved reserving a facility for the nowtraditional “Senior Bash.”
The board approved a new textbook series entitled “MathScape: Seeing and Thinking Mathematically” by 1998 Creative Publications for the seventhand eighthgrade levels.
The textbooks will assist students who are struggling with the current mathematics curriculum, and help prepare them for algebra instruction at the high school level.
Developed by the National Science Foundation, the textbooks are projectbased and thematic. While students are doing a project, they can research a mathematics topic that would “key into” the textbook, according to the board.
Mathematics instructors are reportedly enthusiastic about the new ma terials and have high expectations
for their success. Dr. Molnar addressed the SchooltoWork Initiative, telling board members and the community, “We need to be proactive and aggressive on this.”
She noted that the state’s proposed code would expect students in the 11th grade to decide on a career area. Students would attend classes for four days and then pursue their business interests during the fifth school day. The code would affect junior and
senior students as early as the years 2000 and 2001.
The initiative would involve transporting students to their jobs, and what has been described as several negative legal and instructional
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William A. Burke for The Westfield Leader FIRE DAMAGE... The storage room just inside the loading dock at Edwards Super Food Store on Elm Street sustained damage following a fire Tuesday morning. By JEANNE WHITNEY
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader
A fire which started on the rear loading dock of Edwards Super Food Store on Elm Street in Westfield early Tuesday morning burned through part of a food storage room, causing an estimated $25,000 in damage.
A section of the storeroom ceiling collapsed. No smoke damage was apparent in the consumer section of the building, officials indicated, and the facility remained open for business.
The investigation unit of the fire department confirmed there was no evidence to determine how the fire started, but said the cause appeared to be accidental.
One theory was that the fire may have been sparked by a lighted cigarette. Shelf stock employees and a night manager were working at the 24hour grocery at the time of the fire. A Prospect Street resident first reported the fire to officials.
Westfield firefighters had the blaze under control within about 10 minutes, Deputy Chief Dennis Burke said, but spent at least another two hours at the scene dousing smoldering merchandise from the store room which they carried out to the parking
lot in a process called “overhauling.” Primarily soda and perishables appeared to be scorched, and one fire official said, “It was a mess.”
Deputy Chief Burke credited the store’s sprinkler system in the storage room with containing the blaze
Implementing Strategic Plan, Special Education Goals Among Top Issues Facing District in New School Year
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William A. Burke for The Westfield Leader FINISHING TOUCHES... A workman paints some paneling for the backing on a new computer system at Westfield High School in preparation for the opening of school in the district this Wednesday, September 2. By MICHELLE H. LePOIDEVIN
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader
The 19981999 school year in Westfield, which begins this Wednesday, September 2, promises to be a crucial turning point and might even redefine the meaning of the word “education.”
Fortynine staff members are joining the ranks districtwide. In addition, new Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Janie Edmonds;, new Board Secre tary and Business Manager Robert
Berman, and Assistant Business Manager Tamar Sydney, have been hired to replace vacancies left by retirements.
In addition, Anita O’Neal will fill the new position of Special Education Chairwoman at Westfield High School. Francine Elson has been hired as the Mathematics Supervisor for kindergarten through Grade 8 with Steven Stanger joining the district as an elementary grades com puter technician.
Several vital issues, such as the district’s Strategic Plan, the SchooltoWork Initiative, goals for Special Education programs, new teachers and technological advancements will be shaping the minds and futures of Westfield students.
The Strategic Plan for 19982003, sporting the motto “Share the Pride, Shape the Future,” is designed to ensure academic achievement and excellence in Westfield schools.
According to Dr. Robert G. Petix, Principal of Westfield High School, the Westfield Board of Education “will approve and prioritize those goals which are the most desirable and implementable.”
Dr. Petix said he believes that “whichever goals are approved or decided to be a priority will have an effect on the schools.” He added, “It’s a very significant event.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. William J. Foley said the Strategic Plan “makes strong statements about technology, academics and excel lence.” He stated that one particularly
positive aspect of the plan is that it “has activated citizens that are new to Westfield, to become a united force.”
The SchooltoWork Initiative, which has been proposed by the New Jersey State Board of Education, has also been a topic of much controversy and concern as the Westfield school district gears up for the year ahead.
The proposal would involve four days of school instruction and one day of student service and involvement in community businesses, with the goal of preparing students for future careers.
Dr. Foley responded, “How can we be expected to meet our requirements in just four days?” He added, “It is taking the notion of preparing kids and carrying it to some level of absurdity.”
Although, Dr. Foley added, the concept of working harder and preparing students for their futures and careers is important.
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College Class of 2002 Packs Bags, Leaves Family, Chums Behind
Michael P. Babik for The Westfield Leader HEADED FOR BUCKNELL... Kelly Korecky loads her suitcases into her parents’ sports utility vehicle last week in preparation for her trip to Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where she is an incoming freshman. Last week was “getaway day” for many local students as they begin college life.
By MICHAEL P. BABIK
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader
It’s that time of year again, when the lines at Linens and Things grow to twice the usual volume, when the summer jobs and internships come to an end, and for many Westfield students, college rolls around.
Upperclassmen cannot wait to get back to a place without curfews and rules, while freshmen often get cold feet.
“Am I going too far?”, “Do I really want this?”, “Will I get along with my roommates?”, or “Am I going to make the same kind of friends I made at home?” are among the thoughts which often run through the mind of a freshmantobe in the last days of summer.
Trekking off to college — which often appears to be a large, impersonal institution — from the comforts of a vibrant, friendly community is certainly no easy task, and varies greatly for each student.
Some choose small regional colleges, not much larger than high school, while others select huge universities where they sometimes feel they are nothing more than a social security number.
Some prefer to study across the country, and some opt for a 15minute commute. Most, however, go for the happy medium — close enough to come home often, yet far enough to prevent any surprise visits from eager and equally proud parents.
No matter how far away they travel or what type of school they choose to attend, going off to college marks a big step in life. Over the next four years, many will experience not only intellectual enlightenment which only a college can offer, but also social challenges — living with a stranger and learning how to handle new freedoms with responsible decisions. Most will look back at these years as the best times of their lives.
Over the next several weeks, 242 students (81 percent) from the Westfield Class of 1998, now the college Class of 2002, will begin their studies at fouryear colleges throughout the state and the country.
Kelly Korecky, who left last week for Bucknell University in Lewisberg, Pennsylvania, said she is happy with
her choice. “It has the right mix of location and size, and also has a pretty good academic reputation,” she said.
So certain was Kelly with her choice of Bucknell that she applied for early admission and found out that she was
Westfield Residents Pay an Average of $1,400 For County Portion of 1998 Property Tax Bill
By PAUL J. PEYTON
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a threepart series on Westfield property taxes. The second focuses on the Union County portion of taxes.
* * * * * When Westfielders study their tax bills closely they will notice that the only portion of their bills that decreased this year is that for county services. Residents will pay an average of $1,400 for county services, $4,480 for the local school system and $1,120 for municipal services.
Although the county levy represents only 20 percent of the average Westfield residential property tax bill of just under $7,000, residents have not seen a decline in the county tax rate since 1991 and only for the fourth time since 1982. The county tax rate this year in Westfield is 80 cents out of the total $3.98 per $100 assessed
property value, which is a decrease of three cents from last year. The school tax is $2.55 and town taxes at 63 cents out of the $3.98. The overall increase is six cents this year over 1997.
The county Board of Chosen Freeholders approved its $282.2 million budget in the spring. Property taxes account for 52 percent or $150.2 million of the revenues needed to support the budget.
The county tax levy rose sharply from 5.9 percent in 1988 to 12.2 percent in 1989 and 13.7 percent in 1990. Since 1992 the levy has dropped from 4.8 percent to a 1 percent decline this year.
As noted in Part I of The Westfield Leader series on 1998 property taxes last week, the average assessed property is $174,000. As of 1996, the Union County Economic Development Corporation has indicated the average home in
town sold for $286,000. Assessments are roughly 60 percent of market value in Westfield, according to Town Administrator Edward A. Gottko. Westfield’s last revaluation was done in the early 1980s.
County managers have looked at the county tax rate over the past few years, including the past two county managers, the current ninemember Democratic majority Freeholder board, and their Republican counterparts.
County officials have noted that Union County is one of only five counties in the state that have a “AAA” financial rating.
As a whole, Union County’s tax levy dropped one percent this year for the first since 1991 when the county was facing a $12 million deficit, at the beginning of the year.
The tax levy also dropped last year by half a percent. During the five
years that Republicans had the majority on the board, the county tax levy was 4.8 percent in 1992 and 1993, 3.5 percent in 1994, 3 percent in 1995 and no increase in 1996.
Over 13 years, the county budget has risen from $122.5 million to $282.2 million. After rising $57 million from 1985 through 1989, the spending plan increased only half since 1994. During the same period, the amount raised from tax dollars has gone from $85.1 million to $150.2 million this year.
During a recent interview with County Manager Michael J. Lapolla, he said that the county has been taking a number of initiatives to lower the impact county taxes have on the 500,000 residents in the county.
While the number of county employees, 2,800, has remained constant over the years, the county saves money upon retirements by either
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Fire at Elm Street Supermarket Causes Damage to Building, Stock
Page 10 Thursday, August 27, 1998 The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains – Fanwood A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION
WESTFIELD POLICE BLOTTER TUESDAY, AUGUST 18
· A Cranford resident reported that a brown leather money clip holding $280 was stolen from his locker at a local recreational facility.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19
· A Raymond Street resident said someone fired a pellet from a pellet gun through his kitchen window.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 21
· A Central Avenue resident reported that two of her children’s bicycles were stolen from her backyard.
· Police received a report from a Central Avenue resident that his garage at the Duncan Hill apartment complex was burglarized. A briefcase containing assorted papers was missing.
· A woman living on South Avenue, West, said she believed her residence had been burglarized three times since May, with the most recent incident occurring during the last week of July. Police have no suspects in the case.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 22
· A Sandra Circle resident reported the theft of a Honda motorcycle from his garage. Authorities said the motorcycle had not been recovered as of Tuesday.
· A Westfield woman reported the theft of a watch valued at $950 from a local recreational facility. The victim said she had left the watch on top of her knapsack.
· A Prospect Street resident reported the theft of his wallet from the Memorial Pool complex.
· The manager of a South Avenue liquor store reported that a pack of cigarettes valued at $3 was shoplifted from his establishment.
Jeanne Whitney for The Westfield Leader SPORTY AND SPICY CARS... The Westfield Antique car show brought a sporty 1964 Ford A. C. Shelby Cobra, pictured above, to Quimby Street in the downtown last Thursday. This gleaming model is owned by Cranford resident Paul DiMarco, who said it sold new for almost $5,000 nearly 35 years ago. Mr. DiMarco (not shown) said that A. C. Shelby is currently designing another sports car for Ford.
TenKilometer Walk Set for Tomorrow
MOUNTAINSIDE — The Princeton Area Walkers, an affiliate of the American Volkssport Association (AVA), will hold a walk tomorrow evening, August 28, at 5: 30 p. m. at the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside.
This free event is a 10kilometer (six mile) trail. Hiking boots and a walking stick are recommended. Anyone may participate.
Children under age 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Pets may take part if they are leashed. This is a noncompetitive event and will be led by club members.
The walk will be held regardless of weather conditions. AVA credit is available for members who are interested.
The walk will start at the Trailside Museum parking lot, 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside.
For information, please call Club President David Scull at (609) 2751721.
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Strategic Plan, Special Ed. Among Issues Facing District
Special Education programs will continue to prove valuable in the year ahead, school officials acknowledged, while maintaining that efforts to decrease the rate of referrals for these programs is key.
“They (special education classes) are continually growing for kids who need it,” stated Dr. Petix. He advised, however, that “We should review it because of the costs. It is extremely expensive.”
Despite the costs involved, he said,“ It’s a wonderful program and it is extremely essential to a great portion of our kids.”
Dr. Foley believes there should be an introduction to counseling special education students at the elementary level. He noted that there was a 20 percent increase in referrals to the program in the past school year, and he believes that new alternatives to the program need to be developed and different approaches taken in the classrooms.
He stated, “Right now, it is a growth industry and it is very difficult to cut. However, I would like to control the growth.”
Revisions to the Comprehensive Family Living, Health and Safety and Drug Education Curriculum will also be implemented this year.
According to Dr. Foley, “These changes were simply implemented to update the curriculum, based on the latest research and requirements.”
While the budget for last year is just closing out, and the opening for this school year’s budget is ongoing, the process for developing the 19992000 budget will begin as early as the end of September, according to Mr. Berman.
He anticipates great strides in technological advancement with the wiring of Westfield High School for Internet hookup, and continuing the same wiring in the elementary schools, he said.
Mr. Berman stated, “This will be a very big focus for the next 12 months.” In the next two or three weeks, he said, he hopes to figure the cost of the work, noting that “the initial cost of this project may be significant, but students will benefit for years to come.”
According to Dr. Foley, this school year will also see new instructors.
“We have hired over 50 new teachers between retirements and resignations,” he said.
Updates in technology, and academic excellence continue to be high priorities for school officials. But, what is their overall vision for the school year ahead?
Dr. Foley stated, “I would like to see that we have implemented the technical plan and successfully passed the bond referendum recommended by the district’s Strategic Action Plan Committee to adequately meet the educational needs of a growing student population.”
He noted that he would also like to see student performance improve on all standardized and state tests.
Westfield Board of Education President Darielle Walsh said, “I’d like to move ahead and accomplish some objectives in the Strategic Plan, and to work on the proposed plans and initiatives.
“I’d like to continue to look at the increasing immediate enrollment problem at the elementary school level, and to look ahead at the increasing enrollment issue at the high school, which is quickly approaching.”
Dr. Petix stated, “This will be a crucial year for us because the state code is being rewritten so extensively and in such a revolutionary way. Its effects will be profound and enduring in this school
(Westfield High School) and on education in this state.” He said he hopes that the high school will be able to “maintain the basic philosophy which underscores the importance of a liberal arts education and balance that philosophy with the intrusive requirements of the state.”
The new staff members began with an orientation last week which included guidance and training, including a formal mentoring program for those teachers recently graduated from college.
Joining the staff, listed by school and subject or grade level, are: Roosevelt Intermediate School, Michelle Aquino, mathematics; Louis Cherchio, physical education; Michael Fackelman and Michele Hughes, instrumental music; Craig Juelis and Brian Vieth, social studies; Tara Przybos, English, and Elizabeth Scheuerer, mathematics.
New Westfield High School staff members include Carolyn Benner, resource room/ English; F. Jennifer Cooper, Robert Jeremiah and David Lynch, Spanish; Elizabeth Fallon and Mary Tricarico, social studies; Charlotte Faltermayer, English; MarieLaure Hollander, French; Louis Nappen, English; Margo Rosenmeier and Marie Trzepla, resource room; Laura Anne Russo, drama, and V. Rudy Scipioni, science.
Joining the staff at Jefferson Elementary School are Michael Craver, fifth grade, and Eric Jones, fourth grade. Edison Intermediate School will welcome David Duelks, physical education; Elizabeth Hogan and John Stasi, social studies; Joseph Iaculla, mathematics; Marcia Stypa, resource room; Noah Tennant, English, and Debbie Vezos, language arts.
Joining Wilson Elementary School are Tova Felder and Maureen Hunt, first grade; Laura Fenn and Mary Kane, fourth grade; Susan Kaplan, resource room; Scarlett O’Neil, fifth grade; Rochelle Spagnola, resource room teacher, and Steven Stouffer, elementary instrumental music at both Wilson and Jefferson Schools.
Christine Esemplare and Karin Mellina have joined the staff at Washington Elementary School as firstand fourthgrade teachers, respectively.
New staff at Franklin Elementary School are Lauren Folger, second grade; Jeanine Gottko, first grade; James McDonald, fifth grade, and Jacquelyn Stotler, third grade.
New Tamaques Elementary School staffers Kimberly Ford, a kindergarten teacher at both Wilson and Tamaques, and Gregory Slomczewski, fourth grade. Stacie Lee Saam is coming to McKinley Elementary School as a firstgrade teacher.
Matthew Lembo and Frank Uveges have been added as student support personnel at the elementary school level.
A number of improvements have been completed or will be done in the district, including roof replacement, cabling, and renovation of bathrooms at the high school; upgrading of stage lighting and installation of a new sound system at Roosevelt; replacement of the Edison School roof; replacement of the intercom system at Washington, and reconstruction of the side entrance to the gymnasium, including gutters, at Wilson.
Other planned improvements include installation of a new fire alarm and blacktop play area at Tamaques, along with exterior renovation and replacement of the school’s intercom, plus the addition of an elevator at the Elm Street administration building.
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Class of 2002 Packs Bags, Prepares for College Life
accepted in December. With the early decision program, a student must accept admission if offered it in December.
“I was afraid I might reconsider my decision in May,” said Kelly, since most students are accepted then, “but I’m confident that I made the right choice.”
She is interested in studying English, education or psychology and may seek a career in teaching or counseling.
Kelly, like many local students, only considered eastern schools, and chose colleges within a sixhour radius of home.
“I did not want to apply to the schools I had to fly out to, and did not want to give my parents the added expense,” she said.
Genghis Niver, who is attending the University of California at Berkeley, disagreed.
“I’m not one to get homesick,” he explained when asked about his choice of a school close to over 3,000 miles away.
Genghis was accepted to Berkeley for the winter semester of 1999, giving him some time to prepare for the trip west and possibly get a parttime job.
Students often are encouraged to take up to a year off before college after being accepted to the school of their choice.
“Every year, about two dozen or so of the students to whom we offer admission choose to defer their entrance… for a year, some just to work, some to travel abroad on an American Field Service or similar program, some to continue private music study, and so forth,” explained Fred Hargadon, Dean of Undergraduate Admission at Princeton University in his annual letter to perspective students.
Genghis will study molecular biology and is hoping to go on to medical school.
He first learned of the University of California through an older friend who recently was graduated from the school. He said he hopes to get involved with “native Californian” activities, like the surfing club.
Competitiveness, especially in the sciences, is Genghis’ largest concern, although he is confident his high school’s advanced placement classes in biology and chemistry will prove valuable.
In a freshman class of close to 3,800 students with median Scholastic Assessment Test scores of between 1200 and 1440 out of a possible 1600, according to US News and World Report,
Genghis has legitimate concerns. Many top students often doubt themselves in whole classes of students with equal or better credentials.
“A student who earns ‘A’s’ in high school can find that his or her allout efforts produce ‘B’s’ in college, and a solid ‘B’ student may be shocked with that first ‘C’,” according to a guidebook printed by Northwestern University and distributed to parents of incoming freshmen.
Colleen Donovan, who leaves for Harvard University a week from tomorrow, definitely believes that Westfield High School has prepared her for college.
“The course load was heavy, especially in English class, where I was taught to write,” she said.
Colleen said she looks forward to meeting a diverse group of classmates and attending challenging classes which she will choose when she arrives.
The university offers students a “shopping period,” where they may attend classes and choose the ones they want to take, over a oneweek period. Colleen will most likely take classes in biology, chemistry, a freshman seminar, and a required class on morality.
“The course load will be heavy and it’s going to be a lot of hard work, so I’m not going to have time to do a lot of things,” explained Colleen, who hopes to join an a cappella group as well as continuing to volunteer in cancer research groups.
Matt Coltrea sacrificed the resources of a large university for a smaller, more intimate setting — Siena College in Loudonville, New York. With a student body of 2,500, he hopes that a small school environment will help him with his learning disability.
“I liked the atmosphere,” he said Matt’s one request, when choosing a location for school, was that it was close to a skiing area. An avid skier, he hopes to continue at Siena, as well as become involved with intramural soccer, and campus ministry.
He explained that he is majoring in business, probably management and marketing, and owns his own landscaping company which he started with a friend during his freshman year of high school.
Before leaving for college, he was able to sell the company to another landscaper.
Also involved in business programs are Doug Brandely and Lauren Gruman. Doug, who leaves for the University of Virginia in Charlottsville tomorrow, hopes to get into a competitive business program through the School of Commerce.
Lauren is enrolled in the business school of the University of Delaware, and departs on Saturday for Newark, Delaware. She is considering intramural softball and volunteer work as her extracurricular activities.
“I’m looking forward to all of college — being away from home, social life, but also taking courses I like and being on my own,” Doug explained.
“I’m not looking forward to doing my own laundry,” he said.
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ramifications for the school board and staff.
Dr. Molnar encouraged the board to review the state’s proposals and to work with legislators and become involved as soon as possible. She noted that the State Board of Education would be conducting hearings on the matter in October, as well as in January and April of 1999.
In personnel issues, the board accepted 15 resignations, 28 new staff appointments, the appointment of 13 paraprofessionals, 96 fulltime lunchroom aides, 143 substitute teachers and nurses, 13 substitute custodians, 57 substitute secretaries and paraprofessionals, and 50 substitute lunchroom aides.
When the board opened the meeting to the public, parents voiced concerns about senior high school students being cut from sports programs.
One parent, Donald Mutz, stated that seniors are “patient, hardworking kids who love a sport,” and then they are “dumped before their senior year.”
Mr. Mutz added, “Why hire someone with this philosophy?” He said he believes that the coaches have a “misplaced coaching philosophy.”
They challenged the board’s appointment of Fall Coaches and Special Assignments, specifically the assignment of Mark Best, Assistant Boys’ Varsity Soccer Coach, and David Shapiro, Head of Boys’ Soccer, previously the Assistant Coach.
Dr. Foley responded that he was aware that three seniors were cut from their sports program, and agreed that some type of counseling for the students should have taken place. “How this situation is handled is very important,” he added.
Dr. Foley said he would get more information for board members about
the practice of cutting seniors from sports programs, and promised that he would keep concerned parents informed as well.
The board approved educational specifications to be submitted to the state for additions to Franklin and McKinley Schools. Specifications also included alterations to Wilson Elementary School, which would allow a library addition to be constructed, and renovations to Westfield High School for potential new classrooms to be built.
The approval of a contract between the Board of Education and the Union County Educational Services Commission was tabled during the meeting.
This contract would permit the rental of the former Lincoln School for another three years, at $122,000 per year, covering the period between June 1 of this year and June 20, 2001.
In addition to the rent, the county would be asked to reimburse the school board for half of the cost of capital improvements to repair the parapet walls. The estimated total costs are $30,000.
In addition, the school board and the town are nearing a final lease agreement of the Lincoln school’s playground to the town. Westfield has received a grant from Union County to upgrade the playground, including the purchase of new equipment.
Discussion of approval of the contract will continue during the board’s work session scheduled for Monday, August 31.
The board approved the submission of the Union County Access 2000 Technology Funding Application for the school year for $158,910. The grant would provide Westfield High School with over 100 computer workstations.
Board Discusses Pending Rise In Public School Enrollment
Fire Damages Supermarket Storage Area
until firefighters arrived at about 3: 30 a. m.
The sprinklers released about 20 gallons of water per minute onto the fire, according to officials, while fire hoses poured another 125 gallons per minute into the estimated 25by 80foot storeroom.
Eight firefighters responded from Westfield’s two fire houses, and another 12 volunteers answered the call, as well.
A platoon of nine additional firefighters was summoned to cover the two fire houses during the blaze. Three engines and an aerial ladder truck were dispatched to the fire scene, and police cordoned off the area to traffic.
Westfield firefighters were “out of quarters” on a call to a Kimball Avenue residence, officials said, when the Edwards call came in. The Kimball Avenue incident was related to smoke from an air conditioner, according to the fire department.
Department personnel went directly to the grocery store upon receiving the call.
Westfield fire officials said Mutual Aid coordinators were not involved in the grocery store incident. Mutual Aid is administered through City of Elizabeth dispatchers who alert fire department officials to requests for help from neighboring towns.
Board of Health officials were notified concerning the Edwards fire, as required, since the incident involved food.
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not filling vacancies or hiring new employees at far less salaries than longterm employees. This year, Union County has appropriated $120.18 million for salaries and wages, or 42 percent of the total budget. The county also created a new Department of Economic Development last year. Salaries in that department account for $136,750 with another $58,000 listed for various expenses.
Mr. Lapolla noted that the state has proposed taking over the prosecutor’s office, an office which represents over $12 million in expenses. The county manager, who previously served as First Assistant Prosecutor under the late Andrew Ruotolo, said he believes the takeover would “diminish” the office.
“My preference would be that the prosecutors maintain their autonomy,” noting he would prefer a payment to counties from the state to offset costs.
This year, the county will spend $23 million for county residents in state institutions for the mentally ill and the severely mentally retarded.
“That’s a large part of our budget,” said Mr. Lapolla.
Another significant expenditure over which the county has little control, is that of the county lockup. In 1983, when Mr. Lapolla began serving as a Freeholder, the old jail held 300 state inmates. That number has quadrupled to 1,200.
The county has appropriated $21.1 million for salaries and another $2.9 million of “other expenses” for corrections officers at the jail. The county has anticipated $6 million in reimbursement revenues for state prisoners. The county currently has about 300 jail guards.
In an effort to reduce overtime costs for the guards, Mr. Lapolla said the county is now “aggressively” enforcing its sicktime policy. He also hopes to negotiate, in the future, better contracts, which he said currently tend to favor labor units.
He noted that, traditionally, the county loses money on state prisoners. The county is reimbursed $65 a day for that service. However, with new state correctional facilities, the county is not paid for the many prisoners held await ing trial.
The county, however, does make money from housing federal inmates.
In addition to correction officers, there are 55 Union County Police officers who patrol the county parks and roads. A Sheriff’s Department runs the security for court rooms at the Union County Courthouse and picks up persons wanted on outstanding warrants. The Sheriff’s Department budget this year is $8.6 million and the Division of Police and Security is almost $4.4 million.
He said some have discussed eliminating county police. He said the question would be whether Westfield would like to assume the cost of maintaining Echo Lake Park while other communities patrol the 1,920acre Watchung Reservation.
Mr. Lapolla noted that the county also provides $10.3 million to Union County College, and $3.2 million to VocationalTechnical Schools.
In an effort to improve its economic standing, Union county has continued to look for methods of investing money in order to generate interest revenue to offset appropriations.
Lawrence M. Caroselli, Director of Finance for the County, noted that this year, the county anticipates revenue from interest of $5.3 million, a slight increase over the $5.1 million realized in 1997. He said the county has been earning between $4 and $4.5 million in interest the past few years.
Mr. Lapolla said the county has been more aggressive in searching for grants, such as the Federal WelfaretoWork $5 million grant awarded a few months ago to the county.
Between 1990 and 1997 the county’s endoftheyear surplus has risen from $4.5 million to $38.7 million — “which is the largest surplus in the history of Union County,” according to Mr. Lapolla. The county has used $21.4 million of its available surplus in this year’s budget.
By contrast, Westfield has roughly $7 million in surplus of which $5.5 million is from revenues generated mostly from the sale townowned land to developers or residents. The town generates roughly $2 million surplus each year of which 90 percent is appropriated within the
municipal budget. One battle Union County has just begun is that with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Through a deal struck decades ago, the Port Authority, which operates Newark International Airport is exempt from paying county taxes. The Authority also operates Goethals Bridge which links Union County to Staten Island, New York, and the Port of Elizabeth.
The Authority leases property from the City of Elizabeth for $67,000. By contrast in Newark, where they own about the same amount of property, they lease the land from Newark at $25 million.
Based on the 2,000 acres of land the Authority owns in Elizabeth – accounting for 27 percent of the city — it would pay the county $40 million if it was in fact on the tax rolls. The Authority is seeking to purchase large private lands currently on the tax rolls for further expansion. He said their are 66 private businesses located on Authority land in Elizabeth which do not pay taxes.
In this regard, Mr. Lapolla emphasized the importance that economic development in the county cities such as Elizabeth and Plainfield have in the county as a whole. For instance, he said the Jersey Gardens Mall on the Elizabeth waterfront is expected to generate significant revenue for the county as a new ratable.
The property was previously a city garbage dump.
Union County has a number of large corporations including Merck & Co., in Rahway, which is planning a major expansion; Schering Plough in Kenilworth and Union, AT& T in New Providence, CibaGeigy in Summit and Wakefern Foods in Elizabeth.
According to the Economic Development Corp., Jersey Gardens mall, currently under construction at Kapkowski Road at New Jersey Turnpike Exit 13A, will include 1.2 million square feet of retail space including a twostory retail discount mall featuring 12 major tenants, 250 factory outlet stores and 18 restaurants.
Noting the mall will provide a large ratable to the City of Elizabeth and thus
improve its economic climate, he responded that the development is “definitely a positive” for the county. Another project is planned to develop a park along the Elizabeth waterfront and expansion of the Elizabeth Marina.
He said the stabilization of property values in Elizabeth for the first time in years “bodes well for the residents of the suburbs” such as towns like Westfield.
“Under property taxes, you’re only as strong as your weakest community,” he explained. Also, the decrease in tax appeals has stabilized taxes, as well, noting previous appeals from large corporations in the county such as AT& T in Berkeley Heights, General Motors and Tosco in Linden.
He noted that Merck & Co. will pay “millions (more) in taxes” through its expansion of facilities in Rahway and through its investment of “tens of millions” of dollars.
“And that’s why we spend a lot of time in the Department of Economic Development going out to make sure companies stay (in the county) and expand. They are all taxpayers,” he explained.
Mr. Caroselli noted that Westfield has seen a drop in the amount collected for county taxes over the past two years. However, between 1994 and 1995, the amount jumped over $800,000. The increase between 1993 and 1994 was jumped $1.1 million.
“I still see a shifting of taxes from the eastern section of the county to the western section of the county,” he said.
Mr. Lapolla also noted that a redevelopment plan is underway at Linden Airport. The redevelopment will include distribution and warehouse facilities, retail and entertainment sites, a hotel and the redesign of the airport.
In addition, ScheringPlough Corp. is proposing to move its corporate headquarters from Madison to Kenilworth. The company is proposing to build a 160,000 square feet, fourstory executive office building on Galloping Hill Road in Kenilworth where the firm already has a facility.
Westfield Residents Pay an Average of $1,400 For County Portion of 1998 Property Tax Bill