Mayors Collect ‘Pocket Park’ Checks Totaling $1.7 Million By PAUL J. PEYTON
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader
In what might have been the most money distributed at a Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting, mayors or their representatives collected checks totaling $1.7 million last Thursday night in Elizabeth. The money has been designated for the creation of parks and to upgrade existing parks, fields, playgrounds and recreational facilities as part of the Freeholders “Project Pocket Parks” program. The program was first unveiled in January by board Chairman Daniel P. Sullivan as part of his initiatives for this year. Although the program originally totaled $1 million, the Chairman said the board decided to award all requests — which totaled $1.7 million. In Westfield, Mayor Thomas C. Jardim’s ad hoc committee on Parks and Recreation met last Thursday to begin the process of deciding where Westfield’s share totaling $200,000 including the county portion and town match would be best spent. The funds were originally to pay for a park at the site of the former Excellent Diner on North Avenue in the downtowns. However, the owner of the property received approval over the summer from the town Planning Board to develop the site for an office building with retail space on the ground floor. Fanwood Mayor Maryanne S. Connelly, who picked up a check for $125,000, said the borough could not have come up with the funds to develop a piece of land on Watson Road as a park. The land, the former site of the borough’s firehouse, has been vacant for 11 years, she said. In describing the parcel as “blighted,” Mayor Connelly said the pocket park funds will enable Fanwood “preserve the little open space we have.” Like Westfield, Fanwood’s elected officials have yet to decide how to use the funds. The Democratic majority is seeking the Watson Road project while Republicans and some members of the community wants to use the money for upgrading existing recreational facilities. Scotch Plains, which was represented by Township Councilman Robert Johnston, will use the $125,000 county and township matching funds to acquire
and create a pocket park at the former site of Scotch Plains Zoo and the renovation of Green Forest Park. In addition to the $100,000 for park funds, Westfield received an additional $7,500 for the playground at the former Lincoln School. The town has agreed to lease the playground from the Board of Education for 25 years. “This program is going to upgrade 40 Parks in this county,” said Freeholder Sullivan, noting the total amount of money including town matching funds
comes to $3.4 million. Garwood Mayor Michael Crincoli said his small community, sandwiched between Westfield and Cranford, will use its $20,000 to renovate the borough Little League field. Mountainside will use the $25,000 it received for the renovation of Sawmill Road Field. In other business, officials announced the county’s Access 2000 program, which provides funds to schools to ensure all students will have access to computers and the Internet in their classrooms, will be fully funded this year. County Manager Michael J. Lapolla explained that the county had originally planned to appropriate $1 million over three years. However, those funds will now be given to districts this year. “This plan will really accelerate what children of this county need to reach the next century,” said Freeholder Mary Ruotolo of Westfield. Freeholder Louis Mingo of Plainfield emphasized that the money to be distributed to districts will include a wide range of uses from computer hardware and software to wiring and Internet connections. While some districts simply do not
have the funds for a technology program, those who do, will use the funds to speed up the process, officials said. Freeholder Linda d. Stender of Fanwood said the program “is really a good step in the right direction” for students throughout the county. In other business, the board awarded a one-year, $3.4 million contract to Correctional Health Services, Inc., of Verona, to provide health services to inmates at the Union County jail and detainees at the county’s juvenile detention center. The firm will help the county switch from public to private management of the two facilities. According to a report from CHS, the firm helped Hudson County save $6.9 million from 1991 through 1997 for medical services at its jail and $5.5 million at the Essex County facility from 1990 through this past March. Mercer County’s costs dropped $3.9 million from 1992 through this past April, according CSH. CSH has reduced medical costs through implementation of inmate medical copayment systems, agreements with hospitals to reduce inmate inpatient costs and instituting expert medical and administrative program management systems. When contacted Monday by The Westfield Leader and The Times, Union County Manager Michael J. Lapolla said he predicts the CSH will save the county at least $350,000 over the next two years. “I think in the first year we will save $100,000,” Mr. Lapolla predicted. He said the firm is looking to work on an agreement with St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Elizabeth which currently operates “locked” units for Essex County inmates in need of medical attention. Given the fact prisoners are detained at the hospital, Union County would see savings in overtime needed to guard them. The county manager projected that private medical service at the two facilities will “exceed a quarter of a million dollars” in the second year. The board approved a 12-year lease of property owned by Smith Motors in Elizabeth. The $30,000 per month lease will be used for servicing county vehicles, presently done at the county’s Westfield complex on North Avenue.
Seventy Classic Cars Expected for Display At Classic Car Show
WESTFIELD — The Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce, celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, will hold the 4th Westfield Classic Car Show on Thursday, September 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Quimby Street in downtown West f i el d. Somerset Tire Service and Thomas Lincoln Mercury of Westfield will co-sponsor the event. “We enjoyed the show so much in August, that we had to come back in September,” said John Lauricella of Thomas Lincoln Mercury. The Westfield Classic Car Show offers free admission for both cars and attendees and 70 cars are expected to be on display. DJ Stickshift Eddie will play his “Oldies” collection of classic tunes throughout the evening. Quimby Street will be closed to traffic from 5 to 9 p.m. to allow easy and safe viewing of the cars. For information, please call (908) 6544100.
Mountainside’s Lieutenant Osieja Sworn In; Squad Update Given By KIMBERLY A. BROADWELL
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
On the night of his 40th birthday, Detective Sergeant Richard J. Osieja, a 20-year member of the Mountainside Police Department, was sworn in as a Lieutenant during Tuesday’s Borough Council meeting. His wife, Dona, and three daughters, Ashley, Kimberly and Courtney, stood by his side as he vowed to uphold the Constitution of the United States, as well as the constitution of New Jersey. Afterwards, his father, Gene Osieja, a retired 31-year member of the Irvington police force, and his mother, Lois, pinned on the new Lieutenant’s badge. In other business, Dan Falcone and Bill Biuno of the Rotary Club presented Police Chief James Debbie, Jr. and Lieutenant John Olock with two bicycle helmets for the borough’s new Police Bicycle Patrol, which is scheduled to begin sometime in October. According to Chief Debbie, the patrol will start in the fall, run until winter and then resume in the spring. The two officers who are assigned to the patrol are Officer Michael Perrotta and Officer John Philippakos. In other business, the council announced and approved the appointment of Michael K. Dwyer to the Mountainside Volunteer Fire Department. Councilman Thomas Perrotta told the audience that Mr. Dwyer had recently moved into Mountainside, and that he “will be a fine addition to the Fire Department.” Officials also approved the appointment of Heather Theissen, a trained Emergency Services Technician, to the position of Administrative Assistant. Ms. Theissen will help with paperwork in the borough’s offices, as well as be on hand to respond to calls for the rescue squad. According to Mayor Robert F. Viglianti, the appointment of Ms.
Theissen is part of the borough’s ongoing effort to help resolve the problem of a lack of daytime volunteers for local emergency service units. In response to questions regarding the status of the squad’s recruitment process from Michael Krasner of Old Tote Road, a candidate for Borough Council this year, Mayor Viglianti asked Maggi Benninger, the squad’s President, to update the audience. Ms. Benninger announced that, to date, the recruitment effort has brought five additional volunteers to the squad. She also stated that, right before the official recruitment drive began, the squad had received applications from four other individuals — bringing to nine the total number of volunteers. Prospective squad members must go through a 120-day training process. She added that the squad is in the process of seeking state approval to run official emergency training sessions within the borough. Currently, volunteers must receive their training from state-approved local colleges. Ms. Benninger reported that she wants to make it easier for Mountainside residents to become members of the rescue squad. Louis Thomas of Friar Lane asked about seeing monthly records from the squad. Ms. Benninger invited Mr. Thomas to come to the squad at any time. Finally, Scott Schmedel of Old Tote Road asked the Mayor about the status of volunteers for the Fire Department. The Mayor stated that “while the need for volunteers in the Fire Department is great, it is not as urgent as the need for volunteers at the rescue squad.” He added that the suggestion was made through meetings with current members of the department that firefighters’ clothing allowance be raised as an incentive for members to stay and new personnel to join the de
partment. The department currently has 30 volunteers. Mr. Schmedel also inquired about the availability of emergency services in the event of a blackout like the one which occurred last week. Mayor Viglianti assured Mr. Schmedel that such services were available because there was a natural gas generator in the basement of Borough Hall to take care of all of the vital services.