Page B6 Thursday, April 15, 1999 The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains – Fanwood A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION
CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
Park Improvements, Public Safety Priorities For Westfield This Year
Janis Fried Weinstein was elected to the Westfield Town Council representing the Fourth Ward on the south side of town in 1997. She served the last year of an unexpired term on Council in 1995. She also serves on the Recreation Commission.
As a lifelong Westfield resident and Fourth Ward Councilwoman, I'm proud of the high quality of life enjoyed in our town. Our schools are among the best in the state, our downtown area is thriving and our numerous parks and playing fields provide recreational opportunities for our families to enjoy.
All are a tribute to the benefits of working together as a community.
In 1999, I would like to continue to build upon the p o s i t i v e s our town has to offer by addressing some key areas of concern to our citizens. Last year, I made it a priority to begin improvements in Westf i e l d 's parks, particularly in Tamaques Park. We have made significant commitments to ensure that everyone in our community can enjoy this wonderful resource.
This year, the Council has earmarked more than $250,000 to give our families the needed benefits of park improvements. We have dedicated $157,000 for the construction of new bathroom facilities, $50,000 for a new picnic shelter and $30,000+ towards refurbishing the baseball fields. We will enjoy the benefits of these investments for many years to come.
The parks will not be the only place where residents will see improvements. The Council unanimously backed the continuation of an ambitious infrastructure program, both above and below ground. We are in the sixth year of a program which will ensure the integrity of our sewer infrastructure and more than onethird of the way through a $6 million street paving program, which this year includes among others, a main artery in the Fourth Ward — Willow Grove Road.
As Chairwoman of the Personnel Committee, it is important to me that we provide our town employees with the resources to deliver the excellent service we all want to see. This includes ensuring that we have the correct level of staffing for them to do their jobs well.
This year's budget adds additional personnel to meet the growing de
mand for services. I am pleased that we will add three traffic enforcement officers to help with pedestrian flow and traffic and parking enforcement in the downtown area.
These officers, trained at the Police Academy, will provide additional manpower to monitor our busy streets and make certain that drivers and pedestrians adhere to the law for everyone's safety.
While we need enforcement of our traffic rules, we also want fair application of the law, which is why we are
instituting a warning system for jaywalkers and other minor traffic violations. Our strategy for p u b l i c safety is not to dole out addit i o n a l fines, but to educate the public a b o u t w a l k i n g and driving safely in Westfield.
I have also recommended to the Council that we look into providing additional signage and school flashing lights on West Broad Street at McKinley Elementary School to provide the necessary safety for our children when crossing at this busy intersection.
Finally, 1999 will also see additional personnel in Public Works to expedite the licensing and permitting process and to improve the maintenance of our parks and fields.
For the last several years, Westfield has set a record for the number of construction permits issued. We are now on track for another record year, reflecting our commitment to customer service and improved response time to permit requests.
Our parks are one of our greatest resources and the addition of manpower to take proper care of them will ensure that Westfield families will have safe and enjoyable visits.
Improving the quality of life in Westfield will continue to be my goal this year and in the future. The areas of park improvements, public safety and improved customer service in our Public Work Department are just some of the ways in which we can build a better community.
I look forward to working together with my fellow Council members to achieve these objectives and more throughout the remainder of the year.
Open Space Development Will Benefit All Residents In Scotch Plains Township
By GERI SAMUEL
Geri Samuel was elected to a four-term on the Scotch Plains Township Council in November. Her council colleagues appointed Ms. Samuel Mayor for 1999.
On February 6, the Recreation Commission, together with the Township Council and The Town Manager took a tour of the recreation facilities in Scotch Plains.
The tour provided a great deal of information to the Township Council. With three new members, it was critical to understand what the issues were.
After that tour, we had a small meeting to discuss the visions and plans of the Recreation Commission. I would like to take this opportunity to tell Scotch Plains residents that the people who serve on the Recreation Commission are an amazing group of people. They have a true vision as to what should happen over the next five years.
We discussed the purchase of open space. We discussed leasing land from Union County. We discussed how to improve our existing fields. Two of the fields need major work. One is Kramer Manor and the second is Brookside. We looked at some excellent plans for Kramer Manor Park.
They include drainage work on the field and digging out the little hill in order to make the field bigger. Also included is a consolidated parking area together with a new modular playground. We did not look at plans for Brookside Park. They have not been decided upon. Plans will be developed for the near future in that area.
Over the last several years, Union County has had a large surplus. This surplus is due to the State taking over the administration of the Courts and other programs.
The County has offered the Municipalities a "Pocket Parks" program. The County makes matching funds available up to $100,000 for improvements to parks. We have taken advantage of this program since
its inception. This year the Council advised the Recreation Commission that they should go for a $100,000 grant for the improvement of Kramer Manor Park and the addition of a modular playground to another park in the Community. This grant money is critical to the enhancement and development of our parks. We would only be able to minimal work without it.
We are also involved in another park program with the County. At the Union County Vocational-Technical School there is large lawn on Raritan Road. We have met with the Board of the School and with a representative of the County and they are beginning work on a ball field at that location. It is a great benefit to the Township and we are grateful to the County for the help and support. We are also inquiring as to other
County lands available for similar programs.
Currently, the Ad Hoc Zoo Committee is meeting to discuss what to do with that property. We are hoping to work a public-private partnership to develop those lands.
The most important part of the development of recreation facilities in any municipality is the ability to purchase land when it becomes available. Since the beginning of the year, the Council has been discussing an open space referendum. We would tax each household two cents, and set those monies aside for the purchase of open space.
This open space referendum will appear on the ballot in November. To improve and maintain the quality of life in Scotch Plains and to further enhance our recreation program, I would urge that you support the Open Space Referendum in November. It will benefit all of the citizens of Scotch Plains.
If you have any suggestions for development, please contact my office or the Recreation Department.
Controlling Real Estate Tax Increases Is an Obligation For Towns, Schools, Counties
William F. McClintock has been a member of the Scotch Plains Township Council since 1991, serving as Mayor in 1994.
In current times, with low inflation, it is important that towns, counties and schools keep tax increases close to cost of living rates.
To the extent taxes increase more than the cost of living, we are digging deeper into our taxpayers pockets. Higher tax increases especially hurt those on fixed incomes like many of our seniors.
Real estate taxes finance town, county and school budgets in New Jersey, and we often hear that Real Estate taxes are high in New Jersey, and they are. In many ways, it is unfortunate that we have to finance local government this way, but it is what we have and we are stuck with it until someone finds a better way.
State and federal governments finance themselves with income taxes and sales taxes. Revenues generated by these taxes go up when income or spending rises.
For towns, counties and schools, the only way to increase their revenues is to increase taxes each year. This is especially true in built up areas like the ones served by this newspaper. Costs rise a little each year, and to pay for those costs, a tax increase must be made.
Unless there is a specific and compelling reason to raise taxes more, it is the obligation of towns, counties and schools to try to keep any increase close to the cost of living in
crease. Of course, bad winter snow storms, floods, or tornadoes may require temporary additional funding.
The tornadoes last Labor Day cost Scotch Plains $240,000 to clean up. On the other hand, sometimes we end up with more money at the end of the year than we expected.
Sometimes we have to raise taxes more than we want, and sometimes we should cut taxes when we get the opportunity to do so. However, it should always be done by looking through the cost of living lens.
In Scotch Plains, we had both things happen this year — we had uncontrollable cost increases, but we also had better revenues than expected. Most years, we would have had to increase taxes, but we had an extraordinary amount of surplus revenue — the most in our history.
We do not get many chances to have a zero increase year, but this is the time to do it. We can give the taxpayers a break, and still maintain the financial integrity of Scotch Plains. We can give taxpayers this break because it appears that the pressures that we are experiencing this year will not be there next year.
In the current low inflation environment, local government and our schools will continually face the challenge of maintaining a high level of service, and, at the same time, keep budgets under control and keep tax increases within reach of cost of living increases.
It will be a difficult challenge, but we must be prepared to meet it.
Comprehensive Recreation Plan Benefits All Residents In Scotch Plains Township
By MARTIN L. MARKS
Martin L. Marks was elected to his first four-year term on the Scotch Plains Township Council in 1996.
After two bus tours of Scotch Plains parks with our Recreation Commission, Councilman William F. McClintock, Jr., and myself are convinced that significant action is necessary to prepare the township's recreation facilities for the next century.
That is why we have introduced our comprehensive plan that will benefit residents of all ages and make our recreation sites the envy of other communities. This plan builds on the five ball fields in five years program that was introduced by Councilman McClintock last year.
This new proposal still has the acquisition and development of new ball fields as its core. However, it goes on to advocate new playground equipment for several parks, the development of the former zoo property, and improvements for Scotch Hills Golf Club.
With over 1,400 children in the soccer program and over 750 playing baseball, there is not enough field space for practices and games. Also, the increased popularity of our adult softball leagues puts an additional strain on the amount of field space available and the condition of the fields.
Our plan advocates improving and expanding the use of existing fields at Kramer Manor, Brookside and the field behind the south side Fire Station. Also, a new ball field will soon be ready for play on Raritan Road at the Vo-Tech site.
We propose to create an inventory of undeveloped lands so that the Township can be well prepared to purchase them for recreational purposes when they become available. In fact, there are pieces of land in Scotch Plains that are ripe for recreation development even now.
Since the Township acquired the former zoo property, committees have been formed and recommendations have been made on how to develop the site. We are very enthusiastic about developing the property as a passive park with walking trails and gardens.
Also, preserving the historic Frazee House as a museum and/or a community center for the various senior, scouting and service organizations makes a lot of sense.
The possibility of establishing an indoor sports facility on this property is an exciting option.
Over the last few years, we have been erecting modular playground equipment at some of our parks. We advocate this type of equipment to be installed at Kramer Manor, Jerseyland and Haven parks by the year 2001.
We are one of the few communities that can a boast our own golf club. Scotch Hills Golf Club is rich in history and a very popular recreation facility. Improvements to the clubhouse, establishment of a building to
From the Desk of the Mayor of Scotch Plains
CONTINUED ON PAGE B-8
"Over the last several years, Union County has
had a large surplus."
– Mayor Samuel
By JANIS FRIED WEINSTEIN By WILLIAM F. MCCLINTOCK, JR.
"In 1999, I would like to continue to build upon the positives our
town has to offer by addressing some key
areas of concern to our citizens."
– Councilwoman Weinstein
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