Page B8 Thursday, April 15, 1999 The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains – Fanwood A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION
CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
Mtsd. Borough Council Is Reimbursed for Costs; They Aren't Getting Salaries
The $1,500 per year that Mountainside Borough Council members receive on an annual basis is not a salary. It is in fact an expense reimbursement.
I believe the majority of our residents, regardless of their political persuasion, would agree that any volunteer position should not be a financial burden.
Some would argue that each and every expense must be itemized. I personally would not have a problem documenting each and every expense to the penny. I do not, however, feel this is the correct or sensible procedure to adopt.
I feel that if the Mayor and Council had to submit vouchers for every allowable expense, not only would the total exceed the "salary" being proposed, but it would also result in an additional expense to our residents in the number of hours it takes
our Borough Hall staff to document the vouchers.
This so-called "salary" is already in place with regards to our Volunteer Fire Department. Many residents are not aware that we are currently paying our Fire Department and our Rescue Squad.
For example, the Fire Chief has a "salary," called a clothing allowance, of approximately $1,000. This is expected to increase to $1,400 this year. The Chief also has the use of a borough car at all times.
I would be the first to state emphatically that he needs and deserves this "salary" and car. At the risk of losing your volunteers, should we now ask our Fire Department members to document their so called "salaries."
I hope this column clarifies some of the misinformation which is being presented throughout our community.
Borough of Mountainside Must 'Keep Up With Times,' And Not Rest on Past Laurels
By ROBERT F. VIGLIANTI
Robert F. Viglianti is serving his 12th year as Mayor of Mountainside after serving nine years on the Borough Council, the past seven as Council President.
All of us are proud of Mountain-side. None of us, including Mountainside, can survive on past accomplishments. We all must move forward and "keep up with the times."
When I became Mayor in 1988 there were several serious problems confronting the Borough. They included disposing of our sanitary sewage, educating our high school students, and the Borough's aging buildings and infrastructure.
The first major problem was the Borough's status with the Rahway Valley Sewer Authority.
In 1988 the Borough's sanitary sewage flowed into the Rahway Valley Sewage Authority system under an agreement we made with Cranford in 1951. Under the agreement with Cranford, we were not a member of the Authority and we had limited flow rights.
The fact that we were not a member meant we had no vote on Authority decisions, we had no ownership interest in the Authority's facilities, and we had no call on additional flow rights when they became available.
In the 40 years that had passed since the Borough made the agree with Cranford, we had outgrown our flow rights, the fees we were paying to dispose of our sewage had increased dramatically, and the money we paid the Authority had helped to purchase new treatment plants and facilities which we did not own.
Outgrowing our flow rights resulted in litigation and a moratorium, which halted development, both new and renovations, for several years.
We eventually settled the litigation. Under the settlement the moratorium was lifted, we have the flow rights we will need for the foreseeable future, and Mountainside will be a member of the Authority. Membership gives us a vote, an ownership interest in Authority assets, and the same right as other members if we need flow rights and they become available in the future.
Lifting the moratorium allowed us to welcome Sony Theater, Brighton Gardens and several other new additions to our real estate tax base.
A second major problem was that Mountainside's high school students were being educated in the most expensive regional system in all of New Jersey.
This administration, with the support and expertise of our local Board of Education, led the movement for de-regionalization. We were successful. Today our high school students are being educated at the Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights.
A third problem was the Borough's aging buildings, the condition of our streets, and the appearance of our downtown center.
Our emergency services received a top priority as we modernized our
facilities. We now have an entirely new police facility and we upgraded both our Fire Department and Rescue Squad buildings.
In addition, we have totally revamped our town center, renovated our Borough Hall, added a community room, revamped our community pool, upgraded our library, and improved both major and lesser roads. We have also prevailed on the State of New Jersey to modernize the intersection of Route 22 and New Providence Road.
A fourth problem, which we have not fully solved, is a shortage of volunteers for both our Rescue Squad and our Fire Department.
I have been calling for more volunteers for several years. In 1998 the shortage became critical. A major recruitment campaign did not entirely resolve the shortage, and so your governing body took other steps to assure that coverage was not interrupted for these services, especially for the Rescue Squad.
We immediately assigned two police officers, who were fully trained as EMTs and as a paramedic, to bolster the squad's day time response capability. We also hired a fully trained EMT person to work as a girl Friday at Borough Hall and further bolster the squad's daytime response capability.
In 1999, we will be providing additional financial support by increasing the amount of clothing allowance that is given to each firefighter and by assisting the squad to pay a per call stipend to their members. But these measures along will not be enough. If we are to continue the delivery of these services through volunteers, I must emphasize that both our Rescue Squad and Fire Department need more volunteers.
I am happy to report that we have been able to find solutions to these problems and still maintain Mountainside's position as one of the most financially sound communities in Union County.
Three key facts, which are a measure of a community's financial wellbeing, tell the story:
1. We enjoy the lowest effective tax rate in all of Union County, and for the past seven years, 1990-1997. Mountainside has had the third lowest increase in taxes in all of Union County.
2. We enjoy the second highest resale value of our homes, and
3. We have maintained a very low debt ratio.
How did we do this? First, and foremost, we have been careful in spending our tax dollars.
Second, we have tried to be creative in finding revenue sources other than tax dollars from our homeowners. Some of the areas where this effort has been most productive are the following:
1. When funding was available from other governmental sources to get things done we have aggressively pursued it. May of our infrastructure
difficult service and endure high levels of emotional stress — yet they perform these services for a salary that is comparable to that of a fast food worker.
Last year, we increased funding for nonprofit service providers. Even though that increase was greater than the rate of inflation, it did not make up for years of insufficient funding. Therefore, it is imperative that the fiscal year 2000 budget earmarks additional funds to be used strictly to increase the salaries of direct care providers who work for nonprofit groups that provide services which the State cannot provide with the same high quality and low cost.
The final budget adopted by the Legislature will meet our state's spending obligations — from education to health care to open space — while providing significant property tax relief to homeowners and maintaining a healthy surplus.
collect on the ticket, then the motorist cannot be held liable for the fine.
This legislation unanimously passed the Assembly last December, and I am hopeful it will proceed through the State Senate by the end of this year.
We are all aware of the many distractions on the road while driving. But I am amazed by the constant introduction of technological advances for inside the car. First, there were radios, then eight-tracks, then cassette decks. Now, personal computers are available for the automobile dashboard.
I cannot fathom the amount of distraction that this will cause. And of course there's the car phone probably the most helpful, but also the most contentious, invention thus far.
The New England Journal of Medicine has found that using a cellular phone was associated with a risk of having a motor vehicle collision that was about four times as high as that among those drivers when they were not using the phone. Nevertheless, I recognize the peace of mind and convenience that a car phone can provide.
It is neither practical nor feasible to simply abolish the use of car phones or other technological advances. I introduced legislation creating a Driver Distraction and Highway Safety Task Force in an attempt to assess the risks that drivers incur while their attention is diverted.
I believe it is necessary for professionals to evaluate these risks and determine what can be done to improve the safety of our drivers while simultaneously allowing them as much security as possible.
Each year, thousands of people open their hearts and homes to cats and dogs that they have bought from pet stores. Unfortunately, there have been many instances in which consumers have unwittingly purchased animals that had pre-existing health problems.
To protect consumers who unknowingly purchase sick animals from pet stores, I have sponsored a bill that would allow the pet owner to obtain
restitution from the shop. My bill would implement various options for recourse for the consumer and would set in motion a process to suspend the license to operate for a repeat offender.
This legislation, which was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal and on NBC Nightly News, combines consumer protection with animal rights.
Throughout the United States, one million needle-stick injuries occur each year placing health care workers at risk for exposure to deadly diseases including Hepatitis and HIV infection.
When a health care worker is injured by a needle-stick, he or she must undergo not only a series of tests, but months of emotional and psychological trauma, anxiety, side effects of drugs for treatment, discrimination, and possible job loss.
Why are health care workers subjected to these perils every day when safer alternatives to the conventional needles have been available for approximately a decade? Because health care facilities opt for the less expensive traditional syringe.
The figures that I reviewed estimate that the cost to provide the workers of a 300-bed hospital with safety integrated needles is an additional $75,000. Is that too much to pay when it could easily save at least one life? I don't think so. That is why I introduced legislation requiring New Jersey health care facilities to use needles and other sharp devices with integrated safety features.
This problem is not restricted to New Jersey at least 12 other states are currently considering similar legislation. Now is the time for our state to be a leader and insist that all available precautions be taken to protect the dedicated men and women who care for the sick and infirmed.
These are just some of the bills I am working on in response to the concerns raised by my constituents. While these initiatives may not always be frontpage news, I hope they will help to better the quality of life for the residents of District 22 and New Jersey as a whole. As always, I welcome your ideas and input.
If you have any comments about anything you have read here, or any other matter, please feel free to contact me at 1811 Springfield Avenue, New Providence, 07974.
business of government in town hall. Even the slightest appearance of impropriety must be avoided if we, the public servants, are to secure the public trust. The ordinance is a giant step forward for clean, accountable government and will help our town government perform their public duties more effectively and responsively.
The key to our success as local leaders is to be more responsive to our constituents in all phases of government. As Chairman of the Building and Town Property Committee and a member of the Public Works Committee, I am sensitive to the concerns of the taxpayers regarding the delays associated with obtaining a building permit.
That is why this year, we have taken steps to improve staffing levels at the Building Department to enhance customer service.
We are also improving town services by expanding the Westfield Memorial Library hours to include Sundays. For a minimal cost— only $14,000 in this year's budget— we are able to open the library an extra day a week thereby providing additional opportunities for families and students to take advantage of all the educational and literary resources the facility has to offer.
We will also study a plan to enter into a regional partnership with surrounding communities in order to expand the resources of our library at a limited cost.
This plan is consistent with a movement in the State Legislature to encourage municipalities to share services. In fact, state funding will soon be available to study the positives of combining the Westfield Memorial Library's resources with our neighboring communities.
Furthermore, under Governor Christine Todd Whitman's plan, state aid to towns that share services will not be cut, ensuring that the benefits of shared services stay in the communities involved.
As a public official, I believe in giving Westfield residents the greatest value possible for their tax dollars. We can best achieve this by putting public service before politics, and by maximizing town services at a minimum cost.
I look forward to working with my colleagues this year to make our citizens proud of their town and of their town government.
house the golf carts, and the addition of a concession stand are also part of our proposal.
This is an aggressive plan which will require substantial funding. We have been very successful in the past securing grants from the state and county for recreational purposes, and of course we should continue to pursue these dollars.
We also propose that an Open Space Referendum be placed on this November's ballot. If adopted by the citizens of Scotch Plains, it would set aside two tax points for the acquisition and development of open spaces such as ball parks.
This could generate nearly $2 million over the next 10 years. Also, a $1 million bond issue can supplement any additional two funds necessary to make our recreational facilities something to be proud of. This plan, if adopted, will have no impact on the 1999 Municipal budget or taxes.
Even though this plan is being proposed by Bill McClintock and myself, the lone Republicans on the Township Council, it does not have to be a partisan initiative. We hope the entire Council will get behind this program, and more importantly, we encourage all of Scotch Plains to rally behind these efforts.
This is a real "Quality of Life" proposal that can have positive benefits for citizens of all ages for many years to come.
January. Mayor Maryanne S. Connelly appointed me as Council Liaison.
The new members of the committee came out of the highly successful Fanwood Community Assessment Committee process of the past two years, which identified the downtown area as the most important area for Fanwood to improve. FDRC is holding monthly meetings.
I am every impressed with the sincerity and commitment of the committee. FDRC has adopted a mission statement – To create and maintain a downtown that: supports a healthy business and professional community; Encourages people to spend time there; projects a clear identify and fosters community pride and, that it is as well kept as the borough's neighborhoods.
FDRC has already undertaken several activities, including helping to facilitate a new Fanwood Business and Professional Association; reviewing and making recommendations from a downtown physical improvement plan proposed by an outside consultant and our Borough Engineer; surveying businesses to develop a dumpster location plan, and discussing how to obtain direct community input.
On the last item, FDRC has come up with a great idea – facilitate a series of town meetings to get input on how the Dean Oil site could be developed. The FDRC would also like to meet with developers who are interested in Fanwood opportunities.
I have heard from many Fanwood citizens regarding the proposed apartment complex, and not one of whom supported the idea. They all wanted some form or combination of retail stores, light commercial and/or professional buildings.
It seems to me that Fanwood should take some proactive steps to ensure this type of development in downtown Fanwood. Examples might include pursuing the option of eminent domain, negotiating with potential developers and/or having the Fanwood Downtown Revitalization Committee meet with potential developers.
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Thomas C. Perrotta serves as Mountainside Borough Council President.
By THOMAS C. PERROTTA
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