FIFTY CENTS 232-4407
Scotch Plains – Fanwood THE TIMES
OUR 40th YEAR – ISSUE NO. 07-99 Published Every Thursday USPS 485200
Periodical – Postage Paid at Scotch Plains, N.J. Thursday, February 18, 1999
of of of of of
— Serving Scotch Plains and Fanwood Since 1959 —
CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
NEW PROGRAM…The Scotch Plains Volunteer Fire Department recently announced the start of Project H.E.L.P. (Help Evacuate Little People), in which firefighters visit local homes to evaluate safety measures and review emergency procedures. The first H.E.L.P. visit was conducted at the home of Scotch Plains Township Councilman Martin Marks. Pictured, left to right, are: Councilman Marks, Casey Marks, Jeffrey Marks, Fire Chief Jonathan Ellis, Lori Marks, and Fire Captain Jerry Brown. Please see a story on Page 12.
Suzette Stalker for The Times
HEAD OF THE CLASS…Mayor Maryanne S. Connelly presents a resolution to Chester J. Janusz, who recently retired as Principal of Park Middle School in Scotch Plains, in recognition of his 31 years with the school district. Mr. Janusz, who spent 25 years as Park Principal, received the honor at last Thursday’s meeting of the Mayor and Borough Council of Fanwood.
Suzette Stalker for The Times
A JOB WELL DONE…Steven A. Clark, who is employed by NJ Transit, receives a resolution from Mayor Maryanne S. Connelly last Thursday in recognition of his work as Director of the “Year of the Raritan Valley Line” program. Mr. Clark, a resident of Fanwood for 16 years, is President of the Board of Trustees of the Fanwood Memorial Library.
School Calendar Is Given Approval by Board; Students Obtain More Vacation Time in 2000 By SUSAN M. DYCKMAN
Specially Written for The Times
Students in Scotch Plains-Fanwood public schools will enjoy an additional week’s vacation in February 2000, according to the school calendar approved by the Board of Education during its February 11 meeting.
The 1999-2000 calendar calls for school to start with a half day on Wednesday, September 8, 1999, and finish with a half day on Thursday, June 22, 2000.
In addition to traditional weeklong breaks in December and April, schools will be closed to students for
a President’s Day break, February 21-25, 2000. Three days of that week will be devoted to Staff Development Workshops for teachers.
In addition to finding time for professional development, other reasons for inserting the week-long hiatus include breaking up the flu season in the schools, and the fact that many families already extend the long President’s Day weekend for winter vacations.
As in the past, the district built two snow days into the calendar. If additional days are required for emergency closings, and depending upon
when they occur, days would be taken first from the February recess, then the April break.
During the meeting, the board discussed the request from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol B. Choye for $30,000 in funding from this year’s budget for Scotch PlainsFanwood High School marching band uniforms.
Marching band members presently wear black pants, white shirts and cummerbunds.
“It’s only a uniform because everyone wears the same thing,” stated Music Boosters Association Presi
dent Dan Mazzagetti. If the band is to have new uniforms in time for fall competitions, the order must be placed by Monday, March 1. The expected cost to reuniform the entire band is $42,000. The new uniforms, costing $350$400 apiece, are expected to last for 10 years or more. The association has agreed to raise funds for the balance of the purchase.
Board member Morris H. Gillet advocated support for new uniforms.
“Our kids are competing against kids who are dressed the way they should be,” he said.
“They attend competitions and do feel like the poor cousin,” agreed board member Jessica M. Simpson.
The association, however, is not in a position to contribute its share in time for the March 1 deadline. When the association launched a major fundraising effort last year, it designated a significant portion of its earnings toward the music program at the elementary level.
“We can’t take a major portion of what they’re earning now and funnel it to the high school,” said Mr. Mazzagetti. “We will provide the $10,000-$12,000 over the next few years.”
Acknowledging that the board may have to front the entire amount to order the new wardrobe in time, President August Ruggiero asked for additional information from music program director Vincent Turturiello. The board will revisit the matter at its Thursday, February 25, business meeting.
Two parents at the meeting complained about the tone of the recent orientation program for parents of incoming high school freshman.
“Discussions centered almost entirely upon levels,” said Deborah
Park Middle School Welcomes Mr. Collucci As Its Newest Principal
By SUSAN M. DYCKMAN
Specially Written for The Times
Two weeks into the job as principal of Park Middle School in Scotch Plains, Rocco A. Collucci’s first impressions are good ones.
“It’s a very, very warm place,” the Westfield resident stated. “I had heard Park was more like a family than a school...now I’ve seen it for myself.”
Mr. Collucci, most recently Principal of MacKinnon Middle School in Wharton, joined the local district on February 1. He succeeded Chester Janusz, who retired after 25 years as Park’s principal. Park, one of two middle schools in the township, enrolls nearly 500 students.
The new administrator spent “a delightfully exhausting first day” making certain he reached every Park student, be they in the classrooms, hallways or cafeteria.
He said, “I told the kids, ‘if I look lost, I probably am, so point me in the right direction.’”
Working with middle school students appeals to Mr. Collucci because no two days are ever the same.
“For me, this is probably one of the most challenging age groups. Adolescence is just beginning; there’s a lot happening — socially, emotionally and physically,” he explained.
“You put all that together,” he chuckled, “there’s bound to be some excitement.”
Mr. Collucci likes what he has seen going on in the classrooms in his early travels through the school.
He said, “There’s a seriousness to how students go about their classwork, but, when you hear laughter and learning, it’s a terrific thing.”
He spoke at length about the challenges facing middle school students, and in turn, the individuals who work with them.
“These kids are coming into their own,” he explained. “They want to be left alone, but want to be part of a group. They don’t want affection, yet they want all of it.”
According to Mr. Collucci, it is up to educators to try to reach the students on their level at the same
Morris Gillet to Run For Another Term On SP-F School Board
Morris H. Gillet of Scotch Plains has become the second incumbent to file a petition seeking reelection to the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Board of Education, the office of Business Administrator and Board Secretary Matthew A. Clarke confirmed on Tuesday.
Now in his second term, Mr. Gillet is one of three board members whose terms expire this year. The other two are Jessica L. Simpson of Fanwood, who is also seeking reelection, and Edward J. Saridacki, Jr. of Scotch Plains.
Terms on the school board are for three years each. Mrs. Simpson, who was named to fill a one-year vacancy in 1992, was elected to her first full term on the school board the following year. She was reelected in 1996.
Mr. Saridaki, who was elected in 1996, is wrapping up his freshman term on the board.
Candidates may pick up petitions at the school district’s administrative offices, located at Evergreen Avenue and Cedar Street in Scotch Plains.
They must be returned there by 4 p.m. on Monday, March 1. Candidates’ petitions must contain the signatures of 10 eligible voters from the town in which they live. School elections will take place this year on Tuesday, April 20.
Scotch Plains Man Is Stable After Hit-and-Run Incident
By SUZETTE F. STALKER
Specially Written for The Times
A Scotch Plains man remained in stable condition this week after being struck by a hit-and-run driver on Mountain Avenue near Park Avenue on the evening of February 7, authorities confirmed.
According to Captain Joseph Protasiewicz of the Scotch Plains Police Department, the 57-year-old victim was crossing the street at 7 p.m. when he was hit by a blue van which had been traveling westbound. It was unknown how fast the vehicle was going when the accident occurred, the Captain said.
After the man was struck, witnesses observed the van pull into a nearby lot, Captain Protasiewicz confirmed. It then took off again, he acknowledged, traveling north on Park Avenue. He commented that the driver “stopped for a moment, looked back, and left.”
The victim, who was transported to Robert Wood Johnson-University Hospital in New Brunswick, had been on a respirator since three days after the accident occurred, the Captain told The Times on Tuesday. There was no further information on his condition at press time.
“We’re still looking (for the driver),” Captain Protasiewicz remarked about the investigation into the incident, noting that a partial New Jersey license plate number, 119G, had been obtained from the van. He said the case “is still being actively pursued.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Scotch Plains Police Department at (908) 322-7100.
Pedestrian safety has been a forefront issue in the area during recent weeks.
In Westfield, the death of Ellen Interdonato of Scotch Plains, who was struck by a vehicle while crossing a street in the town, has prompted the local advocacy group BRAKES (Bikes, Runners And Kids are Entitled to Safety) to renew its campaign for increased traffic safety.
Authorities found no evidence either that the driver in that case was speeding or that Mrs. Interdonato had been outside the crosswalk when the accident occurred.
The incident has served as a catalyst, however, for greater enforcement by Westfield police of local statutes regarding speeding, yielding to pedestrians and jaywalking during the past several weeks.
LOCAL OFFICIALS SEEK STATE AID TO ACHIEVE DIVERSE OBJECTIVES
Fanwood Council Reviews Plan For Long-Range Improvements
By SUZETTE F. STALKER
Specially Written for The Times
The Fanwood Borough Council briefly reviewed a long-range plan last Thursday to give the community’s downtown an economic boost by attracting new businesses and helping existing ones, while also making the district more “family-friendly.”
During the regular meeting of the governing body, Council President and Administration and Finance Committee Chairman William E. Populus, Jr. unveiled a conceptual illustration which outlined the goals of the five-year campaign, entitled “A Future for Fanwood.”
Mr. Populus reported that seven borough officials, including three members of the governing body, met December 18 with state representatives to discuss the plan and to seek the legislators’ assistance in obtaining financial support for the improvements, which carry an anticipated $2.8 million price tag altogether.
In attendance at that meeting from the state were Senate President Donald T. DiFrancesco and Assemblyman Alan M. Augustine, along with a representative for Assemblyman Richard H. Bagger, Chairman of the Budget and Financial Appropriations Committee.
The report presented by Fanwood officials, which Councilman Populus said was well-received by the state representatives, included proposed improvements for the downtown, the Fanwood Train Station area, local recreation facilities and the municipal complex.
Mr. Populus said borough officials have requested $600,000 from the state to fund the various improvement proposals, and also plan to seek assistance from the county in the form of economic development moneys. He said they also intend to aggressively pursue outside grants to
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By PAUL J. PEYTON
Specially Written for The Times
Union County government will continue to decrease its reliance on property taxes this year as a percentage of total revenue used to partially offset a proposed budget of $285.6 million.
This year’s budget, which increases overall spending by about $3.5 million over the 1998 adopted budget, will be offset in part by a county tax levy of $150.24 million, the same as last year and the lowest level since 1994.
Revenue from property taxes represents 52.6 percent of funding in the budget, 9.1 percent generated from the use of surplus funds, 7 percent from reimbursement of money for state institutions, 11.2 percent for grants, and another 20.1 percent in various county generated revenues such as funds to house state and federal prisoners, fees charged for passports and other services of the County Clerk’s office and county park fees.
County officials have noted that property taxes have dropped from 58.4 percent of the budget in 1993 to 52.6 percent this year.
Union County Manager Michael J. Lapolla noted that the county prop
erty tax is at its lowest rate, .45652, since 1993. The rate represents a 1.27 percent decline from last year.
The county’s surplus has risen from $17.6 million in 1994 to $41 million this year, the largest in the county’s history.
“Each fiscal year the administration attempts to utilize larger amounts of the fund balance each year to offset
new demands placed on budget resources,” Mr. Lapolla said in explaining the importance of a rising surplus funds.
He explained that the surplus funds, referred to in budget terms as the
fund balance, helps Union County stabilize the county portion of property tax bills. Mr. Lapolla also noted
CONTINUED ON PAGE 12
Proposed $285.6 Million County Budget Calls For Lowest Overall Tax Levy in Five Years
4.8% 3.5% 3% 0% 4.8%
0% -1% -0.5%
’88 ’89 ’90 ’91 ’92 ’93 ’94 ’95 ’96 ’97 ’98 ’99
Source: County of Union
STABILIZING TAXES...As indicated in the chart above, the Union County tax levy is continuing its spiraling downturn trend. The proposed 1999 county budget represents the fourth year in row that the amount to be raised by taxes will not increase. Please that a 4.4 decline was evident in 1991 when the state assumed costs related to Welfare and institutional programs.
Page 12 Thursday, February 18, 1999 The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains – Fanwood A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION
CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
New Home Visit Program Begun by SP Fire Department
SCOTCH PLAINS — The Scotch Plains Volunteer Fire Department has announced the start of Project H.E.L.P. (Help Evacuate Little People) for the township.
Under the new program, members of the Fire Department will visit any township resident’s home free of charge to evaluate the dwelling for emergency preparedness and to discuss how it can be made safer, according to Fire Chief Jonathan Ellis.
Captain Jerry Brown, one of the architects of the program, explained that the visit will include a discussion on proper placement of smoke and
carbon monoxide detectors, planning of family fire drills, emergency meeting spots, use of fire extinguishers, placing a 911 telephone call, and other emergency issues.
“The program is really geared for the youngsters in the home, especially as it relates to what to do in the event of a fire,” Captain Brown explained. “However, there is plenty of information available that makes our visit valuable for every member of the family.”
The first project H.E.L.P. visit was done recently at the home of Scotch Plains Township Councilman Martin Marks and his family.
“It was an enjoyable and informative evening,” said Councilman Marks. “Chief Ellis and Captain Brown walked through our house from top to bottom, and gave us some valuable suggestions on how to make our home safer.
“My daughter Casey and son Jeffrey had a lot of fun with the two officers, especially as they went through the steps of the family fire drill,” he added.
Chief Ellis said, “It’s nice for our firefighters to be able to interact with and help our residents on a non-emergency basis. The volunteers are enthusiastic about the program because they know that an informed and prepared resident is less likely to be injured when an emergency takes place.”
To schedule a Project H.E.L.P. visit to a home, please call Chief Ellis at (908) 322-6866 or (908) 322-6700.
Library to Welcome Computer Trainer
SCOTCH PLAINS – The Scotch Plains Public Library will welcome Dr. Harold Shichman, a member of the Township Technology Advisory Committee and a retired Bell Labs engineer, on Tuesday mornings to offer computer training.
Mr. Shichman will discuss how to do research on web sites and how to use the Internet.
“We have offered free public Internet workstations since July, 1997,” stated Norbert Bernstein, Scotch Plains Library Director, “and our staff is always willing to help. But often, they don’t have time to give individuals all of the attention they might need. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn at your own pace.”
For more information, or to volunteer as a trainer, please call (908) 322-5007 and request the Reference Desk.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
offset the cost of the work. While a portion of the planned projects fall under the category of capital improvements, which are included in the annual municipal budget, Councilman Populus said he expected that the bulk of the work would be funded through grants and with state and county assistance.
Downtown renovations, which carry a $980,544 price tag, include soon-tobegin improvement efforts to the rear entrance areas of stores along the west side of Martine Avenue.
The project, slated to get underway in the spring, calls for resurfacing of the parking lot area, plus landscaping and streetscaping initiatives, including installation of a half dozen Victorian-style street lamps. A centrally-located dumpster would also be placed at the rear of Martine Avenue stores.
Also proposed are 38 additional parking stalls along sections of Martine Avenue, in a bid to ease the frustration experienced by shoppers and others due to limited parking availability.
In addition, officials are seeking to create a “Victorian Streetscape Theme,” with the Millennium Clock as its focal point, extending from Fanwood’s historic train station to the business district.
Included in this proposal are decorative sidewalk paver blocks and lighting for the downtown, which municipal leaders maintain will lend a more welcome atmosphere to the business district.
This motif would continue to commuter areas with a decorative pedestrian walkway, lighting and landscaping at the north side of the train station, and carry through to the downtown as well, according to the plan.
A pedestrian and bikeway bridge crossing along Sheelen’s crossing are among the other items on officials’ wish list for the commuter area. The anticipated total cost of these improvements is $566,000.
Recreation area improvements, estimated at $597,405, would include additional work at Forest Road and LaGrande Avenue Parks, as well as creation of a bikeway network throughout the borough.
In addition, Fanwood’s long-range plan includes development of a pocket park on Watson Road with $125,000 in county grant money awarded last year, which the borough will match in funds and in-kind services.
Enhancements to the municipal complex, as stated in the plan, would impact Borough Hall and nearby buildings, along with open areas to the west of the municipal building.
The “Victorian Streetscape” theme would culminate with decorative walkways and lighting leading to the municipal building, the adjacent Cultural Arts Center and the Fanwood Memorial Library.
In addition, officials have proposed extending the existing municipal parking lot to increase the number of stalls, and creating a gazebo for small pro
grams and functions behind Borough Hall.
They have also proposed developing a small athletic field in the detention basin to the rear of the municipal building, and widening the main municipal driveway. The projected total cost for municipal improvements is $616,000.
Under other business, newly-promoted Corporal James Stewart of the Fanwood Police Department was sworn into office, and the governing body also announced the appointment of Bill Green to Fanwood’s Long Range Planning Committee.
In addition, proclamations were issued acknowledging February as Black History Month and March 2, the birthday of children’s book author Dr. Seuss, as Read to Kids Day.
Officials also approved eight resolutions saluting various individuals and events, including the rededication of the Carriage House as the Patricia M. Kuran Cultural Arts Center, and January 18 as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Steven A. Clark, a longtime borough resident and NJ Transit employee, was recognized for his role in improving the train schedule and stations along the Raritan Valley Line, which includes Fanwood, as Director of the “Year of the Raritan Valley Line” program.
Joseph Schott was honored upon his retirement from the Fanwood Environmental Commission after nine years, as was Chester J. Janusz on his retirement from the Scotch PlainsFanwood school district after 31 years. Mr. Janusz served for the past 25 years as Principal of Park Middle School in Scotch Plains.
Rounding out the list of honorees were Fanwood Chemical, Inc., which was recently name as a “Company of the Year” by the Union County Chamber of Commerce, and the Scotch PlainsFanwood High School Swim Team, for having broken Westfield’s 42-year winning streak on February 6 to capture first place in the Union County Swimming Tournament.
Finally, the governing body offered kudos to the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School DECA Chapter for a recent survey it conducted concerning communications and the downtown.
All 2,700 households in Fanwood received questionnaires, prepared by DECA with input from the Fanwood Community Assessment Committee. A total of 512 were returned, which DECA determined was a good representative sampling of the overall community.
Peter Billson, who serves on the Assessment Committee’s Communication subgroup, commended the DECA students on their endeavor, describing the 19 percent response to the survey as “unheard of in direct mail.”
In reviewing some of the marketing students’ findings, Mr. Billson noted that 52 percent of survey respondents have lived in the borough for five years or less, and emphasized the importance of getting information out to this large segment of the population.
Observing that 83 percent of those surveyed have cable television access but only 4 percent cited it as their main source of information about local businesses, he recommended greater use of TV 35, which he called a “fantastic tool” for reaching the community.
He also encouraged all newspapers which cover the Scotch PlainsFanwood area to expand their coverage of local issues, and urged officials to make greater use of this media as a means of dispensing information to the public.
Mr. Billson further petitioned the governing body to broaden its use of technology through an Internet web site and email, and cited support for a borough newsletter by 80 percent of the survey respondents.
In addition, he said residents’ opinions regarding the downtown could also serve as a valuable reference.
An ordinance was adopted on second reading to clarify a recently approved statute which amended the Borough Code regarding the placement of leaves for pickup.
Regulations state that homeowners must place leaves, debris and bulky waste exclusively along their own property, and may not allow these materials to encroach on neighboring yards.
Fanwood Council Reviews Plan for Improvements
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
time they work to prepare them for high school and beyond.
He said he appreciated the students’ willingness to speak with him when he introduced himself in the hallways and cafeteria.
“They light up like fireflies,” he said. “They still enjoy the student/administrator interaction.”
Mr. Collucci reflected on how that interaction has changed through the years.
“Today, respect from students must be earned,” he said. “It’s not like 30 years ago. We have to give kids time to be heard. Agree to disagree, but they have to know, ‘I will hear you.’ You must respect them; I’ve always adhered to that philosophy.”
Seemingly open to suggestions from students and staff alike, Mr. Collucci acknowledged that a succession of meetings with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol B. Choye, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. John R. Crews, other administrators and Mr. Janusz have taken up a fair amount of his time during this getting-acquainted period.
“They’re trying to get me caught up. I’m jumping in mid-stream, and swimming hard,” he said.
Mr. Collucci pointed to the people at Park as one of the school’s greatest strengths.
“There’s some very talented people on staff, and we’ve got some very talented kids here, too,” he indicated. “Some (kids) don’t know that yet, and it’s our job to bring them out.”
When asked what exciting things are on the horizon for the Park community, Mr. Collucci spoke to the possibility of block scheduling, the 4MAT training on learning styles, created by Excel, Inc., which is being implemented in the district, and advancement of the technology plan which includes networking the school in the coming year.
The new principal was given a warm reception by parents at a well-attended February 9 reception.
“As an administrator, I try to look at situations with the eyes of a parent, too,” said Mr. Collucci, who has four children of his own. “I’m living that life myself.”
Mr. Collucci Is Welcomed By Park Middle School
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Asher of Scotch Plains. “I was hoping to hear about what my daughter would be learning, something for her to get excited about.”
At Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, courses are divided into three levels: Accelerated, Academic and Standard. Advanced Placement (AP) courses are built into the Accelerated class options.
“I was quite disappointed,” agreed Carol Campell of Fanwood. “I almost heard a hidden agenda (implying) your child is suited to this or that. There was nothing for children labeled as standard.”
Mrs. Campell referred to another orientation she attended where students were the primary speakers. “I was so engaged by the kids,” she said. “It was very refreshing.”
Board member Edward J. Saridaki, Jr. also attended the orientation as a parent. “It was very distressing,” he reported. “It seemed teachers were selling AP. It gave the feeling that if you weren’t going to make AP, you were suffering some form of educational impotence.”
He indicated the message should be that “every student will be able to attain his or her potential” regardless of class level. Otherwise, “we’re creating an educational second class,” concluded Mr. Saridaki. “I was glad my son didn’t go.”
Mr. Ruggiero asked Dr. Choye and Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. John R. Crews to investigate “what the board can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
As the February 25 date for board adoption of a tentative 1999-2000 school budget looms large, Mr. Ruggiero voiced concern that members would not have
sufficient time to accomplish a satisfactory review of their “budget book” in the next two weeks. The board concurred that an additional meeting date should be built into the budget calendar to ensure that board members questions might be answered before the tentative budget is put to a vote.
“Another date would be helpful,” agreed Dr. Choye. “We don’t want to rush the board.”
School Calendar Approved; Students Get More Vacation ENRICHING PROGRAM…Students at Evergreen School in Scotch Plains can
participate in an after-school enrichment program sponsored by the school’s Parent-Teacher Association. Classes in theater arts and babysitting skills are being offered. Future courses may include beginning Italian and sports activities. Pictured, left to right, are: students Rudy Plesmid, John Acito, Wendy Harris, and Chanelle Price improvising a scene during theater arts class. The class is conducted by Susan Saunders who has offered similar classes in other area schools.
FANWOOD POLICE BLOTTER TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9
· A bicycle valued at $300 which had been left unlocked outside a residence in the 30 block of Stewart Place was reported stolen, according to police.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10
· A Hillside resident told police that his wallet was stolen from inside his car while it was parked in the 50 block of South Avenue.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11
· Luis Zamora, 31, of Westfield was charged with driving while intoxicated
after being stopped for a motor vehicle violation at South and Locust Avenues, according to police. Zamora was released on his own recognizance.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13
· Two 10-year-old Fanwood residents were apprehended after they allegedly broke a garage window in the 100 block of Russell Road, authorities said.
The youngsters were turned over to their parents, and have agreed to make restitution to the homeowners for the damage, according to police.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9
· A contractor reported the theft of floor tiles from a house on Ravenswood Lane.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10
· A Route 22 business reported that several soda machines were broken into. A small amount of change was taken.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11
· Liane D. Heeney, 19, of Colonia was arrested and charged with possession of under 50 grams of marijuana on Westfield Avenue, pursuant to a motor vehicle stop.
· The theft of a cellular telephone and cash from a vehicle parked on Balmoral Lane was reported.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12
· A resident of Balmoral Lane reported the theft of mail from a mailbox.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13
· Six residents reported incidents in which their vehicle tires were slashed during the night. The incidents occurred on Farmingdale, Chapel, and Greenville Roads, Brookside Drive, and Bayberry Lane.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
that a rising surplus has enabled the county to maintain a “AAA” bond rating by both Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Investors Service.
Mr. Lapolla noted in his Executive Budget, presented to the Freeholders on January 14, that the county’s reliance on property taxes has decreased by 22.3 percent since 1990. In fact, the levy was flat in 1996, down .5 percent in 1997 and 1 percent in 1998.
“Since 1997, economic development, the key to continued growth and prosperity, has been the paramount focus of every county department and division,” the county manager emphasized.
The Department of Economic Development was created by the Democratically controlled Freeholder board in 1997. The department is under the direction of George V. Devanney, who also serves as Deputy County Manager.
“We will strive to create new jobs, expand and foster relationships in the global marketplace, and implement innovations in transportation and our infrastructure,” Mr. Lapolla noted.
Noting Union County’s geographic location between New York and Philadelphia, the Executive Budget Summary notes that transportation will be a key component of the county’s efforts this year. This plan includes the Transportation Development District, or TDD, along the U.S. 1 and 9 corridor in the Port Elizabeth and Linden Airport area, and county’s Cross County Rail Link.
The TDD was developed in 1996 to form a special financing district and transportation infrastructure plan targeting investment along the corridor. The rail link will provide a east-west mass transit connection from Plainfield to Elizabethport, with access to Newark International Airport.
In addition, improvements in nonmotorized related initiatives, such as bikeways, walkways and pathways, sidewalks, signage and streetscapes will be be funded in this year’s budget.
Just this month the county announced a $10 million, five-year plan to improve the county’s roadways, including 18 miles of roadway this year alone.
Programs begun last year under the chairmanship of Freeholder Daniel P. Sullivan and continued this year under Freeholder Chairman Nicholas P. Scutari are the Access 2000, “Pocket Park,” and HEARTS county grant programs.
Access 2000 enables school districts to apply for funds that can be used to purchase computers and/or equipment to
Preliminary County Budget Shows No Increase in Tax Levy
provide computers and Internet Access in all classrooms in the county by the year 2000. This year the county will fund $3 million, with a total of $8.2 million disbursed over the three-year program.
A total of $1 million has been placed in the budget for the Pocket Park program this year, following the successful initiation of the program in 1998 that saw the Freeholders distribute $1.7 million in funds to all 21 municipalities in the county.
Another $100,000 is included in the budget for HEARTS, a program which stands for History, Education, Arts Reaching Thousands. All theater groups and individual artists can apply for the county grants. A total of $154,000 was awarded to artists in 1998.
Among the projects in the budget this year are the reconstruction of the back nine holes at the Ash Brook Golf Course in Scotch Plains and the addition of a classroom at the Trailside Nature and Science Center in Mountainside.
Also on tap are the restoration of Upper Echo Lake, the first of 11 county lakes that will be dredged by F.X. Browne Inc. of Lansdale, Pennsylvania. Lake Surprise in the Watchung Reservation will be dredged over the summer with preliminary weed harvesting beginning sometime in the spring.
This year will mark the grand opening of The Andrew K. Ruotolo Justice Building, located across the street from the Union County Administration Building in Elizabeth. Mr. Ruotolo, a Westfield resident, was county Prosecutor before succumbing to cancer in 1995. His wife, Mary, is now a county Freeholder.
A county employee day care center will be located on the bottom floor of the building.
Construction will begin later this year for the new Union County Police Headquarters and Prosecutor’s Forensic Laboratory at the Venneri Complex on North Avenue in Westfield as will work on a new juvenile detention center in Elizabeth.
The proposed budget has been turned over to the Fiscal Affairs Committee, chaired this year by Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, to hammer out a final spending plan.
Last year the committee, headed by Freeholder Linda d. Stender of Fanwood, slashed the budget, thus producing a decline in the overall tax levy for the second consecutive year. Taxes to be raised in 15 of the 21 towns in the county declined as a result of drop in the tax rate.
RE-ELECTED…At the Washington Rock Girl Scout Council’s Annual Meeting held recently, Dolores Kresge, left, President of the Board of Directors, installed Sister Percylee Hart for a second term as the Second Vice President of the board. Sister Percylee is the Principal of Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains and has been a board member since 1994. As Second Vice President, she chairs the Personnel Committee, which deals with both in house and volunteer personnel of the council.
MUFFIN MAKERS…Students from Carol Rosner’s fourth-grade class at School One Elementary in Scotch Plains baked muffins for homeless families over the winter break holidays. The muffins were given to homeless families through the Interfaith Coalition for the Homeless. The students later wrote about their experience in their classroom journals. Pictured, left to right, are: front row, Katie Stamler, Hyun Jae Lee, Danielle Vena, and Doug Freitag; second row, Portia Price, Luke Saenz de Viteri, Ashley Jacobi, Deirdre Scully, and Patrick D’Amico; third row, Andrea Rosko, Max Jones and Kim Appezzato.
SCOTCH PLAINS POLICE BLOTTER
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during his nine-year tenure on the governing body.
Mr. Turner pointed out that these salaries would cost the borough a combined total of $12,000 per year, an amount he cited as minimal as far as its impact on Mountainside taxpayers.
Councilman Schon, who has served 17 years on the council, reported that he charted all of his expenses for four months and concluded that the expenses incurred exceeded the $100 per month that the unvouchered expenses allowed. He asked his fellow residents to “think before you criticize” and “to use empathy” in looking at the salary situation.
He stated that council members work very hard for the borough and that the “lowest effective tax rate in Union County, as is the case for Mountainside, does not happen by magic, but by the hard work done by your council.”
Council President Thomas Perotta, who said that he has been a volunteer fireman for 15 years and a councilman for the past threes, stated that this decision was thought out carefully, presented and passed before the local Ethics Board.
“The best interests of Mountainside are always in my mind,” he added.
Councilman Paul Mirabelli noted that, “it astonishes me that there is so much hoopla over a $12,000 item in our budget, when other expenses such as our recent $250,000 cost to join the Rahway Valley Sewage Authority goes without public comment.
“So many of the important issues that we deal with on behalf of the
Mountainside Council Salaries Causes Stir
borough go unnoticed and without public comment, which leads me to believe that we are doing a good job.”
He also stated that if the $1,500 per year salary brings in “good, qualified people to the council then it is money well spent.”
Council member Glenn Mortimer noted that when he decided to run for council a year ago, one of his concerns was how much money he would need to spend for his duties as a councilman. He stated that although members of the audience indicated that $1,000 to $1,500 was not a lot of money to them, it was to him.
The councilman said he could not see missing the chance to have qualified people serve the borough simply because the borough could not bear the financial burden of being a council member.
Councilman Schon stated that he did not feel that only wealthy citizens should serve on the council.
He added that he did not think that council members should necessarily be paid, but that potential members should “not be penalized due to (their annual) income.”
Resident Ted Zawislak said that he felt the new salary structure was “reasonable” and suggested that the salary ranges include a cap that cannot be revisited for three years. He also commented that “any change causes a stir” in a community.
The ordinance, which was first read before the public at council’s regular meeting in January, provoked no public comment at that time.