CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
Green Acres Official Proposes Referendum To Create an Open Space Tax for County
By PAUL J. PEYTON
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
ELIZABETH — The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders have been asked to consider placing a referendum on the November ballot for an open space and recreation tax aimed at both enhancing and creating new opportunities in the county.
A state official explained that such a tax could add a $3.2 million annual pot of money that would be specifically geared to parks and recreation needs throughout the county.
Steve Jandoli, a Principal Planner with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program, viewed open space and parks and recreation as a “quality of life issue.”
He estimated the tax, one cent per $100 of assessed valuation, at a low of $13 a year per home owner in Plainfield to a high of $48 per year in Summit.
The increase in Cranford would be $24 per year. A county-wide open space and recreation initiative would create a $3.2 million revenue stream solely dedicated to parks, fields and other recreational facilities.
And what could revenue from such a tax be used for?
“The law governing open space and recreation taxes allows local governments to establish a tax for six purposes: open space preservation, farmland preservation, park and recreation development, park and recreation maintenance, historic preservation and payment of debt service on debt incurred for open space and recreation purposes,” Mr. Jandoli said in a prepared statement to the board.
The law enabling counties to place open space tax referendums was passed in 1989, he said, and was amended in 1997 to include park and recreation development, maintenance and historic preservation in 1997.
He noted, in responding to a question from Freeholder Vice Chairman Daniel P. Sullivan, that the tax would enable the county to make grants and loans to any of the 21 municipalities and non-profit organizations in Union County.
If the board were to opt for a question on the ballot, a resolution would have to be passed by the board approving a referendum within 74 days of the Tuesday, November 8, General Election.
Mr. Jandoli said that if the board opts for a ballot question, the next step would be to establish a committee to formulate “a program of education and information” for voters. The effort would include what the tax is
for, why it is needed and the types of projects that could be completed from this revenue source.
“This would be an enormous asset to the existing Pocket Parks Program,” he explained.
That program, now in its second year, provides up to $100,000 in matching grant monies to renovate and enhance existing parks and fields or to fund the creation of new open space for park land.
Voters in 16 of New Jersey’s 21 counties along with 92 municipalities have approved similar referendums, Mr. Jandoli explained.
County Manager Michael J. Lapolla said he considered the recent passage of an open space referendum by New Jersey voters to be “totally biased” against urban counties like Union. Mr. Jandoli indicated that 65 percent of Union County voters favored the open space initiation as it was presented on the ballot.
Mr. Lapolla said the state initiative keeps developments out of surburban counties “but it does nothing for us.”
He noted that last year the county purchased a park across the street from Kean University from the Kean family in order to ensure that the property would not be developed in future years.
Among those counties that have passed referendums are Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Mercer and Morris Counties.
In other business, the board adopted an ordinance and approved an accompanying resolution that changes the positions of County Counsel, Deputy and Assistant Counsels to “serve at the pleasure” of the board.
The action, though, does provide a clause whereby the board could opt for terms of up to four years for the County Counsel and three years for Deputy and Assistant Counsels.
The ordinance does not apply to those officials who were appointed prior to November 1, 1998. County Counsel Carol Cohen’s official appointment was July 3, 1998, although she was named to the post earlier in the year to fill the expired term of James F. Keefe, Jr. Mr. Keefe is now the county’s First Assistant Prosecutor under Prosecutor Thomas V. Manahan.
Ms. Cohen, a Westfield resident, is a former Freeholder. Her Deputy County Counsels are Jeremiah D. O’Dwyer, Frederic R. McDaniel and William T. Donegan.
Among her Assistant County Counsels are Joseph A. Ascione of Westfield, Bruce Walsh of Fanwood and Norman W. Albert of Cranford.
Mr. Walsh served many years on the Fanwood Borough Council, including the post of Council President prior to retiring from elective office at the end of last year.
Mr. Albert, a Democrat, ran for the Assembly from the 22nd Legislative District in 1997.
Other Assistant Counsels are: Rosalba Comas, Francis J. Thiel, Christopher M. Howard, Pamela G. Dunn-Hale, Ellen Grod, and Annamarie Betao Bercik.
The previously set salaries are as follows: Ms. Cohen, $113,056; Mr. O’Dwyer, a Scotch Plains resident, $102,127; Mr. McDaniel, $89,999; Mr. Donegan, $55,427; Ms. Comas, $44,000; Ms. Thiel, $41,940; Mr. Howard, $45,465; Ms. Dunn-Hale, $34,006; Mr. Ascione, $39,817; Mr. Grod, $39,056; Mr. Walsh, $28,387; Ms. Bercik, $27,014, and Mr. Albert, $23,100.
Other than Ms. Comas and Ms. Thiel, all Assistant Counsel Counsels are part-time positions.
Freeholder Donald Goncalves was the lone dissenter of the six board members present who voted on the change.
Mr. Goncalves asked that the vote be delayed in order that more discussion could be held by the board’s Policy Committee of which he chairs.
He said terms provide a commitment from the board to its officials.
Freeholder Chairman Nicholas P. Scutari said the matter was fully discussed by the Policy Committee last year when he was the committee’s chairman. He said the board could decide at some later point to “revisit” the matter at which point it would come back to the Policy Committee.
The board also approved a resolution that establishes a Union County Shared Services ad hoc committee.
The seven members appointed to the committee will serve two-year terms and receive annual compensation of $3,000. Among those persons appointed were Patricia Plante of Fanwood, former Union County Utilities Authority Chairman and recently retired Hillside Health Officer Angelo Bonanno, and Garwood Mayor Michael Crincoli.
Freeholder Scutari said the committee will be assigned to study the use of shared services through intergovernmental relationships involving county and municipal governments as well as local school boards.
These types of agreements, officials explained, increase the purchasing power of governments by enabling them to streamline their potential buying power.
IN TOUCH WITH NATURE…Trailside naturalist Julie Cardillo and volunteer Jen DeVelde from Cranford are pictured with thirdand fourth-grade students wearing their nature masks during last year’s Earth Artists program. This workshop, along with several others, will be offered again this summer for youngsters in grades 3 through 6.
Trailside to Present Series Of Workshops for Children
MOUNTAINSIDE – The Trailside Nature and Science Center, located within the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside, will present a week-long series of workshops for children entering the third through sixth grades. They include:
· “Trailside Treks,” a series of challenging excursions to historical sites in the Watchung Reservation. Participants will hike to the headwaters of Surprise Lake, explore the ruins of the Drake Farm, and search for evidence of the old Pearsall Castle.
They will also visit the Deserted Village of Feltville/Glenside Park, a factory town dating from 1845. This program will be offered during the weeks of July 19-23 and August 2-6.
· “Earth Artists,” to be offered during the weeks of July 5-9 and July 26-30, is a program designed to celebrate the beauty and wonder of nature through the visual arts, music, crafts and poetry.
Youngsters will have an opportunity to create original artwork using forest, meadow, lakeside and stream areas as inspiration, and parents will be invited to view a display of the students’ work on the last day of the program.
· The Trailside Planetarium is the site for “Solar System Surfers,” also offered July 5-9 and July 26-30. Children will learn about stars, including the sun; find out the latest information on the planets from recent space probes; cook solar treats and sample an astronaut snack, and create space sta
tions. Week-long programs for children entering the fifth and sixth grades include:
· “Backwoods Lore,” offered July 19-23 and August 2-6, is designed to introduce children to the life of an American pioneer, when each day brought new challenges for survival. Students will gather, prepare and sample wild edibles, build an emergency shelter and fire, follow a course with a map and compass, and track deer.
· “Ocean Wonders,” a program in which children can learn facts about marine life from plankton to whales, will be held July 26-30. Youngsters will find out why the salt marsh plays such a vital role in the survival of life in the ocean.
Two van trips during the week will include Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant for a behind-thescenes tour, and a visit to Horseshoe Cove at Sandy Hook, where participants will use seine and dip nets to collect and identity fish, snails, crabs and other marine organisms.
· During “Earth Friendly,” to be held July 19-23 and August 2-6, students will search a stream and pond for water quality indicators; collect and identify forest recyclers, install water bars to prevent soil erosion, and cut down tree stranglers.
Pre-registration is required for all programs. For information on times, fees and availability, please call (908) 789-3670. Trailside is a Union County facility.
Caucus Meeting to Focus On Initiatives for Women
WESTFIELD — The three female Freeholders of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders will discuss county initiatives affecting women at a meeting of the Union County Women’s Political Caucus (WPC) to be held on Wednesday, June 23, at 8 p.m. at the Union County Annex, Veneri Building at 300 North Avenue in Westfield.
Freeholders Linda d. Stender of Fanwood, Deborah Scanlon of Union and Mary P. Ruotolo of Westfield will focus their discussion on recent initiatives by the county to assist women and children including the projected opening in September of a child care center for county employees in Elizabeth.
Conveners of the meeting, County Counsel Carol Cohen of Westfield, a former Freeholder herself, and Roselle Park Councilwoman Melanie Selk urge all women interested in learning more about the Caucus and its goals to come to the meeting on the June 23 which is
open to women who live or work in the county.
The WPC of New Jersey is a multipartisan organization whose goals are to encourage and support women for elective and appointive office at the local, county and state level.
Raritan Line Group Sets June 24 Meeting
WESTFIELD – The Raritan Valley Line Commuter Commission (RVLCC) will hold its quarterly meeting on Thursday, June 24, at 8 p.m. in the Mayor’s Conference Room of the Westfield Municipal Building, 425 East Broad Street.
The RVLCC was formed to identify and address problems involving the train commute along the Raritan Valley Line. Interested commuters are invited to attend and participate in this meeting.
0617Pages25. p65 6/ 17/ 99, 6: 10 PM 2