goleader.com - Fanwood Union County, NJ Newspapers 97sep11


Council Discusses School One, Fire Vehicle, Chief Parenti’s Successor During Busy Meeting

By SUZETTE STALKER Specially Written for The Times

The Fanwood Borough Council covered a broad range of topics during its September 3 agenda meeting, including traffic safety at School One, the purchase of a new support utility vehicle for the Fanwood Fire Department, the pending appointment of a new police chief, and historic preservation concerns.

A proposal to merge the borough’s Planning Board and Board of Adjustment also was discussed.

Council President Bruce H. Walsh, who presided at last week’s meeting in the absence of Mayor Maryanne S. Connelly, said approximately 35 residents attended a recent meeting of the council’s Public Safety Committee.

They came to voice their concerns over people who park or turn around on Madison Avenue while dropping off and picking up their children at nearby School One, which is located on Willow Avenue in Scotch Plains.

Area homeowners have been experiencing difficulty exiting their own driveways and also are concerned about the safety of the children walking to school, according to members of the committee.

Residents suggested that borough and education officials could work together toward possible use of the school property as an alternative to parking or turning around on the street, said Councilman William E. Populus, Jr., who is a member of the Public Safety Committee.

They also proposed temporary placement of signs along Madison to see if it would deter these practices. Councilman Populus said a resolution on the matter is expected to be voted on at the council’s regular meeting tonight, Thursday, September 11, adding that the signs could be put up along the south side of Madison within the next several weeks.

The governing body are scheduled to adopt on second reading tonight, September 11, an ordinance appropriating $12,400 in capital surplus toward the purchase of a used support utility vehicle for the fire department. Officials approved the purchase of the ambulance-style unit from a Summit vendor, as well as a radio for the vehicle, during the council’s regular meeting on August 14.

Council members backed the purchase of the vehicle following an appeal by Fanwood Fire Chief Daniel Librandy, who testified at the governing body’s August 6 agenda session that by allowing firefighters to transport all their equipment to an emergency scene in a single trip, it would better enable them to do their jobs.

Officials also discussed the cost of a new paint job for the vehicle, which Chief Librandy projected last month to be $5,500. The municipality is expected to have the vehicle by October, although it will likely not be road ready before the end of the year, council members anticipated.

Besides the paint job and lettering on the vehicle, a new generator and brackets to hold oxygen cylinders are scheduled to be installed in it.

The pending retirement of Fanwood Police Chief Anthony J. Parenti on January 1, and the selection of his successor, was also discussed by the governing body. Police Commissioner Walsh explained that, traditionally, the next top-ranking officer within the department is appointed by the council as the new Chief of Police, if the Mayor, the Police Commissioner, the council and its Public Safety Committee determine he is the right man for the job.

He conceded, however, that the governing body also has the authority to appoint someone else.

Councilman Populus said that, in addition to rank, the governing body should consider a candidate’s management skills, as well as his ability to incorporate new policies and procedures with standard ones, before rendering a final decision.

He indicated that he has no reason not to support Chief Parenti’s anticipated successor, but felt the council still needed to talk with him "to see what his long-term goals are."

Councilman Walsh recommended that the matter be referred to the Public Safety Committee, adding that the council should know "within a month" how it will proceed concerning selection of the next police chief.

The council is expected to award a $2,000 bid to Nancy Zerbe of Historic Preservation Consulting, Inc., for an historic district assessment. According to Councilwoman Karen M. Schurtz, Chairwoman of the council’s Building and Zoning Committee, the purpose of the assessment is to determine whether any sections of Fanwood can be designated as historical districts and thereby eligible for county and state funding.

Councilman Populus suggested that Ms. Zerbe’s technical expertise could also be of assistance in getting the Carriage House placed on the national and state historic registries. The Watson Road building, which is home to the Depression-era Philathalians theater group, is in need of a new roof and lavatories.

Finally, Councilwoman Schurtz reported the Building and Zoning Committee has unanimously agreed that the Fanwood Planning Board and Board of Adjustment should merge beginning in January.

Councilwoman Schurtz listed several advantages to merging the two boards, among them greater consistency and communication. She also noted that Planning Board members are more familiar with the concepts of the Master Plan than their counterparts on the Board of Adjustment.

She also observed that while both she and Mayor Connelly sit on the Planning Board, no member of the council serves on the Board of Adjustment. Councilman Stuart S. Kline is the council’s Liaison to the Board of Adjustment, but does not hear cases.

In addition, she pointed out that the two boards did not share the same professional expertise. Borough Engineer Richard Marsden attends Planning Board but not Board of Adjustment meetings, and Nancy Koederitz, though she is the borough’s Zoning Officer, also sits on the Planning Board but not the Board of Adjustment.

The proposal to merge the two boards originally was conceived as a way to cut costs, as well as to compensate for not having enough volunteers to fill both boards. It was also prompted by a decrease in the number of applications being heard by the board. The Planning Board, Councilwoman Schurtz revealed, has sustained itself mostly with discussions related to the revised Master Plan which, she said, should wrap up in a few months.

She noted, however, that while one board rather than two would reduce the number of volunteers needed, it would likely increase the workload for these volunteers, as well as for the board’s attorney. The proposed, as-yet-untitled board would meet twice a month, with meetings held two weeks apart.

"This is a big change, something you do not take lightly," remarked Councilman Walsh, although he commended Councilwoman Schurtz on her comprehensive overview of the issue.

The Planning Board is now slated to review the proposal for an amended ordinance, which will ultimately be decided upon by the council.

During a brief, special public meeting held before the agenda session, the council authorized a leave of absence for Zoning Officer Nancy Koederitz, who will be on maternity leave through Sunday, November 30.

Valerie Saunders, the Zoning Officer for Mountainside, was appointed to serve as Acting Zoning Officer for Fanwood during the interim. She will maintain her regular position in Mountainside, while also spending several hours per week in Fanwood.

Mr. Walsh said Ms. Saunders is already "more than familiar" with the area, as well as with zoning issues, and would even be willing to come to Fanwood on her lunch hour if necessary.

"She seems more than willing to accommodate us," the Council President commented.

Copyright 1997
TheWestfield Leader
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Revised: September 14, 1997.