CLARK — Clark residents with something to say at a public meeting will now have five minutes to do so instead of 10, thanks to a new ordinance adopted Tuesday during a regular meeting of the mayor and council.
Resident Michael Shulman, who ran for a seat on the council back in November, said there does not seem to be a “logical reason” to limit citizens’ speaking time except to “stifle and silence people.”
Councilwoman Angel Albanese said that Clark is one of the only towns in New Jersey that allows each resident 10 minutes to speak during public comment, adding that most municipalities limit speakers to three or five minutes.
“To clarify, we absolutely would like to hear from the citizens about their observations, their questions. There are a number of different avenues, including this council meeting, where people can voice their views. Certainly, written comments can be sent in if they’re lengthy or exceed five minutes. There are many other ways to reach either the mayor’s office, the administration, the business administrator or any council member,” Ms. Albanese stated.
The new time limit will be put into effect as of Wednesday, February 8.
Also on Tuesday evening, elected officials passed an ordinance that will increase the annual municipal budget by 3.5 percent. Typically, yearly budget increases are limited to 2.5 percent unless authorized by ordinance. Earlier this month, Mayor Sal Bonaccorso warned residents at the council’s reorganization meeting that the upcoming tax season may be difficult due to increased state-mandated health-insurance costs.
“What is the town’s plan to deal with that, especially if the state is not going to limit or cap the increases on the health benefits?” Mr. Shulman asked the mayor and council.
“We are working diligently on it. I have no concrete answer that I want to share with anyone at this time because all options are on the table, and we are looking at it,” Mayor Bonaccorso responded.
Mayor Bonaccorso also addressed comments regarding a new urgent care facility, operated by Hackensack-Meridian Health, that will occupy the former site of the Barnes & Noble at 1180 Raritan Road.
Mayor Bonaccorso said, “I’ve been reading on Facebook a lot that people are saying, ‘do we really need another healthcare center?’” He clarified that the township has “absolutely no control” over who leases the building as long as its use complies with zoning regulations.
“It’s going to be a clean use. There’s not going to be shopping carts all over the parking lot, papers, garbage,” Mayor Bonaccorso added.
The council adopted four additional ordinances on Tuesday evening, among them two that will reduce fire and health inspection fees for organizations that run events in town. Another ordinance reflects a change in salaries for certain municipal employees moving forward, and the last ordinance establishes a fee for the filing of the annual registration of a certificate of insurance for businesses, rental units and multifamily homes with four units or less.
Mayor Bonaccorso presented the eighth annual Volunteer of the Year award to recipient Joe Arancio on behalf of Recreation Director Ralph Bernardo.
“Joe has been volunteering his time to the recreation department, UNICO and the township of Clark ever since I, Ralph, started my position 18 years ago,” Mayor Bonaccorso said, reading aloud from a statement prepared by Mr. Bernardo, who was unable to attend Tuesday night’s proceedings. “Always in the building daily, always offering his services. He takes part in every area of setup [and] cleanup of the tree-lighting, Trunk or Treat, Easter, [the] egg hunt, concerts in the park, and, of course, the running of the Italian UNICO feast, which he’s the president of the organization.
“In addition to volunteering his time to the recreation department, Joe has been a huge advocate in supporting the recreation department financially through UNICO,” Mr. Bernardo wrote.