Garwood Officials Address Affordable Housing Concerns

For The Leader/Times

GARWOOD – The Borough Council held its biweekly meeting on February 11, during which several council members gave reports on various issues concerning the municipality.

Councilman Sean Benoit presented the first report of the night, in which he discussed the actions of the Laws and Licenses Committee. Councilman Benoit said the committee, “did review that Long Hill Resolution (on affordable housing), and we did decide unanimously that we did not feel it was appropriate to sign off on.”

He said that Garwood had already passed a resolution on affordable housing back in April 2017 that was adequate to cover the opinions on affordable housing in the area. The committee encourages anyone still concerned to contact the state legislature about high-density housing.

Mayor Sara Todisco said, “It’s something that I plan to continue the conversation about and different avenues that we need to take a look at when it comes to this affordable-housing mandate. It’s something that obviously is required by the Constitution of New Jersey. … People may not like it, but we have to follow it.”

Councilman Benoit reported that the Laws and Licenses Committee also looked at the borough’s social-media policy, which was passed in 2019. The committee was asked to discern if it addressed borough employees using social media on the clock. This policy does not include anything regarding employee use of social media during work hours and instead covered what could be posted by the borough social-media pages.

Councilman Benoit said that the committee unanimously agreed that the policy needed to be updated to accommodate these social-media policies. Mr. Benoit asked Borough Attorney Catherine DeAppolonia to write up an amendment or new policy that would enforce a prohibition on using social media during work hours. Council President Jen Blumenstock and Councilman Vincent Kearney approved of this action.

Councilman Benoit said that the Laws and Licenses Committee also had talked about overhauling Garwood’s code to make sure that it is clear. He said that the request may be presented for the Finance Committee to look at. “We are very well aware that both last year and this year, we are in the midst of a pandemic. It’s going to be tough budget-wise,” said Councilman Benoit.

Councilman Marc Lazarow said, “It’s important for us to have a code that functions to allow our town to actually have easily-accessible laws that we understand, that we can apply, that they’re not redundant and it’s easy for us to then determine whether we have to pass new laws. Of course, we also have to balance that priority with safety issues; all the other departments that have their capital projects that come in the way.”

Councilman Lazarow said that the discussion is not done and that it is helpful to have the rest of the governing body’s opinion on this issue. He then asked Ms. DeAppolonio how much this project to amend the town code would cost. She said that the project could take between $25,000 and $30,000 to complete.

Council President Blumenstock gave the Streets and Roads Ecology report to the other council members.

“DPW (Garwood Department of Public Works) has been busy doing a lot of snow removal on top of regular garbage removal,” she said. “Public Works employees worked a total of 48 hours of double time, 186 hours of time-and-a-half, and 144 hours of regular time for snow-removal operations during and after the January 31 to February 2 snowstorm. In addition, public works employees worked a total of 62½ hours of double time for snow-removal operations during and after the February 7 snowstorm,” said Council President Blumenstock.

The public works employees were responsible for de-icing streets and parking lots; de-icing sidewalks and school crossings; plowing all borough streets, parking lots and borough-owned sidewalks; and loading trucks with salt. Councilmen Kearney, Russell Graham and Michael Ince joined Council President Blumenstock in thanking all DPW employees for their work during the recent snowstorms.

The next council meeting will take place on Thursday, February 25.

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