Cranford Flood Funding Raises Transparency Questions

By LAURA KREISER
For The Westfield Leader

CRANFORD — Last month, as part of this year’s annual budget appropriations, Governor Phil Murphy allocated approximately $1.8 million to the Township of Cranford to fund critical storm-water improvements in a 50-acre area that includes South Union Avenue, Retford Avenue, Walnut Avenue and High Street. On Thursday, however, during a regular meeting of the Cranford Township Committee, the debate over where to best utilize the funds was reignited when one local resident suggested that other areas of the community may be facing even larger challenges when it comes to floodwater mitigation.

Deirdre Koczur of Edgar Avenue said that her area of town floods just as bad as the areas being funded. Ms. Koczur explained that in her 26 years at that home, her family had lost a car, evacuated four times, and lost large appliances because of flooding. Ms. Koczur clarified that she was not upset South Avenue was getting help but felt there was very little explanation of why the money was going there over any other places in the area.

Mayor Kathleen Miller Prunty said the committee had decided on South Avenue since it was a project that had already been designed. Mayor Prunty sympathized with Ms. Koczur, saying no one is forgetting how bad flooding is in the area, highlighting a resolution the committee had passed that night awarding Mott MacDonald a contract to engineer the repairs to the Nomahegan Dikes.

Commissioners Gina Black and Mary O’Conner disputed that the committee discussed what project was being sent to the state. Ms. O’Conner said while any state funding is welcomed and she would happily welcome more, there needs to be more discussion around what is sent to the state moving forward.

Ms. Black questioned where it was officially discussed what project was being sent. Ms. Black asked why the information was not shared enough and went as far as to say she does not feel the committee talks enough. She said she felt she was left out of the discussions and hopes the committee will communicate better in the future.

The committee also passed three ordinances that include amending the signage code for businesses, excluding trucks over a certain weight the entire length of Orchard Street and amending the pricing for police on extra duty.

In the workshop meeting (held before the regular meeting), Township Administrator Jamie Cryan explained that for the police, “extra duty” is when the electric company or a film crew asks for police presence and the township agrees. Mr. Cryan said he was sure PSE&G would soon only pay the cost required by ordinance so the township needed to be sure fair pricing was in place. Mr. Cryan also mentioned that pricing had not been revisited since 2013.

Mayor Prunty presented the Orchard Street truck ordinance, saying for the past year and a half she had been receiving complaints about how large trucks use Orchard Street as a shortcut. While the ordinance does not prohibit deliveries or moving trucks, she wanted to be sure it would be prevented from being used as a shortcut.

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