Westfield Council Unveils Two Ordinances, Hears Covid Update

By REBECCA MEHORTER
Specially Written for The Leader/Times

WESTFIELD — The Westfield Town Council read two ordinances on first reading at its Tuesday meeting. Officials also heard a renewable energy aggregation program update, and Mayor Shelley Brindle appointed two members, Thomas Fowler, Psy.D., and Gina Totino, a licensed clinical social worker, to the Westfield Mental Health Council.

At the start of the meeting, Mayor Brindle commented on the events of January 6, when, as she said, “the Capitol Building was overrun by a group of domestic terrorists who called themselves patriots.

“Every American should be appalled at the desecration of our flag and their feeble but deadly attempt to upend our democracy,” she continued. “This moment in history is one that will live far beyond us, and it shows the deep divides that exist in this era of American democracy.”

Mayor Brindle and Police Chief Christopher Battiloro spoke later in the meeting to assure residents that there are “no specific threats to our area,” as President-elect Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration day comes closer. Chief Battiloro said that he is in constant communication with departments and organizations around New Jersey and that there are “no threats toward local assets.”

Mayor Brindle gave a brief Covid-19 update. “Covid-related hospitalizations at Overlook are up approximately 11 percent since the beginning of January, but thankfully have not climbed back to the mid-December levels seen post-Thanksgiving,” she said. The state has broken records for new cases per week and per day in the first week of January. The current week’s results are not complete yet.

The mayor announced that the town will observe a moment of remembrance at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19, for those who died from Covid-19. Residents are encouraged to submit the names of family members who have died from the coronavirus to be incorporated in the ceremony. Residents can email covid19@westfieldnj.gov.

The council passed General Ordinance No. 2203 on first reading at Tuesday night’s meeting. The ordinance amends the town’s bicycle board by adding a liaison to the board from the Westfield Green Team who will “attend and participate in all meetings and activities of the Bicycle Board as if a regular member,” the ordinance reads.

Councilman Michael Dardia, chairman of the Public Safety, Transportation and Parking Committee, said the bicycle board was active until the early 90s and had the “chief responsibility” to give out punishments for biking infractions. He said the new ordinance will revive the board and help the board serve “as a partner to the downtown and actually all around town when it comes to making biking safer and more accessible.”

Also passed on first reading was General Ordinance No. 2204, which amends the town’s historic preservation ordinance to allow “expeditious review of minor work on designated properties in certain circumstances.” The point of the ordinance is “to facilitate a faster and simpler review process for minor applications for locally designated properties,” the ordinance states.
One person attempted to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting, but Town Attorney Tom Jardim asked that the person be ignored.

“This is an individual that resides in the state of Colorado, and so pursuant to section 2-66 of our general town code, only taxpayers and residents of the town are permitted to speak during public sessions,” Mr. Jardim said. “I’ve been in contact with the gentleman during this meeting to confirm that he’s neither a resident nor a taxpayer, so I would ask, mayor, that you don’t recognize him to speak at this time.”

Councilman Mark LoGrippo questioned why the governing body would not let somebody speak. “I mean, we’ve always let residents speak outside of town.”

“Well, our town code is very specific as to who can speak on matters under the council’s jurisdiction,” Mr. Jardim said. “And beyond that, I would say that, based upon my conversation with him today, he wants to bring up extraneous matters that aren’t really under this council’s jurisdiction. … I would loathe to have this gentleman turn a public comment meeting into some type of grandstanding circus.”

The council also heard from Robert Chilton, the Gabel Association adviser the town selected to guide it in the government energy aggregation program. Mr. Chilton gave the council an update on where the town is in putting out bids to obtain a renewable content of power supply. He said requests for proposals will be put out soon and then the council will review its options at its Tuesday, February 9 meeting. If none of the proposals are cost-effective or would supply power with a 43.5 percent renewable energy content, the town can award no contract and try again if it so chooses.

The next town council meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 26, at 8 p.m. Residents are encouraged to watch via Facebook Live or join via Zoom in order to participate in public comment.

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