Concern over the impact of newly installed parking meters in a town parking lot on Paterson Plank Road may lead the Town Council to offer some kind of permits to area residents.
In the council caucus before the Oct. 23 council meeting, Council Robert Kickey argued that business owners already have suffered a significant loss of street parking due to the establishment of a loading zone and bus stop, as well as prohibited parking due to the North End Fire House. But Mayor Dennis Elwell said that residents and business owners have requested relief in other town-owned parking lots such as around the Plaza Section. He said that if he gives them more relief in the north end of town, this would likely have to be duplicated elsewhere just to be fair.
"I think the north end is a unique situation," Kickey said, contending that too much local parking has vanished and that business owners and their employees are left without a place to put their cars. Kickey said owners are willing to pay the fees, but did not want to feed meters daily. He said business owners would pay monthly by check.
Council John Bueckner said some residents were also finding it difficult to park in the area, and that if the town provides relief for business owners, residents should also be considered.
Bueckner also raised concerns over repaving on 2nd Ward streets, and feared the 2nd Ward might get slighted in the annual repaving program due to the amount of cash the town is forced to pay for repaving commercial streets outside of the ward.
Elwell said the town had put off awarding a contract for paving local streets to see if the price would come down by the end of the year.
During the same session, Mike Gonnelli, acting in his role as a commissioner for the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC), told the council that Secaucus could expect a drop in the fees the town pays to the tax-sharing pool. Under state mandate, the towns within the Meadowlands district contribute to or draw from the tax-sharing pool based on a series of criteria. Towns restricted by the NJMC from developing share in the taxes gained by towns allowed to develop. But other factors also influence these figures. Secaucus, which has always been a contributor to the tax pool, will see a decrease in its contribution next year because of an increase in its student population. Secaucus saw an increase of 43 students in areas governed by the NJMC, and so the increased cost of education lessens the contribution they will have to make.
"We should see a credit of $120,000 to $130,000 next year," Gonnelli said.
The town currently pays $480,000 into the tax pool.
Mayor Elwell said Raymond Leonard, chairman of the town's Board of Adjustment, has asked the town to reconsider existing building height restrictions, noting that the 30-foot limit currently imposed by town ordinance may be too restrictive.
Frank MacCormack, who was fined $1,000 after his insurance company buildings was found to have been constructed a foot over the 30-foot limit, asked the town to review all its ordinances as part of his 1999 mayoral campaign.
In council reports during the regular council meeting on Oct. 23, Councilman John Reilly, liaison to the Police Department, said police crackdowns on speeding along Centre Avenue and Front Street have produced good results, although speeding is still an issue.
Bueckner, in his report on the Joint Insurance Fund, said the town can expect an increase of nearly 10 percent in premiums for the upcoming year. The JIF provides insurance on town buildings and vehicles.
"While this may seem like bad news, it is better news than it seems," Bueckner said. "If we were not in the Joint Insurance Fund and were insured by commercial insurance companies, our increase would be 25 to 30 percent."
Even so, Bueckner said, the town should look to set aside half a million dollars next year to deal with the increase.
The council also introduced an amendment to a traffic ordinance that would allow residents to make a right on red from Plaza Avenue at Paterson Plank Road from 10 p.m. 6 a.m. The town instituted restrictions at the intersection because of the inability of pedestrians to cross Paterson Plank Road during high traffic volume hours. Town Administrator Anthony Iacono said nighttime traffic is so sparse that there is no need for the restriction.
The council , in passing two resolutions, approved the appointment of Patrick Fanning as a driver for the Department of Public Works at an annual salary of $27,000 and authorized salary increases for counselors at the Youth Center and After Care Program.
Councilman Fred Constantino had said in a previous interview that the increases were needed to compete with private childcare programs. The council also agreed to seek an After Care Program counselor.
Mayor Elwell, in report to the town, credited the Friends of the Secaucus Public Library for raising $26,000 in the library fashion show.
Seeing the council in action
Paving local streets and determining the amounts of parking fees may seem like trivial issues in a era of terrorist attacks, but seventh graders from the Secaucus Middle School found out that such concerns are often the grist of local politics when they came to observe a Town Council meeting on Oct. 23.
The surprise visit was the result of teacher and former councilman James Clancy's effort to make his civic class more real to his students.
"I wanted my students to observe local government in action," Clancy said. "I wanted them to learn how things get done so that we can talk about it later in class."
Students got to see the council clash on what might have seemed like minor issues, such as whether or not to give business owners and residents in the north end a parking pass, and fees for parking in the Paterson Plank Road parking lot.
Amada Nesheiwat, one of Clancy's students, said the meeting was not what she had expected.,
"What surprised me was the way residents just got up and spoke," she said. "I didn't know people could talk directly to the mayor and council to straighten out problems."
Melissa Pettignano was also surprised by the residents.
"If a resident has a problem, he or she can come here and confront the council to get it fixed," she said.
Ryan Pope said he the interaction also surprised him.
"I thought we would come here and just hear the council members talking," he said. "But when we got here, people were shouting and joking."
Ryan Mendia said he was impressed by the fact that the council honored the Friends of the Library and liked the fact that people raised money for a good cause.
"I think it is good to see government in action," he said.
For Jose Rivas, this was not his first trip to see the Town Council.
"I was here with my parents when I was 9 years old," he said. "I didn't understand what was going on then. Now I do."