By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
For the second straight year, the Fair Haven council moved its end-of-year meeting out of the basement of borough hall and into the library at Knollwood School to give students a chance to find out how local government works.
Few topics were untouched. More than a dozen students asked about the construction on River Road, leaf collection and speeding problems in town, while getting explanations on the nuances of a government, like the difference between a resolution and an ordinance.
Here’s the rundown of the meeting:
- Residents questioned a new contract with Engineer and Public Works Director Rich Gardella, who will be paid $107,000 in 2011, with annual 2-percent increases over the five following years. Gardella had been making about $95,000, Mayor Mike Halfacre said, and was at the end of a three-year contract. Resident Sonia Reevey took issue with the contract, saying, “My Social Security hasn’t gone up in two years. As tight as the budget is, why are we raising salaries?” Halfacre said Gardella has proved to be invaluable for the borough, by serving in multiple roles and securing grants, including the federally-funded streetscape project, and that he’d be hard to replace, so the borough wanted to lock up his services for the near future.
- Privatizing trash collection hit a delay because the bids were not uniform, Halfacre said. Some bids were for a one-year contract, while others were for three years, which the council was looking for. The borough will go out to bid again, and if the cost is favorable at around $170,000 or less Halfacre said trash pickup could go private as soon as March.
When it came time for students to comment and ask questions, they ate up at least a half hour probing the council on a number of topics. A handful of students voiced concerns about speeding and wondered if anything could be done about it.
Although speed humps were installed on residential streets earlier this year, Halfacre said they haven’t worked out the way the council had hoped. Drivers tend to slow down for the speed hump, he said, but then speed up between the humps to make up for lost time. The borough will lower the speed limit in some areas, as the speed humps will be removed for the winter so the streets can be plowed.
“Really it’s just education,” Halfacre said. “We’ve got to tell people and enforce it.”
The children also wondered about leaf collection always a top concern in Fair Haven and why piles of leaves and brush are left out on the street for so long. Halfacre explained there’s a schedule for pickup, and it’s not always followed by residents. Collection starts at the west end of town and gradually moves east, and if somebody puts their leaves out a day after their zone’s scheduled collection time, the leaves will stay there until the next round of pick-up.
“I hear this every single year, and every single year I tell you, the leaves will get picked up,” Halface said. “We’re just not spending oodles of money to do it.”
Students also suggested that while workers wrap up the sidewalk portion of the River Road streetscape project, a crosswalk be installed in front of Acme because it’s a dangerous area for them to cross. Halfacre said the borough has long wanted a crosswalk there, but since it’s a Monmouth County road, the council can only make requests for improved safety measures. Those requests have been unanswered, he said.