Two second-reading ordinances – one extending the “No Parking Here to Corner” parking restriction on the northbound lane of Upper Mountain Avenue to a point 125 feet south of the intersection with Bellevue Avenue and another revising the code mobile food vendors; a new ordinance correcting measurements for lot widths and maximum heights of freestanding signs; and a consent agenda of resolutions involving items such as appointing Kirstan Anschuetz as the township’s public agency compliance officer were passed unanimously by the Montclair Township Council at its March 19 meeting. Councilor-at-Large Robert Russo was absent.
None of these items were the big story of the meeting. The meeting was primarily a testimonial celebration for Township Clerk Linda Wanat, who retires from her post on April 1 after more than 30 years as Montclair’s clerk. This was her last council meeting.
Mayor Robert Jackson and the council gave Wanat a proclamation honoring her service, with many of her friends and associates in attendance; the mayor joked that he didn’t suppose they were there for the signage ordinance. Her duties included overseeing polling places in elections, keeping records of municipal transactions, and arranging sister-city events with Montclair’s global counterparts. Residents and members of the council, however, praised Wanat for going beyond the basic duties of a clerk, using her planning skills to help prepare for special events such as the Montclair sesquicentennial in 2018, offering guided tours of the municipal building to third-graders and explaining how Montclair’s council-manager system works, and, as Deputy Mayor / Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller noted, always having cakes at meetings for council members’ birthdays. Appropriately enough, a cake was presented to Wanat at this last meeting with her as township clerk.
Among the residents offering their praise, former Mayor Ed Remsen said that when he became Montclair’s fifth popularly elected mayor in 2004, he was told to go to Wanat to acclimate himself to the township’s form of government. Remsen said he learned a lot from her, and he commended her for staying above politics during council meetings and executive sessions. Resident Deirdre Malloy said Wanat had always been available to answer any questions she had.
Wanat herself was grateful, saying she found the post challenging but fulfilling, and admitting she was the rarest of birds – a person who loved her job. Her greatest pride, Wanat said, was swearing in police and fire recruits, saying she felt like a proud mother in the ceremonies. Mayor Jackson complimented her for her “true professionalism, class and dignity.”
The celebration was complimented by another proclamation, that honoring Councilor Russo’s mother’s 100th birthday. Councilor Russo’s absence was due to a fall he had sustained. His mother’s birthday is in April.
Only one substantive discussion took place regarding the agenda items. On the issue of the second-reading ordinance authorizing rules governing mobile food vendors, Mayor Jackson reminded Township Attorney Ira Karasick that he had mentioned the idea of a security deposit from vendors so that if they do not clean up after themselves, the township would be able deduct money from the deposit for cleanup work. He asked Karasick if there was anything to prevent the township from doing that. The township attorney said there was nothing to prevent it but he wasn’t sure if the town had the authority to collect the deposit. Karasick added that he could propose an amendment to ensure such authority before the bids go out. Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford said such a request for a deposit was in the bidding specification for vendors that submit bids to do business in Montclair, which satisfied the mayor. The bids are reviewed in the summer.
In public comment, resident Karen Shinevar spoke on behalf of her own nonprofit, Communities Promoting Animal Welfare NJ, whose mission is to save the lives of outdoor cats by helping cat owners keep their pets and reducing shelter intake through trapping, vaccinating and neutering, and returning cats; the nonprofit has saved 752 cats since it was founded in 2017. Shinevar suggested that Montclair might want to save expenses for its own work in spaying and neutering outdoor cats by collaborating with Communities Promoting Animal Welfare NJ to save money on the shelter budget. With the hiring of an additional animal control officer and two part-time kennel attendants, Shinevar said she understood that the line item for the shelter in the 2019 budget increases by 38 percent, from $274,000 to $379,000, over 2018.
Mayor Jackson said there was $5,000 in the budget for a pilot program to provide services to help cats, and Shinevar said referrals to Communities Promoting Animal Welfare NJ and a collaboration between the nonprofit and the township could save more cats. She noted that 5000 could only save 50 cats at best, but she was glad to see there was money for a pilot program. The mayor said he would like to consider Shinevar’s proposal.
Also, although the second-reading ordinance extending the “No Parking Here to Corner” parking restriction on the northbound lane of Upper Mountain Avenue to a point 125 feet south of the intersection with Bellevue Avenue was passed with no difficulty, resident William Scott took the opportunity to state that such restrictions should be duly enforced to make them work. He called attention to a “No Parking Here to Corner” zone next to Nishuane School on Cedar Avenue near his own residence, and he said parents were parked in that zone every day. He said he has spoken to Office Wil Young about the situation.
Watch the video of the meeting here: https://youtu.be/eftOhddgXhc