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Freeholders Hear Concerns; Final Meeting For Zellman And Zeoli

Jennifer Murphy

Friday, December 14, 2012 • 11:35am

 

NEWTON, NJ –  Sussex County residents who are caring for their elderly parents are facing bewildering situations with the closing of the Sussex County Adult Day Care Center in Newton, since Catholic Family and Community Services (CFCS) announced it will be closing on December 31. 

With the loss of the Peer Group Funding Grant, there is no money to continue operations.  Linda Ward, Associate Executive Director of CFCS shared story after story of families’ struggle. 

“Sara, who is 70 years of age and still working full time, has her mother living with her.  What is she to do?” She asked at the Wednesday night Sussex County Freeholders meeting.

Tony Alcaro, of Fredon, said after the meeting, “My father is 93 years old. I can’t leave him alone. Now, he will have to drive to Montclair and go to work with me every day.  He is one of the original immigrants. He worked his whole life and never asked for anything. These are people who fought the wars and built this country. The women worked in factories. It’s unconscionable to do this to these people. It costs between $70,000 and $90,000 per year in a nursing home.”

Diane Updike, addressed the freeholders on this issue, “I am the manager of the Day Care Center for two more weeks.  The families, the members and the staff are devastated. This issue is huge, Sussex County residents are suffering a terrible loss in quality of life. You need to discern the difference between an Alzheimer’s patient and a chronically ill person who keeps going back to the hospital. The Transitional Care Model doesn’t come close to providing the socialization and care that we do. There was a meeting last night, and there was no representation from Human Services or from the Freeholders.  We have no options.”

During the open public session, Paul Johnson, of Sparta, questioned the redirection of $400,000 that was set aside for renovation of the Sheriff’s office for the purpose of the new 911 Call Center.  He raised the concern that the need was identified to renovate the Sheriff’s office, with the money properly set aside, and wanted to know what will now happen to that need.

He asked, “Do you even know the final cost [of the new center]?” 

County Administrator John Eskilson said he did not have the figures at hand, but that it would well exceed the $400,000.

Johnson commented that he is not aware that any municipality is “screaming for it” in the county. 

Freeholder Richard Zeoli said, “At some point, every call center will have to go through major renovations for the Next Generation 911 system. That will be catastrophic to municipalities. (Click here for previous article). They will not be able to accomplish this and stay within the two percent cap. This is a great example of government not duplicating services.  Instead of having all these municipalities trying to provide these services, they will all pay the county for having it be operated by the county. It’s going to benefit the taxpayers of the county tremendously.” 

Freeholder Parker Space reported on his attendance at the 200 Club of Sussex County Dinner, which was well attended.  According to its website, this club is a non-profit organization with the primary mission of providing financial assistance to the families of members of the New Jersey State Police, County and Municipal Police, Fire, or Emergency Medical Services serving the citizens of Sussex County, who lose their lives in the line of duty.  Each member donates $200 to the fund. Click here for the article from The Alternative Press about the dinner.

Freeholder Susan Zellman reported that the Community Transit Citizen’s Advisory Committee Skylands Ride announced that they will be having Saturday transportation services beginning this Saturday. In addition, there will be a stop on the loop at Bridgeway, and that will start on Monday for the connect line.  The new Fredon service will be from the loop to Netcong Station.  People have to reserve 48 hours in advance. She is looking forward to the completion of the Andover Train Station in April 2014. There will be a connection there as well. 

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Route 23 bypass in Sussex Borough will be scheduled soon. 

On Tuesday morning, after the Chamber of Commerce breakfast, there were members from the Small Business Association (SBA), the Lieutenant Governor’s Business Action Center, FEMA, and Sussex County OEM as far as what kind of disaster efforts and resources were available after Hurricane Sandy. There are still SBA loans, loans for businesses, homeowners, and non-profits, and Rural Development still has zero percent loans for certain areas as well.  Zellman asked the group what some of the issues were, Bob Dunphy from Clear Channel said that communication was a huge issue during the storm. So, looking toward any future disasters or critical events, the Department of Commerce said they would also possibly be able to help with a Disaster Recovery Plan.

Freeholder Richard Vohden reported that at the SWAC meeting, another proposal for waste disposal was discussed, one that chemically turns waste into water, and does noy require licensing from DEP. He also attended the Sussex County Economic Development Partnership Mayor’s Dinner (click here for previous article), where a new transportation planning tool was introduced.

Zeoli made his final comments, as this was his last meeting. He spoke about the pride and respect he has for his fellow freeholders, and complimented them for their courage in dealing with so many difficult decisions, especially for the ”draconian cuts” to the college, to the Sussex County Technical School, and the sale of the Homestead.

He said, “We studied these issues and left no stone unturned. Regarding the Homestead, 75 percent of the staff are still there, and the residents are happy. We saved the people of the county a lot of money.”

He advised the group that they are the “guardians of that money,” and strongly urged them to form a trust fund, so that future  freeholders could not easily tap into it. He congratulated  incoming freeholders Gail Phoebus and Dennis Mudrick, and wished them well.

Zellman, also stepping down, responded with resounding praise for the working relationship the group created, and thanked each individual Freeholder directly.

Each freeholder, in turn expressed their admiration and respect for each other’s significance, and thanked Zellman and Zeoli for their outstanding contributions to the well-being of the county, as this final meeting drew to a close. Freeholder Director Phillip Crabb complimented the group for "having the backbone to address what needed to be done." He was complimented for his finesse in running meetings, many of which dealt with issues that evoked strong feelings from the public.  The New Jersey Herald was thanked for the way they reported the news. 

Crabb said, "There were lots of things that could have been sensationalized, but you took the high road.” 

 

Continue to follow The Alternative Press for Sussex County news, as well as news and community information on The Alternative Press of Sussex County’s Facebook Page.

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