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Hopatcong Council Sets Adoption Fees for Cats and Dogs

Jane Primerano

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 • 10:27pm

HOPATCONG – For all the years of its existence, the Hopatcong Animal Pound has never charged an adoption fee.

That changed at the Borough Council meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 4, when council voted unanimously introduced an ordinance setting adoption fees. It will cost $20 to adopt a cat and $50 to adopt a dog if the ordinance is adopted on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

“We never charged an adoption fee and last year the pound placed 26 cats,” Councilwoman Marie Galate said after the meeting. The pound traditionally has many more cats than dogs, Animal Control officer Dale Sloot said in a previous interview.

While the ordinance wasn’t controversial, resident Michelle Guttenberger confronted Mayor Sylvia Petillo about the borough’s recycling newsletter. Various events for borough residents are listed in the annual newsletter and Guttenburger insisted the inclusion of the Hudson Farms Charity Hike was inappropriate.                                                                                                                                      

Guttenburg said Hudson Farms, a hunting and shooting club, is owned by an international corporation that gets tax deductions for all its charitable work.  She also said the farm doesn’t pay its fair share of taxes because it is taxed as a farm. Petillo pointed out the state determines whether a property qualifies as a farm. She said Hudson Farms is the third largest taxpayer in the borough.

Guttenburg noted it is a private club, but Petillo said the hike is open to all residents of the municipalities Hudson Farms encompasses and is an excellent recreation day for all ages, so it conforms to other events in the newsletter.

“It’s a question of ethics here, “  Guttenburg said, claiming Hudson Farms is an “assumed name” because it is not the corporate name of the owner. She accused Petillo of favoritism for allowing Hudson Farms to be in the newsletter and said she is going to file an ethics complaint against the mayor.

Petillo told her to go ahead and file one.

On a less controversial note, Councilman Richard Bunce invited the council and audience to the Armed Forces Relief Committee’s annual gala on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at Pavinici’s. Bunce said the organization, which was founded two years ago holds two fund-raising events each year and almost 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to four organizations that represent the wounded from the five branches of service. He said Safe Harbor represents both the Navy and the Coast Guard.

In other business, the council adopted a resolution allowing employees to roll over up to $500 in unused funds from their Flexible Spending Accounts. The FSAs are part of the borough’s health insurance that allows employees to bank pre-tax earnings up to $2,500 a year for medical expenses not otherwise covered. Until the 2014 fiscal year, any unspent funds would go back to the municipality, Borough Administrator Richard Elia said. The Internal Revenue Service just allowed the $500 roll-over with municipal approval.

Although the borough’s reorganization meeting was scheduled for the first Wednesday of January, Galate suggested it be moved because that falls on New Year’s Day. Borough Attorney John Ursin pointed out a municipality must re-organize within the first seven days of the year. Since that rule doesn’t apply to land use boards, council authorized Elia to have the Land Use Board reschedule its first meeting of the year from Tuesday, Jan. 7 to the next week, Tuesday, Jan. 14. Boards have the entire month of January to reorganize. So the borough will reorganize on Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

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