Westfield Parks Could Go Smoke-Free, Firefighters to Get Personal Escape Systems and More at Town Council Meeting
Wednesday, July 11, 2012 • 7:00am
WESTFIELD, NJ - At the July 10 town council meeting, the council passed a resolution awarding a contract for Fire Department Hands-Free Personal Safety Escape Systems that could allow firefighters trapped in tall buildings to escape safely. Much of the cost of these systems will be paid for by a federal grant.
Also regarding the fire department, the council approved an ordinance to cap the fee to apply for the position of probationary firefighter at $75.
The council also approved a special ordinance to appropriate $160,000 to pay for various public improvements, including equipment to replace what was damaged in last year’s hurricane and October snowstorm and new equipment that could make repairs easier after future severe storms.
Ordinance No. 1990 was passed, which will allow for continued changes and improvements to the area surrounding the high school parking lot.
Former councilman Lee Hale told the council of the Westfield Historical Society’s upcoming induction to the new Westfield Hall of Fame. The first inductees will include some of Westfield’s earliest residents, as well as more recent notable individuals. The induction is set to take place in September.
When the floor was opened to public comments, Alan Kantz of GASP, a non-profit organization based in Summit, NJ, made a case for why the council can and should make Westfield’s parks and recreation areas smoke-free. Several residents came forward and spoke about why they agreed, and Executive Director Karen Blumenfeld argued that studies show that outdoor second-hand smoke can be as concentrated as indoor smoke.
Mayor Andy Skibitsky answered that the process will take some time and that making these areas smoke-free “seems like a good idea.”
Resident Greg Kasko then argued again against the HAWK light and crosswalk on Central Avenue.
Kasko, Adina Enculescu and Maria Carluccio regularly attend Westfield town council meetings, arguing again and again against the HAWK system, which sits in front of Enculescu’s home. They have complained that the configuration is confusing and dangerous, that Enculescu’s driveway now appears to be a road on which to turn and that the signal devalues Enculescu’s property.
Kasko told the council that, although the mayor has repeated that Union County ultimately decides whether the system will stay or go, the town controls the light because the town is responsible for maintaining it.
Kasko also asked, as he did at previous meetings, what the town’s alternative plans are if Westfield does not receive the SAFER grant it applied for, which could pay for additional manpower to the fire department.
Councilman Sam Della Fera replied that alternatives could include looking at the budget at that time to see if more firefighters could be hired, as well as bargaining with the firefighters union.
When she spoke to the council, Enculescu said that that evening before she came to the meeting she witnessed a boy who looked to be about 10 years old activating the light then watching as several cars sped through it.
“The safety is much, much worse than two years ago, three years ago, 20 years ago,” said Enculescu.
Enculescu has argued in the past that when the light was installed her driveway was damaged. When she was told at this meeting that her time to speak was up, she added, “I want, in one month, my driveway rebuilt.”
Resident Tony DelDuca then argued that the issue should be put to rest. “We have an ordinance that says we’re not moving this light, so why are we even talking about this?” he said.
Councilman David Haas, who said he agreed with Enculescu and Kasko on some issues “but not on motives” said he has told them that he believes it is unlikely that the light will be moved. However, he added, “I’m not going to tell a resident not to come to council as long as they want to.”