Bulk Trash Pick-up Set for Week of October 23
by Sharyn Walz
At the September 25 Borough Council meeting, three new Council members, Robin Middleman-Filepp, Nicholas Murray, and Maureen Parrott, were sworn in. Their appointment by Governor Chris Christie allowed the Council to once again have a quorum and conduct Borough business. Councilwoman Peggy Malkin, who had been serving as Acting Mayor by virtue of her seniority on the Council, was elected as Council President, thus allowing her to continue to serve as Acting Mayor until a new Mayor is elected in November.
Acting Mayor Malkin reported that she was inspired by the words of Ted Narozanick, a former Monmouth County Freeholder who recently passed. Mr. Narozanick had recently spoken about his mission to help all members of the county, regardless of political affiliation.
Malkin also advised that there has been a change in the order of events for Council meetings, and that the public comment portion has been moved up to appear before the consent and resolution portion of the Council meeting. There will only be the one public comment portion per meeting.
After accepting the resignation of Borough Attorney Richard Shaklee, the Council unanimously awarded the Borough Attorney contract to Ira Karasick. Karasick maintains an individual practice in Montclair, NJ, where he serves as the Township Attorney. He served previously as Borough Attorney in Roosevelt through 2005; the Council dismissed him at that time over their dissatisfaction in his handling of the dispute with yashivas Me'on Hatorah and Congregation Anshei Roosevelt. He will serve for the remainder of 2017; the Council indicated it plans to revisit the appointment subsequent to the November election, once the new Council members are elected and seated.
The Council unanimously approved Resolution 17-108, allowing the Borough Engineer to apply to the New Jersey Department of Transportation for grants to improve Nurko Road and Elm Court. Costs for preparing the application are not to exceed $3,500.
The Council removed two bills from payment pending further discussion. One, for $631, came from the R3M Engineering firm for responding to OPRA requests; the other, for $96.67, was for reimbursement for copies made by the Zoning Officer. The rest of the bills were approved for payment.
Resolution 17-111 appointed Councilmembers to serve on the following committees (chairperson is listed first):
- Administration: Maureen Parrott, Michael Hamilton, Peggy Malkin
- Community Development/Code Enforcement: Robin Filepp, Maureen Parrott, Joe Trammell
- Environment, Health, & Safety: Nick Murray, Robin Filepp, Peggy Malkin
- Finance: Peggy Malkin, Michael Hamilton, Joe Trammell
- Public Works: Michael Hamilton, Robin Filepp, Nick Murray
- Utilities: Joe Trammell, Nick Murray, Maureen Parrott
The first task of the administration committee will be to develop a new Borough website. The Borough’s Chief Financial Officer has advised the Council that having an official Borough website is part of complying with the State’s Best Practices Program (http://www.state.nj.us/dca/divisions/dlgs/programs/best_practices.html , and the Borough could lose state aid if this issue is not addressed. Several new bids to develop a site will be sought.
A request for approval for a rental property was tabled until the next meeting to allow the Council and attorney to review the associated statutes.
Councilmember Murray requested an allocation for funds, $220, to provide training for two residents in connection with the Community Forest Management Plan. The motion was approved pending certification of available funding.
Chair of the Environmental Commission, Eitan Grunwald, requested the assistance of the Council with getting a sign-up form for residents to receive important Borough information onto the Borough website. Having such a contact note is required as part of the quest to receive Bronze-level certification through Sustainable Jersey
Bulk garbage pickup will take place the week of October 23.
Jeff Ellentuck: provided a history of how the new Borough Attorney had previously been involved with Roosevelt in 2005. At that time, Mr. Karasick was involved in advising the Borough when the Yeshiva wanted to put a student dormitory in a residential area. Mr. Ellentuck stated that Mr. Karasick withheld critical information from the Borough at that time, namely that the synagogue intended to expand four times over. Mr. Karasick agreed that his previous tenure with the Borough was ended over the Yeshiva litigation.
Jeff Ellentuck stated that the applications completed by the new Councilmembers included questions asking if the potential candidates had been under investigation for unlawful activities and if the candidate was involved in litigation as a plaintiff or defendant. Jeff asked if anyone answered yes to this question, and specifically asked Councilmember Parrot how she answered this question, but she declined to answer.
Bert Ellentuck asked why the Governor or his representatives did not select a mayor. Acting Mayor Malkin stated that the current Council was advised strongly against getting involved in the Council selection. Mr. Ellentuck then asked the Borough Attorney if he has anyone in his office that could provide legal services to the Borough in the event that Mr. Karasick is not available. Mr. Karasick advised that he is a sole practitioner and does not have a backup attorney available. Mr. Ellentuck referenced a flyer that had been distributed prior to the election in June, wherein Council members were promising to negotiate contracts with professionals to minimize fees, and inquired how the Borough Attorney’s rate of $2500/month (excluding litigation) fit. Council member Hamilton responded that the current contract is only for the remainder of 2017, and a new contract will be negotiated at that time or sent out for bids.
Bert Ellentuck sought clarifications about opening the committee meetings to the public, noting that notices of meetings would need to be published. Acting Mayor Malkin stated that this issue was not discussed in detail since this meeting was the first time The Council was permitted to discuss the issue. Council member Hamilton stated that it’s up to the Committee Chair to decide if the notices of meetings would be published or not.
Councilmember Middleman-Filepp added that she would be publishing committee meetings for which she is responsible.
Tim Hartley expressed concerns about the urgency used to replace the Borough Attorney, as Mr. Shaklee’s resignation letter clearly stated that he would be willing to stay on and serve until a suitable replacement could be found. Acting Mayor Malkin responded that they called Mr. Karasick and asked him, as he has a previous relationship with the Borough. Councilmember Parrott stated that she had no confidence in Attorney Shaklee. Councilmember Hamilton said he was in favor of putting this position out for bid and that there will be quite a bit of hiring to do when the new Council takes office in January.
Mrs. Shan Ellentuck thanked Attorney Richard Shaklee for his years of service to the borough, and noted that he served this community for many years with integrity. He enjoyed coming to Roosevelt and talked about being able to have civil disagreements in the past.
Mark Connors stated that he felt the public is being insulted by the change in the order of events at Council meetings. Mr. Connors stated that it was clear that the Council had indeed met, since Mr. Karasick’s name was on the agenda as the new Borough Attorney. He also expressed concern that the public in general was unaware of the application deadline for Council seats. Acting Mayor Malkin responded that the three sitting Council members were kept in the dark and that only the Clerk was made aware of the deadline, and she offered printouts of the email chain as proof. Council member Hamilton made it clear that the Council is very careful not to violate any Sunshine Laws by meeting without authority.
Deb Lenart inquired about the status of the fines for the condemned firehouse, and water/sewer. Acting Mayor Malkin answered that she is in constant contact with the CFO, but does not have this information. Councilmember Trammell stated that the only fines the Borough is being threatened with are for air handling and air quality in Borough Hall. Acting Mayor Malkin clarified that DEP has not mentioned fines for the water/sewer utilities. Councilmember Hamilton stated that Borough employees are working to get approval from the State Historic Preservation Office to move forward with the roof replacement on Borough Hall and promised to have the definitive answers regarding fines at the next Council meeting.
Rainey Hartley expressed her preference for the opportunity to give public comment that encouraged discussion before the Council voted on various issues. She said she found it very beneficial to take a position as the Council members described their various perspectives.
Jeff Ellentuck reported that DEP had requested air quality reports from the last five years and that the current Council should have met with DEP by now. He appreciates having a public comment session before Council votes, but would also like one at the end of the meeting as well. He offered his assistance with sorting out the Borough website as it is not working properly.
Stacey Bonna inquired if the pH monitor was installed it the water treatment plant. Councilmember Trammell stated that it was not, and added that George Vasseur was helping out with the utilities, but that he is not employed by the Borough. Ms. Bonna also asked about the speed monitors on Rochdale Ave. not working properly. Acting Mayor Malkin stated that she will add that concern to the list of projects once the Council hires a public works employee.
Bert Ellentuck expressed his concerns about Ira Karasick being nominated by the council despite the Council’s inability to meet due to lack of a quorum. He also expressed concern for residents not being notified of the opportunity to apply for a Council seat. Council member Middleman-Filepp stated that she was directly informed of the opportunity by Council member Hamilton. Council member Murray stated that saw the vacancy announcement advertised on NJ.gov. website. Council member Parrott stated that she declined to answer as to how she was made aware of the appointment process and associated deadline.
Leo Gordon stated that it is apparent that some people are not happy with Council membership, but encouraged the public to make their selections at the coming election in November. He stated that there are other issues that need the Council’s attention: empty homes, rising taxes, and falling home values. Gordon suggested that the Council and public work peacefully and run the town, as he wants to be able to sell his home in a few years.
Mark Connors discussed the need to think critically before hiring and consider the prospect of sharing services with Millstone. He asked about the location of Borough equipment and was informed the Borough’s SUV is being used by the utilities, in order to meet DEP requirements. The yellow pick-up is being serviced. Councilmember Middleman Filepp pointed out that the new fully-staffed Council is just getting started and urged the public to let go of ill feelings from the past and to give the new Council a chance to work. Mr. Connors suggested that the Council ask the First Aid Squad what they need to function properly and that an inventory be completed for all Borough-owned property. He asked how many Council seats will be up for election in November and was told that there will be four Council seats plus the Mayor's position on the ballot .
Jeff Ellentuck again offered to share information, such as vehicle maintenance history, and Nancy Warnick offered detailed information about how the Borough employees can easily search the database to find information they may need going forward. The public comment portion was closed at 8:31 PM.