Council vacillates on code approval

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:13

    WEST MILFORD-Residents will have to wait a little longer before the Town Council adopts a new administrative code. The council first voted to pass the code at a public hearing, June 2, but changed their minds moments later. The vote to approve the code was five to one with Councilwoman Patricia Lotz-Moore casting the opposing vote. Seconds later, Mayor Joseph Di Donato stated it was obvious the administrative code needed to be revised. The mayor's suggestion to the council, that they wait until the changes were made before passing it through, brought applause from the audience. The second vote yielded the same five to one results. This time the single opposing vote was from Councilman Joseph Elcavage. In the end, the Township Administrative Code was passed and rescinded. The administrative code sets forth the duties, responsibilities, and powers of municipal officers, departments, and agencies in the town, and establishes the manner in which they operate. The general laws of New Jersey govern it. The code outlines the lines of supervisory responsibility and accountability, and procedures to be followed in order to carry out the functions and activities of the municipal government. New Jersey Law mandates the administrative code be written and/or revised within 90 days of a new administration taking office. Statutes allow for an extension of the 90-day rule, but the provision for an extension requires an interim resolution. The council has failed to put forth an interim resolution. The unusual voting procedure came after a steady stream of residents made their way to the podium with questions, complaints, and accusations. They pointed out contradictions and wanted explanations. Doris Aaronson, protested the elimination of the Open Space Committee. She also said elimination of the Resource Development Committee was political, planned so the council could replace it with the newly formed Tourism Committee headed by Councilman Paul Bailey. Celeste Byrne of Macopin Road and a number of other residents protested elimination of the Open Space Committee. She questioned the number of departments under the new code. Township Attorney William De Marco said the change was due to the change in government form. Statutes allow six under the Mayor-Council form of government. He explained there would be no reduction in functions of departments. Byrne also questioned a change in the code as it was written from, "there shall be" to "there may be" a deputy clerk. "Is there a deputy clerk?" she asked. The current deputy clerk is Denise Loeffel. The language regarding the Department of Parks and Recreation made it look as if it does not have to answer to any authority. "As if it is its own entity," she said. De Marco said the language conforms to statutes. James Warden questioned the legal advertisement, saying it was obvious that no one had bothered to read it before publication. De Marco said it was not practical to publish all 285 pages of the code. "We put the changes in the legal advertisement. The entire code is posted on the Web site." Warden stated there were many changes. "My concern is we are setting the standard of rule for the township for years to come," Warden said.