Democrats capture two GOP council seats

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    WEST MILFORD — Democrats James Warden and Robert E. Nolan swept the two contested seats, thereby reducing Republican control of the town council. Registered voters in the town increased 10 percent from the 2003 general election and voter turnout was 76 percent of registered voters, according the Kevin J. Byrnes, the town clerk. He said in the 2000 presidential election 69 percent of registered voters cast their ballots. Warden received 6,329 votes followed closely by Nolan with 6,327 votes according to unofficial results from the Passaic County Board of Elections. They handily beat incumbent Dennis J. Kirwan with 5,228 votes and School Board Member Kenneth H. Freedman with 5,147. Freedman was seeking a seat held by Patricia Lotz-Moore who declined to run for reelection. Warden and Nolan each had 27 percent of the vote compared to 23 percent for Kirwan and 22 percent for Freedman. The town clerk's office says there are 2,212 registered Democrats on the voting rolls and 3,778 Republicans. The township also has 10,847 undeclared voters and 91 Independents. A year ago, Republicans swept the election, campaignin fice, many residents became disenchanted with the Republicans lack of accomplishments while in office. Although presenting a unified front, the council and mayor even failed to meet the statutory deadline for revising the township code to legalize the new form of government. Another sore spot with some residents was an alleged lack of opportunity for opponents to make their voices heard during council meetings. In the weeks prior to the election, Warden and Nolan vowed to fight for a surcharge to be levied on towns that obtain their drinking water from West Milford. They called for "a small tax... that would generate significant income for our town," said Warden. The Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation owns approximately one-third of the land and bodies of water in West Milford according to Town Clerk Kevin J. Byrnes. Approximately 45 million gallons of water per day are drained from the impoundment and used by the City of Newark and, as needed, by Pequannock, Wayne, East Orange, Bloomfield and Belleville according to Tony DeBarros, manager of Newark's division of sewers and water supply. Another issue was "A council that will allow the public to speak at the beginning of meetings and engage in dialogue with the public," according to Nolan, who asserted the Republicans refused to conduct an open dialogue at their meetings. The Democrats also called for reestablishment of the open space fund and committee to utilize some $450,000 that has accrued for senior citizen recreation programs. Another race of significance for West Milford was that of the Passaic County Sheriff. Residents have complained for years about lack of law enforcement on Greenwood Lake which straddles the New York State line. Last Spring, Sheriff Jerry Speziale vowed to provide patrols and kept that promise to local residents. Voters returned Speziale, a Democrat, to office with a county-wide vote of 115,728 compared to 39,521 for his Republican opponent, Mark J. Michalski.