Mayor votes in document fees

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:13

    WEST MILFORD-There will be no white flag outside the door of the West Milford Town Hall. The message echoed loud and clear by Mayor Joseph Di Donato as he cast the deciding vote reinstating charges for copies of public documents. At the public hearing/council meeting of May 5, the mayor was challenged, for the first time since taking office, by three of his council members. The unexpected negative votes from Council members Dennis Kirwan, Carmello Scangarello, and Patricia Lotz-Moore drew applause from the overcrowded room, but that failed to deter the mayor as he voted for the fees despite objections of residents. The new regulation sets a fee of 75 cents a page for documents up to 10 pages, 50 cents a page from 11-20 pages, and 25 cents for every page thereafter, with higher charges for photos, maps and other special documents. It will also overturn the ordinance by the former council, which, in December, removed the fees for copies of public documents. Ex-councilman Andy Gargano said public information should be made available to anyone who wants it. The reason the former council changed the ordinance to remove fees was to make it easier for residents to access public documents by posting as many as possible on the township website,, Gargano said. Gargano told council members, by inhibiting easy access to records, it appears as if they are putting obstacles in the way so people will not be able to get information. A view echoed by many of the residents. Some of the speakers suggested compromise; some taxpayers felt they were entitled to a few pages of copies, others said, "It's just wrong." Council members countered by telling those present that taxpayers were subsidizing insurance companies and other big businesses by giving them copies without charge. Mayor Di Donato went into a lengthy discussion of the minutia of copying documents, the cost of paper and toner, and the cost of health care benefits of township employees who had to make the copies. Acting township administrator, Kevin Byrnes, said the amount of requests for copies in all departments was excessive. But, when area resident Diana Romero asked for a specific number of copy requests in a week's time, Byrnes was unable to provide an answer. Other council members told townspeople they would find a wealth of information on the town's website, forgetting that the subject had already been approached by residents. They previously asked why all other department information was posted except for council meeting minutes and agendas. The end result? No retreat, no surrender. The residents' concerns fell on deaf ears and the ordinance was passed.