Town Council tangles in weeds about contract

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:46

    WEST MILFORD-Impatience met intransigence surrounding the signing of the long awaited agreement to provide a weed harvester on Greenwood Lake at last week's council meeting. Even though the final, unanimous action by the council was to approve the agreement, it was a rough ride for the council members involved. The few public members present also witnessed some bad-tempered bickering along the dais. Council Attorney William DeMarco reviewed the agreement prior to the meeting and gave it his blessing, recommending the council move forward and approve the proposal. Councilman James Warden, a Democrat, requested there be no further delay and the document be signed by the mayor on the spot. Warden said he would take the agreement personally the following day to Anthony DiNova, administrator for Passaic County and then to Fillapone to have the document completed. Bi-partisan support for the immediate signing came from Council President Bill Gervens who said the agreement met all the possible requirements needed to clear the lake, at virtually no cost to local taxpayers. However, dissent arose from Councilman Joseph Elcavage, a Republican, who said the public should have the right to view the agreement and voice support or opposition to it before the council took a vote. Elcavage said, "I don't think any harm can come, Councilman Warden, by putting this off for another week." Warden responded with scarcely contained anger. "All I know is, Councilman Elcavage, this has been in the works since last August and we're still dilly-dallying around." Warden continued, "DeMarco reviewed the agreement; he has given the council his recommendation that it's okay and I don't see exactly what the delay here is other than politics." Elcavage responded, "I would still like to see the public given the opportunity to go over this." Gervens joined the debate saying, "We've been beating this to death for many meetings, in deference Councilman Elcavage; I'd love to see this thing signed tonight." Councilman and fellow Republican Paul Bailey voiced concerns over the lack of detail in the agreement with regard to the precise timing of the weed harvesting and the hours worked by the county provided labor. Gervens interrupted Bailey speaking irately, "Councilman Bailey, you're kicking a gift horse in the mouth." Bailey responded, "If you're going to be rude you can leave." To which Gervens quickly responded, "I should be rude and I'm going to get ruder." Bailey motioned to leave the meeting, saying, "If you're not going to be professional, I'm not staying. This is ridiculous. This is childish." Bailey was given little encouragement to stay by Gervens when he immediately reacted by laughing and telling Bailey, "Put your diapers on." Bailey again made as if to leave, saying, "I'm out of here," while remaining in his seat, although seemingly furious at the altercation. As tempers calmed Warden spoke, saying, "I respectfully request that we consider this tonight and vote on it." The agreement between West Milford, Passaic County and the Greenwood Lake Commission stipulates that a weed harvester will be provided to the town for use in clearing weeds on the New Jersey portion of Greenwood Lake. The agreement also affirms that Passaic County, through the Sheriff's Department, will provide workers through its offender rehabilitation programs as well as providing all repairs and maintenance of the harvester. Funding to purchase the $150,000 harvester was provided by a grant arranged by Ella Fillapone of the Greenwood Lake Commission from the Department of Environmental Protection. The only obligation to the town would be to have insurance coverage in the event damage to other water vehicles or property while in operation, and for the collection and disposal of the weeds. The agreement was signed immediately following the roll call vote by Mayor Joseph DiDonato and passed to Warden to obtain the signature of the other contract partners.