2012-11-15 / Front Page

Democrats regain control of council in South River

Former Councilmen Shawn Haussermann, Jim Jones to rejoin governing body in Jan.

SOUTH RIVER — The balance of power on the Borough Council will change Jan. 1, when Democrats Shawn Haussermann and Jim Jones take office. Currently the council is an even split, with Republican Mayor John Krenzel often breaking a tie.

In the election, Haussermann and Jones beat Republican incumbents John Trzeciak and Donna Farren for the two open three-year terms. Haussermann received 2,605 votes; Jones 2,526. Trzeciak garnered 2,044 votes, and Farren took home 1,925.

“When we chose these gentlemen to run this year, I knew we had a great slate,” said Tele Koukourdelis, chairman of the South River Democratic Organization. “Their hard work during the campaign has paid off and now, with these extra votes on the council, some of the items the Democrats have tried to accomplish will actually happen.”

Haussermann said he and Jones, who both served on the council previously, concentrated on individual neighborhood issues during the campaign, and it paid off.

“It was just unbelievable seeing the numbers come in on election night with a 500- vote margin in our favor,” he said, adding that the strategy also helped involve residents in the political process, some for the first time.

“Once engaged and present at council meetings, they saw a Republican administration that was disrespectful of their concerns,” Haussermann said. “They saw an administration that used secret meetings, closed to the public, to decide the issues. And they went home and told their neighbors how they were treated by the incumbents. When Jim and I knocked on doors, many registered Republicans told us that, at least locally, they were voting for Democrats this year.”

Jones said many residents they spoke with during the campaign expressed concerns about the electric rates and the amount of money in the electrical surplus account. He said he plans to see strategies implemented to address electric-rate increases and to decrease property taxes.

Haussermann said he believes many residents feel let down by the Republicans. “I also think many residents just got tired of hearing the same Republican promises and slogans year after year, but seeing no accomplishments. They promised a new firehouse, a solar farm, an emergency generator and a new road-paving program but failed every time. Their only achievement was enacting the highest tax and electric rate increases in South River’s history.”

As for the firehouse, Jones said, “I want to sit with a committee to resolve the new firehouse issue and stop stringing the firemen along as the Republicans have done for the past five-plus years.”

Haussermann said he and Jones have a challenge ahead as they “turn around five years of uncontrolled Republican spending and get that money back into residents’ pockets.”

He said he and Jones intend to put into effect a hiring and purchasing freeze, a personnel review, and zero-based budgeting principles, actions he said that were effective when they served on the council in the past. “[They] worked before and they will work again.”

Jones added that he doesn’t want to see every request go through the borough administrator as he said it does now.

Jones also said there are new immediate concerns following the damage from the hurricane.

“We have to overcome Hurricane Sandy,” he said. “There was a lot damage done to borough buildings and infrastructures. This will cost money, but we will evaluate each situation and plan for the best outcome for the future for the borough and our residents.”

Haussermann added that the two have new ideas for shared services that will also reduce costs. “...We will truly welcome the public’s input toward our plans. We will respect them and their comments. And we will keep them informed by deliberating the issues in public. The overwhelming turnout in our favor shows that South River residents want us to succeed. We won’t let them down.”

The Borough Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19, with a business session at 7 p.m. and the regular meeting at 8:30. The council will reorganize with its new members in January.

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