2012-11-29 / Front Page

New council already debating electric rates, firehouse issues in South River

BY JACQUELINE DURETT Correspondent

SOUTH RIVER — Whether the change in the balance of power coming to the Borough Council on Jan. 1 will impact current initiatives, “all depends on whether the Democrats meant what they said,” Mayor John Krenzel said.

Krenzel, a Republican, is referring to the victory of Democrats Shawn Hausserman and Jim Jones over incumbent Republican council members John Trzeciak and Donna Farren. The council, divided 3-3 this year, has often been split on contentious issues, with the Republican mayor breaking the tie. Democrats will now have a 5-1 edge.

However, with issues such as the electric rate and a new firehouse finding their way into party-divided discussions at many council meetings, the borough’s current direction may change.

“A 15 percent reduction in the electric rates is insane,” Krenzel said. “This [is] according toalltheexperts.Adda5percentreduction in the property taxes, and the town will grind to a halt. There will be no plans.”

Hausserman said the Democrats had planned to work with Krenzel on their goals, which he said are “well within reach.” He said that under the Republican administration, spending has increased by $2 million.

“All of those increases came in an era when every public and private entity in the country was spending less and reducing waste,” he said, pointing to hiring borough personnel, giving raises and purchasing vehicles as areas of large spend.

“Our plan to begin returning the huge electric utility surplus back to the ratepayers is just common sense arithmetic. For the taxrate reduction, we will be challenging our department heads and especially our chief financial officer, Mr. [Joseph] Zanga, to come up with the necessary spending cuts. This will be the first time in five years that they have been tasked to be more efficient, so I’m sure that departmental excesses exist,” he added. “If our professionals can’t figure out how to get more done with less spending, we’ll find people that can get the job done.”

Krenzel said the Democrats, during their campaign, did not talk about what projects they favored advancing.

“Their campaign was all negative,” he said.

As for the firehouse, borough officials were to meet Nov. 26 to discuss next steps. The current facility on George Street is in significant disrepair, but the borough has limited options for where to locate a replacement.

“The Democrats keep asking for the firemen’s input, which the firemen have given many times,” Krenzel said. “This time I called the Democrats on it, and they will get the firemen’s input.”

Krenzel said he anticipates that the Democrats will face the same challenges the Republicans did in trying to locate the right site.

“That is the problem with having the majority: You now have to make the decisions,” he said.

Meeting recap

At the Nov. 19 Borough Council meeting, several resolutions were approved regarding cleaning up the damage from Hurricane Sandy, most notably at the Jackson Street pump station, the William Street pump station generator, and the building at 55 Reid St., which housed the food bank and the Office on Aging.

For those repairs, the borough has approved bonding up to $3.5 million. According to the resolution, the bonding is being done with the expectation of reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Also at the meeting, Adriano Soares was named as borough director of public works.

“He deserved it after Hurricane Sandy,” Krenzel said. This was also the last public meeting for Business Administrator Andrew Salerno, Krenzel said. Zanga will serve as interim administrator at a daily rate of $125 until a new business administrator is named.

At the meeting, Zanga also was named as borough representative for the Public Power Association of New Jersey, replacing Salerno.

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