Mayor Touts News on Springfield Avenue at Reorg Meeting (VIDEO)
Meanwhile, newest Township Committee member India Larrier looks forward to focusing on shared services and neighborhood associations.
The empty Wyman Ford dealership is scheduled to be sold and converted into a retail space in the new year, according to Mayor Vic DeLuca.
During his State of the Township address at the annual Jan. 1 Township Reorganization meeting, the Mayor dropped that bit of news, as well as the fact that a developer is looking to buy and build on a Springfield Avenue property bounded by Jacoby Street and Chancellor Avenue, near the Irvington border. (DeLuca says he will provide more details when he can.)
Otherwise, DeLuca mostly focused on Maplewood's accomplishments over the last ten years — six of which he has served as the town's mayor. DeLuca touted the new Springfield Avenue streetscape, the sale and impending development of the former police station site, the shared municipal court and more. He noted that four new contracts with fire, police, police superior officers and public workers would give the Township the needed predictability to continue to work within the 2% state-mandated budget cap and help keep local property taxes from escalating.
DeLuca lamented the fact that he felt state leadership in Trenton had not addressed the issue of property taxes, and that towns like Maplewood continued to struggle to meet increased operating costs while state aid had been dramatically reduced.
For her part, Larrier continued with her message from the campaign trail.
While agreeing with DeLuca that the state of Maplewood was "great," Larrier noted, "We do have work to do." She acknowledged the tax burden that many Maplewoodians struggle with, and said she would continue the Township aggressive approach to seek shared service agreements with other towns.
Larrier also felt that supporting and increasing neighborhood associations was the method for sustaining Maplewood's strong sense of community as well as combating "perceptions of crime." Larrier noted that crime is actually down (a statement echoed by DeLuca in his State of the Township address). Larrier also reiterated her commitment to focusing on the the town's three business districts — including Irvington Avenue.
The event included reappointments of Township personnel as well as a more somber moment when Township Clerk Liz Fritzen read off the names of local residents involved in civic life who had passed away in 2011.
Utlimately, however, the mood of the meeting was celebratory and optimistic. As DeLuca said, he felt that Maplewood had hit the "sweet spot," with "the economy slowing turning in our favor and major development projects coming to fruition."