Clifton's New Council Gets to Work


photo from screen capture

At Tuesday’s meeting of the City Council, several important topics were raised but voices were not. There was a refreshing sense of calm, with the newly-sworn council members all demonstrating their adherence to campaign promises of a respectful, united council.

The public portion opened with some discussion regarding the first reading of an ordinance to amend the salary guides for city employees and the medical benefits for retirees. Councilman Latona asked several questions about this and the city attorney clarified that in order to qualify for lifetime benefits, employees had to have at least 25 years of service with at least the last ten being in Clifton. In theory, this means that a police officer from West Milford could transfer to our police department after 15 years and after putting in another ten in Clifton, retire with medical benefits for the rest of his life. When it came to the vote, Councilman Gibson was the lone "no" vote and Councilwoman Sadrakula abstained. The rest of the council voted yes. This ordinance would also add Juneteenth to the list of holidays for city employees.

City Manager Nick Villano assured the public that he was in daily contact with the director of the Passaic Valley Water Commission (PVWC) and was keeping track of the many recent problems. Councilman Kolodziej, who is a PVWC commissioner, brings regular updates to the council as well. Villano said that under the new executive director, James Mueller, communication between the city and the PVWC was much improved.

During public privilege, resident Micki Gaudet asked the council to address the issue of traffic and pedestrian safety around our city schools. She cited a Department of Transportation recommendation regarding which type of crosswalk is considered to be safest and asked the council to make repainting crosswalks and hiring more crossing guards a priority, despite deficits in the budget.

There was also some discussion around the warming center at the Recreation Building on Main Avenue. Resident Joe Siano spoke about the problems some businesses in the area were having with the clients approaching customers and store owners for food or money when they leave the center in the morning. Villano said that the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office is supposed to help with transporting people to and from the warming centers, bringing them back to whichever area they had been found in when the Code Blue was called.

Francesco Muoio, who ran for council in the recent election, made a dramatic suggestion for saving the city money. He recommended that the council members, who are part time employees with a nominal salary, not be given the full medical benefits that they are now offered. Currently all council members, including the mayor, are eligible for full medical benefits while they are serving and can purchase continuing coverage once no longer on the council if they have served at least two consecutive terms. The medical and hospitalization insurance plans include coverage for all dependents under the age of 26, which applies to only two of our council members - Joe Kolodziej and Rosemary Pino. Kolodziej said that although he doesn’t receive health benefits from the city he would oppose eliminating them. “Serving our community should not be exclusive to the rich or retired…Health benefits, pension, time off, and salary are all part of a total package to attract and retain quality employees whether they are full-time or part-time.”

Former Board of Education commissioner Jim Daley invited the members of City Council to a public meeting, hosted by Clifton Citizens for Change. This group has been circulating a petition to modify our form of government and to stagger elections so that the entire council isn’t being replaced all at once. “We want this question on a ballot so that the voters can decide.” The group is hosting a meeting on Wednesday, January 18, at 7 pm at the Elks Lodge - 775 Clifton Avenue. Doors will open at 7 pm.

During council privilege, Kolodziej shared some important and beneficial information regarding New Jersey’s ANCHOR (Affordable New Jersey Communities for Homeowners and Renters) program. This program is meant to help offset the cost of property taxes and replaces the Homestead Benefit. The ANCHOR program removes the age and home ownership restrictions of the Homestead Benefit, making a rebate available to many more homeowners and to renters, as well. The deadline to apply is February 28, 2023. Click HERE for more information and to fill out an application.

Gibson made a plea to the community regarding recycling. “We have to buy into the program for recycling; it’s really important.” When recycling ends up in the garbage, he explained, it increases the tonnage we are dumping, which in turn increases the cost to the city. “Try to get as much of our recycling out of [the garbage] so we don’t have to dump it.”

Councilwoman Sadrakula shared that this council voted unanimously to change the dates for budget meetings, which will no longer fall on Saturdays. Sadrakula had brought this up before as an issue as Saturdays are a day of rest for observant Jews and scheduling important meetings then excluded that part of our community from participating. The next budget meeting will be on Tuesday, January 31 at 6 pm.

The next City Council meeting will be on Tuesday, February 7. The public portion begins at 8 pm at City Hall. You can find agendas for City Council, Planning Board, and Board of Adjustment HERE.

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