My Westwood - February Council Corner

Christopher Montana, Council President

On January 3, the borough held its 123rd reorganization which included the swearing in of returning Council Members Robert Bicocchi and Beth Dell, borough professionals and the reappointment of a dozen volunteers to borough committees and boards such as Zoning, Library and Health to name a few.  We also had the pleasure of swearing in our Volunteer Police Reserves, and honoring Jim Gines as volunteer of the year, Westwood Fire Department Member Jaymee Hodges, Westwood Ambulance Corp. Member Denise Burns and Police Reserve Shawn Yates for their outstanding volunteerism, service and commitment to Westwood.

Focus on community volunteers was also on prominent display during the Mayor and Council Meeting of January 17th where over 20 additional residents were appointed to fill open seats on the earlier mentioned committees & boards in addition to Recreation, Senior Citizens Advisory, Environmental, Planning and a host of others.

These volunteer committee and board members are critical to providing input and recommendations to the Council and supporting our Municipal operations. We thank these individuals as well as all members for their time and commitment to our community. 

All boards and committees have an appointed Council Liaison. The Liaison is a non-voting member of their respective board and committee.  The Council Liaisons act as a conduit between the Council and each group in order to achieve common goals.

 The borough’s Council serves the legislative & planning functions of our municipal government. We establish goals and objectives each year on a host of issues, concerns and long-term visions for our community.  In many cases, we work with and through the committee and boards to identify areas of need or concern in addition to development of an action plan.  Like any forward thinking organization, a commitment to planning, constant review of our goals and progress is a major part of achieving success.  We must build on our successes and identify key factors that might be holding us back.

In the third and fourth quarters of 2016 the Council was hard at work on a number of 2016 initiatives relating to progress around the goals we set, in addition to laying the groundwork for 2017 initiatives.  A partial summary of the progress made against 2016 goals and our initiatives for 2017 includes:

  • Finance: Reviewing our 2016 financial progress to plan on a monthly basis, allowed us to take a more thoughtful approach to revenue and appropriation trends.  With monthly oversight we were able to identify real-time trends, limiting “knee-jerk” reactions to our planned budget and borrowing initiatives.  Our goal in 2017 is to continue monthly budget oversight, deliver an on-time budget focused on keeping costs within our control in check, delivering the services residents expect in tact and responsible investment in our infrastructure with an eye on further reducing our boroughs debt.
  • Police:  Through short and long term planning, improved understanding of borough finances and improved communication with the Police Union, our Police Committee was able to negotiate a contract that was fair to both the Police Union and our Tax-Payers, ultimately bending the cost curve to a more reasonable near term and affordable long-term forecast.  The addition of 3 new Police Specials in 2016 to assist our Offices has freed our WPD to focus on more “mission critical” items while helping to alleviate escalating overtime.  For 2017, our plan is to fill open positions by hiring 2 new Police Officers and training newer offices to staff our dispatch when needed.  These planned actions will assist in keeping our community safe while helping us reduce the upward trend on Police over-time.
  • Parking Authority: With the help of their Council Liaison, the authority set out to achieve the goal of keeping our down-town shopping and retail district a premiere destination in the Pascack Valley. Long discussed initiatives, recommended by our parking consultant Walker Associates were implemented.  These thoughtful and smart changes were made to assure long-term viability and growth that will benefit business and property owners alike in our central business district.  In 2016, CBD employee parking areas were designated to free up parking spots for shoppers.  Meter pricing was adjusted downward for business employees and lighting was improved to ensure their safety.  For 2017 the Council and Parking Authority plan to address commuter parking in residential areas while addressing the rates non-resident commuters pay.

Although there is far more to share with you, my space is limited. The above reflects a brief example of our changing municipal governance mindset relative to short and long term planning and goal setting.  The only constant in life today is change; we must adapt and be light on our feet.  Keeping our eyes on existing trends and identifying future challenges coupled with transparency and communication is paramount to keeping Westwood affordable and providing services and the quality of life we have come to expect in Westwood.