HAWTHORNE, NJ – Council President Frank Matthews and Council Vice President John Lane were returned to their positions as leaders of the borough council following a nomination and vote by the council during the 2021 online reorganization meeting.

Matthews was nominated by Lane and Lane was nominated by Matthews, in turn, seconded by Councilman Joseph Wojtecki.  Both Matthews and Lane were voted to their roles by the councilmembers without dissent.

Both Matthews and Lane were sworn in by Mayor Goldberg during the virtual session.

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Council President thanked his family and the councilmembers for their support.  He spoke of “some change that was chosen and some change that was thrust upon us,” referring to the passing of Councilman Sinning in 2019.  “I know that Garry would be pleased with the job,” Michael Sciarra has done.  “Both Mike [Sciarra] and Rayna [Laiosa] stepped up, hit the ground running, and I could not be prouder to call them my council colleagues.  I’ve said in previous speeches that we need to focus on issues that work together and concentrate on what unites us and not what divides us.  After this year’s national election, that could not be more true.  We do a good job in Hawthorne of not playing politics in making our decisions and doing the right thing for our residents.  I pledge to keep it that way.  Last year the items on our agenda fell into two categories, quality of life issues and administrative issues and I think this year will be pretty much the same.” 

Matthews identified quality of life issues such as speeding, a full traffic division with the police department, truck traffic from the highways into town, parking issues, environmental goals such as the electric charging station at the library, paper shredding and sytrofoam drives, potentially buying renewable energy vehicles, as well as CARES funding for local businesses and those in need.

Administrative issues touched upon where the borough-wide tax re-evaluation.  “I know it wasn’t a popular thing for many people but it was mandated by a lawsuit from Paterson.  The process had a few bumps but, as expected, some properties increased, some decreased, and some stayed the same.  About 60% of our single-family homes decreased some amount.  Anyone not happy with the re-assessment should file a tax appeal this year.  Contact the borough administrator and he can direct you to whom you should contact and timelines that need to be met.”  Matthews spoke of the submitted affordable housing plan which was approved by the state.  “We now have a system for residents to inquire and apply for such units if they qualify.  Anyone interested should contact our borough housing coordinator to see if they qualify and move into such units once they are built.  Now that our affordable housing plan is in place, our Master Plan can finally be updated.  This should take about three months for our planner to complete.”

Matthews discussed flooding issues and working with the administration to prepare a fiscally sound budget “which hopefully comes in below the 2% increase.”

The council president also said that as the year progresses there will be more done on the exterior of the Municipal Building and its grounds as well as work to be done at the municipal pool. 

Vice President Lane thanked the councilmembers and the administration.  “We are all very well aware of how challenging 2020 was for all us, so there is no need to elaborate on it.  With the start of 2021 and with the COVID 19 vaccines now available, I am confident that we are on our way to defeating this deadly virus.  Rest assured, even with the vaccine, we are not letting our guard down.  Please continue to wear face coverings, wash your hands, and social distance.  With these three very important practices and the help of the vaccine, we will be able to stop the spread of this virus.  Everyone on our council and in our administration work tirelessly to get our jobs done like most of you, through the emails, text messages, and GoToMeeting virtual platforms.”

He thanked the councilmembers, mayor, borough administrator, and municipal workers for “keeping our public services going, including our food pantry, throughout the shut down, quarantines, and very uncertain times.  And of course to our Hawthorne first responders and essential workers, our police, fire department, emergency medical technicians who ride with the Hawthorne Ambulance Corps and our Department of Public Works team who all have done and continue to do an outstanding job getting us through this pandemic.  A heartfelt thank-you to our Hawthorne residents who are doctors, nurses, health care providers, teachers, clergy, nursing home, daycare workers, our mail and package deliveries, restaurateurs, grocery and drug store workers, and gas station attendants, all of whom tirelessly show up every day to provide their talents and services to keep us all going.”

Lane said that he looked forward to new water system upgrades, road program, new equipment for the DPW, and the approval of the purchase of new fire department equipment.  “Our fire department will have the best, most efficient that is available in the marketplace today.”  Lane said that renovations had been done on the second floor of the municipal building to better serve residents and borough contractors.

“We were fortunate to have received over a million dollars in grant money from the federal government which was given to Passaic County and to Hawthorne,” Lane said.  The money was used to purchase personal protective equipment for borough emergency service personnel.  “We will be utilizing this equipment to its fullest potential for years to come, for the life safety benefit of the residents.”  Lane thanked Councilwoman Laiosa and Councilman Sciarra for “the outstanding job that these two newest councilmembers did on behalf of our business community.  They had a vision, take took the opportunity and took it to the next level.”

Lane hailed the borough’s ability to make necessary purchases while staying under the 2% cap.  “We passed two very important ordinances, one being to address truck traffic that challenges our local streets.  This will be a big help to our local residents.”  Lane said that overweight trucks were being ticketed by the police.

The second was a storm water ordinance, which Lane thanked Laiosa for “taking the lead on this one.”  Lane said that NJDEP mandated every town adopt an ordinance to conform with storm water rules.  “The Ordinance Committee, along with the administration, Boswell Engineering, and our attorney drafted our ordinance which will be a big help controlling storm water run off, especially for the larger developments proposed to our community.”

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