Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Residents Want Answers

Two residents delivered ultimatums Monday to be carried out at tonight’s City Council meeting if they are not satisfied.

The meeting is 8 p.m. at Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

Resident Maria Pellum, who has revitalized a neighborhood association in the Crescent Avenue Historic District, wants answers on the fate of historic street lights that were to be part of a new traffic peninsula. Pellum and others worked with city and county officials on the design of the new peninsula to make sure it will fit in with the historic district. It will replace the existing traffic island at the junction of Park Avenue, East Ninth Street and Prospect Avenue.

Pellum said she filed an Open Public Records Act request to get information, but has not received it. If her questions are not answered by today, she said, she will make a complaint to the Public Advocate.

OPRA requests are supposed to be answered within seven days. If that is not possible, a governmental agency must say how soon the request will be honored. Click here for more on OPRA.

Former Councilman John Campbell, who owns a real estate agency and is also a self-styled political “kingmaker,” found his influence lacking recently when he went to show a home and met a pit bull instead. Campbell made a point of telling how he called his attorney, who happens to be Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson, as the pit bull had him backed up against the Watson Avenue house. Williamson advised him to call Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig, who sent police to his aid. Campbell said neighbors told him they had complained about problems on the block without any response from the city.

But Campbell’s main concern was with tax overpayments. Campbell said he is owed $8,000 and has tried for a year to get paid back.

“I can’t get a telephone call back from Administration and Finance,” he said.

He promised to bring members of the North Jersey branch of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers to tonight’s meeting to back him up.

“I am prepared to litigate this matter,” Campbell added.

Campbell also complained about the high cost of dealing with foreclosures, saying there were 32 foreclosures in the city and fees for a certificate of exemption as well as a certificate of occupancy were burdensome.

Pellum also said the historic district can’t get city help on dilapidated houses and dead trees that are marring the neighborhood. She questioned a series of tax liens imposed on owners for high grass and overgrown bushes, when the larger problems went unaddressed.

Resident Robert Wilson also questioned what the city was doing about a rundown house on Franklin Place, saying Faith, Bricks & Mortar would like to rehabilitate it. Wilson cited a former rooming house on East Seventh Street that the housing group had transformed into a duplex. But City Administrator Marc Dashield said the houses mentioned by Pellum and Wilson were privately owned and the owners had “strong property rights.”

Dashield said the city was upholding the property maintenance code.

“We’re on them all the time,” he said.

--Bernice Paglia


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