‘Blanket busing’ for schools? Patrollers, traffic dominate Morristown council meeting
For a few minutes this week, a casual observer might have confused Morristown council with the Morris School District plank.
At a meeting where the governing body unanimously approved a Municipal budget of $51.5 million and introduced 2 percent raises for the top brass with barely a word, board members engaged in a heated discussion about school crossing guards.
Specifically, a shortage of them. Mayor Tim Dougherty went so far as to suggest that the school district should bus most of its 5,700 students because the city’s back roads are congested with commuter traffic that makes walking risky for children.
The administration and council also heard from residents complaining about speeding high school drivers, the proliferation of rats and overcrowded houses (“piling up”) on Grant Street, and a flooded community swimming pool at the Cauldwell Playground. One man said the facility looked shabby compared to the fine municipal swimming pools in Burnham Park (Morristown) and Streeter (Morris Township) enjoyed by more affluent citizens.
“We have to do better,” Andre Khalif said of the Cauldwell pool.
Dougherty said it will be repainted after the summer swimming season, to avoid disrupting its use. The mayor added that Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) Seeks federal funds to alleviate Whippany River flooding that has plagued the low-income neighborhood for generations.
Teacher at Morristown High School John Madden, meanwhile, advocated for better signage and greater police enforcement of speed limits on Grant Street, which he described as a popular crossing connecting Early Street and Sussex Avenue.
The area has many small children, including his own 2-year-old, he said. New high school drivers are among the motorists putting them at risk, he argued.
“At some point someone is going to be killed or injured,” Madden said.
“They definitely need speed bumps on Grant Street,” echoed Johnny Jones, who works in the area. “These young kids in high school, they steal from the streets. They don’t care.
Jones added that the pile-up continued on Grant despite his complaints to officials. And the neighborhood is overrun with rats, he said, because residents aren’t placing trash bags in barrels as the city requires.
‘CAN’T WE JUST COVER THE CITY?’
Advisor Toshiba Foster sparked discussion from school crossing guards by expressing concern at seeing a young boy begin to rush down a busy street where a guard should have been posted.
Municipal Director of Public Security Michael Corcoran Jr. said he was surprised to learn that a state law enacted two years ago says elementary students can be required to walk two miles to school and high school students, two miles and a half. This has increased the need for school crossing guards, already in short supply, according to the police chief Darnel Richardson.
Foster cited quirks and inequities in the bus system. Children who live at the bottom of Flagler Street are bussed in, she said. Those at the top of Flagler can catch a bus at Morristown Neighborhood House – if they can afford to join.
The absence of crossing guards outside the high school has made navigating this stretch “a zoo in the morning”, said a resident Lorena Inestroza.
President of the council Stefan Armington recalled the Morris School District’s exceptions to bus students living near schools, if their rides involved certain “dangerous roads.”
“We should notify the school board” of our concerns, the councilman said Robert Iannaccone.
Corcoran said the city is realigning crossing guard locations and trying to recruit more guards. He and the police chief met with school officials earlier this month.
“We know Morristown is only 7% of traffic,” Dougherty added. the main highways…we can’t cover the city as a hazard? »
Morristown Green reached out to the school district for comment after Tuesday’s hybrid council session. Acting Superintendent Thomas Ficarra emailed this response:
“A meeting was held between the Morristown Police Chief, Director of Public Safety, other police personnel as well as (district safety supervisor) Rich Ferron and (district business administrator) Anthony LoFranco.
“This summer, we will be reviewing the current location and schedules of school crossing guards to ensure the District and City have the same information regarding walking routes and school crossing guards. It should be noted that all questions regarding potentially dangerous walking routes have always been settled in consultation with the police and we will continue this practice.
In another school-related move, the council authorized ‘payments in lieu of taxes’ – a tax relief known as PILOT – to a contractor for planned renovations to 200 social housing units in the village of Manahan .
A PILOT benefits city coffers while eliminating the payment of school taxes for developers. The rehabilitation works are programmed in conjunction with the privatization of the Morristown Housing Authority, a complex business.
IN OTHER CASES
The board introduced a measure approving the administration’s recommendation of 2% increases for management and non-union staff. Increases mirror increases for unionized employees, administrator says Jillian Barrick.
The ordinance establishes new salary scales. Barrick is at the top of the range ($190,000), followed by the chief of police, fire chief, chief financial officer, director of public safety and city engineer. The the list is here.
Allocations for mayor and council will remain at $26,962 for mayor and $10,017 for council members, with an additional $1,000 for council chair,
The board also approved the budget for Morristown Partnership, which oversees the Downtown Special Improvement District. Details have not been released. Armington also launched talks on a request from taxi companies for their first fare increase since 2008.
And the mayor thanked Morristown Medical Center for their expert treatment of another heart blockage. Dougherty had a heart attack in 2019.