‘Lights … action … budget!’

KEARNY — No one from the public showed up to speak at last Thursday night’s hearing on Kearny’s $74.9 million municipal budget for 2017.

If adopted in its present form, the local spending blueprint which is up by $549,000 over last year and which requires an additional $520,000 in the local tax levy will compel the owner of an “average” house assessed at $100,000 to cough up $26.50 more in municipal taxes.

So predicted town CFO Shuaib Firozvi, who also projected that the school tax bill on the average house would rise by an estimated $66.

With the local share of the county tax bill factored in, Firozvi forecast that the average tax bill would reflect an increase of $116.

But those numbers on the municipal side could be worse, Mayor Alberto Santos cautioned, if the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority doesn’t come across with the $1.7 million in meadowlands tax sharing funding (since replaced by the meadows district hotel tax) owed Kearny for 2016 and an additional $4.3 million for this year.

Kearny has joined a lawsuit with other meadows communities to try and force the state Department of the Treasury designated as the backup funding vehicle — to pay.

“We’re hoping to get a resolution [of the litigation] soon,” the mayor said.

Final adoption of the budget is being put off for now until the town has more clarity around the meadows tax issue, he said.

In other municipal business, the governing body heard a pitch by Kearny-based attorney Gary Bennett, on behalf of Osborne Capital LLC, the owners of the Kmart shopping plaza on Passaic Ave., proposing the development of a single-story, 5,215-square foot MedExpress urgent care facility in the plaza’s southwest corner, with a 1,385-square foot retail shop alongside; plus a 2,500-square foot commercial tenant in the northwest section of the plaza.

Because the proposed project falls within the Passaic Ave. Redevelopment Area, Bennett said his client is seeking an “endorsement” from the mayor and council permitting them to take the next step of going before the Kearny Planning Board for site-plan approvals.

Bennett said the medical facility would operate “8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week,” would dispense only the simplest types of medication, anticipated seeing “30 patients a day” at the start which, he added, “might expand to 50 or 60” once it got rolling.

The nearest similar type operation can currently be found at a Lyndhurst shopping plaza, he said.

Santos, who characterized the proposed enterprise a “complementary use” in the redevelopment zone, said his only concern “is how [the medical service]  can be limited” so as not to impinge upon the preferred primary retail space of the plaza area a notion Bennett said he could accommodate in drafting appropriate language for consideration during siteplan review.

And the governing body offered no objection to proceeding, with that understanding in hand.

The mayor and council also heard from town Fire Chief Steven Dyl on the status of the Davis Ave. firehouse for which, he noted, “we’re approaching its one-year anniversary” of its temporary closing last May 27 due to its compromised roof. A West Long Branch contractor, George Koustas Painting & Construction, has been working on repairs.

“We’re almost there,” Dyl said. “The roof was pushing out the chimney but it’s been pulled in and re-bolted. We have a new water-tight roof and the sides of the building have been re-pointed to prevent water from getting in.” Additionally, rotted flooring where the firehouse apparatus is kept is being fixed and the bathroom flooring, which had been “collapsing,” is being repaired, he said. New leaders and gutters will be installed later, along with work on the rear parking lot, pending completion of an outdoor soil borings study by Excel Environmental Resources, he added.

Firefighters and the rig attached to the Davis Ave. facility have been temporarily reassigned to Midland Ave. Fire HQ pending the reopening of the shuttered firehouse.

In other business, the governing body adopted a policy for illuminating the front of Town Hall in the wake of installing an exterior lighting system at a cost that Firozvi listed as $41,274 as part of the celebration of Kearny’s 150-year anniversary. 

The policy says that the exterior lighting “shall be limited to the following colors and occasions: United States of America flag colors for national celebrations or commemorations including Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Veterans Day; colors generally associated with national public health education campaigns [like the recent Lupus Awareness project]; and the colors (red and white) associated with the Kearny High School Kardinals teams.”

Also, after meeting in closed session, the municipal body voted to declare Hartz Mountain Industries “in default” under a longstanding lease with the town for property near Bergen Ave. and a driveway access to a proposed Hartz tenancy.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.