Council: No camp just yet …

BELLEVILLE

A local resident’s pitch to conduct a sports-related children’s camp at the Belleville Little League field was nixed by the township governing body Tuesday, June 13.

Chris Michele, a 10-year Little League coach who is completing his seventh year as a physical education teacher at School 5, was excited about the prospects of launching his “Sound Fundamental Sports Camp” this summer.

Outlining his plan to Mayor Ray Kimble and the Township Council, Michele said the camp’s focus would be instructional, not competitive, and aimed at kids ages 5 to 11.

“We would work on things like hand-eye coordination and foot work,” he explained, as a way of prepping youngsters so that they can tailor these types of skills to “a sport they like.”

He said he envisions the camp as a place “where your child’s sports dreams begin.”

By working on such techniques as “throwing and kicking a ball,” whether that applies to baseball, football or soccer, kids will learn “the fundamentals that apply to every sport,” he said.

And, Michele added, “if the camp is successful, I would give back to the town by sponsoring free sports clinics.”

Michele said he had an agreement with the Belleville Little League to use its diamond as a location to conduct his proposed camp which would be offered Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, with Fridays set aside for “rain-out” replacements.

He said he anticipated charging a participation fee of $320 per child plus $25 for equipment and insurance.

If restrooms at the Little League field weren’t accessible, Michele said he would rent Port-o-johns for kids to use. 

As for insurance coverage, Michele said that he had a prospective agent lined up so that insurance was “just a phone call away.”

Additionally, if the Little League field needed some type of improvement, “I’d be more than happy to make a donation as my way of giving back” to the community in which he was “born and raised,” he said.

Nonetheless, after hearing his presentation, local government umpires made the call that Michele surely didn’t want to hear.

“I don’t think we could let you use town property (for a private enterprise),” Mayor Kimble announced.

But Second Ward Councilman Steve Rovell came up with a possible remedy, recommending that Michele consider setting up a non-profit entity and then returning for possible reconsideration by the township. 

“Otherwise,” Rovell said, “it’s a private business.”

In other developments at last week’s meeting, the governing body:

• Introduced the 2017 municipal budget, which, according to Town Manager Mauro Tucci, would trigger a local tax increase on the municipal portion of the tax rate, of about $47 on the “average” house assessed at $238,132. A public hearing is slated for July 20. No figures were available for the school and county portions. Overall, the budget is rising, from $62,926,338 in 2016 to $64,038,998 for 2017 and the local tax levy is up, from $49,650,822 last year to $49,938,695 this year, an uptick of $287,868. Hikes in employee pension and health costs are primary reasons for the budget boost, Tucci said. Labor-wise, the township must negotiate new contracts with the unions representing firefighters and blue- and white-collar civilian employees. 

• Heard Tucci report that a water main break had occurred Monday, June 12, after a contractor retained by Essex County to replace a guardrail at Franklin and Belleville Aves. reportedly upended a support post that ended up rupturing the township’s 12-inch water main. He said the township would seek compensation from the county. As of last week, the amount was not yet known.

• Heard First Ward Councilwoman Marie Strumolo-Burke gripe that “illegal basement apartments are getting out of hand” in the Silver Lake section and that the township needed to amend an existing ordinance to “raise the penalties” on landlords found to have knowingly rented such units.

• Heard from residents that sections of Belmohr St. were in need of repair and which, they argued, should be given priority over Brighton St., which is included on a list of township streets due to be milled and repaved later this year.

• Denied a request by Capricorn Island Café to conduct a block party on Belmont Ave. between Franklin and Cross Sts. on June 24. Mayor Kimble said the proposed activity could interfere with traffic to and from Clara Maass.

• Adopted an ordinance amending traffic regulations to clarify overnight parking restrictions for “trucks.” Police Chief Mark Minichini told The Observer he’s proposed to make the language “more specific” because “people with mini-pickups and SUVs who had them only for personal [not commercial] use were getting ticketed” and he considered that unfair to those owners.

• Authorized soliciting Requests for Proposals “for the revaluation of all real property in the township,” as part of Belleville’s compliance with an order by the county tax administrator to conduct a reval. The RFPs are due to be opened at 11 a.m. on July 20.

• Awarded a $408,500 contract to TNS Construction LLC of Stanhope for interior renovations to the Silver Lake Fire House No. 3 as the lower of two bids submitted. Tucci said the township will likely be spending an additional $50,000 for new kitchen cabinets, countertops and appliances after a bond is passed to provide those funds.

• Agreed to purchase, under state contract, two 2017 Elgin Pelican 3-Wheel mechanical sweepers from W. E. Timmerman Co. of Whitehouse, under a provision that the township “would be trading in one 2000 Elgin Pelican 3-Wheel mechanical sweeper and [that] W.E. Timmerman has delivered one of the 2017 [sweepers].”  

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.