The Township of Belleville now has its third financial overseer in as many years.
On July 12, the governing body voted to hire Frank DeMaria as chief financial officer in place of Kimberly Kientz, who resigned recently after spending about a year and a half on the job.
Kientz had taken over for Judith Curran, now serving as tax collector for the township of Bloomfield.
DeMaria, who was appointed Belleville’s chief financial officer July 12, will serve in a part-time capacity at $100 per hour, according to township manager Anthony Iacono. DeMaria will put in anywhere from 10 to 30 hours per work, the manager said.
DeMaria has most recently served as auditor for Lodi and Hackensack and was CFO for Bogota from 2014 to 2017. Altogether, he has compiled about 30 years of municipal finance experience, Iacono said. “Frank is a seasoned auditor,” he added.
And he’ll use that expertise to take charge of the township’s $70 million municipal budget and to clean up several budgetary accounts that, according to Iacono, have not been reconciled for a couple of months.
But Iacono said he’s confident that the issue can be straightened out in due time and “if it’s anything serious, we will find it.”
In the long run, Iacono said, the township ultimately needs to secure a full-time CFO to properly monitor a municipal spending blueprint of $70 million.
At the July 12 meeting, the Township Council also voted to introduce an ordinance to clear the way for certain easements “for public access to a plaza and township access to utilities” at 630 and 632 Washington Ave., which Belleville has designated as a redevelopment area.
R&R Belleville Urban Renewal, LLC, plans to develop at the site, located across the street from the motorcycle mall, a mixed-use project consisting of 268 residential units plus nearly 19,000 square feet of retail space and a 489-space parking deck with an outdoor plaza reserved for public use atop the garage.
Iacono said the township proposes to use the plaza to host up to eight outdoor events during the year for the public such as art shows, music concerts and the like.
A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled in two weeks.
In another matter, First Ward Councilwoman Marie Strumolo-Burke said she was hoping to revive the township’s “Just A Party” end-of-summer celebration after a two-year shutdown due to the pandemic but got a lukewarm response from Mayor Michael Melham.
“It’s been a Belleville tradition for many years,” Burke said. “Many residents who can’t pay the high gas prices to travel or who can’t afford an expensive vacation look forward to this event. Sept. 29 would be a perfect date to end the summer with a great party, with the help of other town employees.”
Second Ward Councilman Steve Rovell said that date “should be OK,” adding that the day’s activities could be funded through monies that, he said, have been placed in a “trust account” in past years.
Still, Melham wondered if there were sufficient personnel and resources to carry out the program, particularly since he’d heard that the key organizer who has taken the lead over the years was no longer available.
“We’re a month and a half out (from the suggested date),” he added, “and, so far as I know, we have no one to do it.”
Also sounding skeptical about the event’s prospects was Councilwoman Naomi DePena.
“Logistically,” she said, “there are so many decisions to make.”
When Iacono mentioned much of the cost for items like musical entertainment, food and drink has been covered by sponsors in past years, Melham interjected, “Sponsors don’t fall out of the sky. We didn’t get enough for our summer concert series.”
Third Ward Councilman Vincent Cozzarelli suggested, “we need new blood” to ensure a successful operation.
“The first step,” Melham said, “is finding out if the venue (a local shopping mall) is still available. And remember, our township food truck festival is a week later (than the proposed Sept. 29 party date).”
Afterward, Strumolo-Burke told The Observer, “Mr. Mayor doesn’t want to party. He says he has food trucks.”
The lawmaker credited Iacono with trying to help “but we need people and I don’t think we’re going to do it now.”
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Ron Leir | For The Observer
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 WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York