Lawrence Twp. Council Meeting: Audio From Dec. 18
Listen to the full play-by-play as Lawrence Township residents protest the new “user fee” for bulk trash collection, question increased emergency medical service fees, and accuse the township of not being business friendly.
Available for listening from the media box to the right is full audio from the Dec. 18 Lawrence Township Council meeting. Also available are the meeting agenda, Township Manager Richard Krawczun’s explanatory pre-meeting memo, and copies of the four ordinances that were adopted at the meeting and four other ordinances that were introduced at the meeting.
Bulk Trash User Fee
The subject of much of the discussion that took place during the four-hour-plus meeting was the ordinance creating a new user fee for bulk trash pickup. The ordinance – which allows township council to set the fee annually anywhere between 0 and $55 – was approved by all five township council members.
Prior to the ordinance’s adoption, both during the general public participation period at the start of the meeting and the public comment period that immediately preceded the council’s unanimous adoption vote (11:50 mark, Audio Part 6), numerous township residents protested the new fee.
Referring to the new user fee as a “back-door” tax and a revenue gimmick by the township, many residents complained that they will now have to pay for a service they will likely never use. Many residents said they would prefer the township opt a “pay-as-you-go” system whereby only people who have items to discard pay for the collection service.
“My taxes are too high. I don’t want to see them go up, especially through the back door,” said Darrah Lane resident Ed Wiznitzer. “I don’t want to pay for services I don’t use.”
“We just don’t have it,” Maria Delaney of Harmony Avenue said, explaining how increasing taxes have her family thinking about leaving Lawrence Township and moving to Pennsylvania.
“I would please hope you guys would reconsider this. I work as hard as I can to put my family a little bit ahead; I work night and day practically. And every time I turn around, it’s somebody else reaching in my pocket. We can’t sustain this anymore,” Oaklyn Terrace resident Nick Sferra said.
Melvina Drive resident Victor Murray accused the township of not being as business-friendly as it needs to be in the current economic environment – a charge which several township officials were quick to oppose.
Jim Cleak of East Darrah Lane, meanwhile, said he thought it was “inconsistent” on the part of the township to charge certain fees, like those for recreation programs, to only those who use those services while at the same time charging all residential property owners for bulk trash collection, even though many will never use it.
Similarly, Marvin Van Hise objected to the township charging a variable fee for bulk trash collection when no detailed information is available about exactly how much money it actually costs to provide such services.
“The madness has to stop,” Woodlane Road resident Max Ramos said.
Listed below are the residents who protested the bulk trash user fee or asked questions about it during the Dec. 18 meeting, along with – for ease of reference – the times at which they made their comments:
- Jeffrey Reed, Pine Knoll Drive (30:10 mark, Audio Part 1)
- Joyce Copleman, Titus Avenue (38:35 mark, Audio Part 1, and 34:30 mark, Audio Part 4)
- Nick Sferra, Oaklyn Terrace (8:45 mark, Audio Part 2, and 00:10 mark, Audio Part 5)
- Max Ramos, Woodlane Road (22:15 mark, Audio Part 2, and 28:40 mark, Audio Part 4)
- Maria Delaney, Harmony Avenue (28:30 mark, Audio Part 2, and 37:40 mark, Audio Part 5)
- Victor Murray, Melvina Drive (32:00 mark, Audio Part 2)
- Marc Goepfert, Hopkins Drive (8:05 mark, Audio Part 3)
- Scott Bentivegna, Nassau Drive (11:30 mark, Audio Part 3, and 35:10 mark, Audio Part 5)
- Jim Cleak, East Darrah Lane (27:05 mark, Audio Part 3, and 00:05 mark, Audio Part 6)
- Tom Morris, Pilgrim Avenue (38:15 mark, Audio Part 3, and 14:15 mark, Audio Part 5)
- Ed Wiznitzer, Darrah Lane (41:55 mark, Audio Part 3, and 04:40 mark, Audio Part 6)
- Amy Davis, Pine Knoll Drive (49:05 mark, Audio Part 3)
- George Ford, Federal City Road (17:00 mark, Audio Part 5)
- Patricia Metzger, Pine Knoll Drive (22:30 mark, Audio Part 5)
- Jody Furch, Northbrook Avenue (24:40 mark, Audio Part 5)
- Marvin Van Hise, Federal City Road (27:45 mark, Audio Part 5)
- Glenn Collins, Beafort Way (02:30 mark, Audio Part 6)
Other Approved Ordinances
The other three ordinances that were unanimously approved by council on Dec. 18 increase the fees charged by the township for participation in recreation programs (08:25 mark, Audio Part 4), create new fees for property owners to obtain zoning permits (09:20 mark, Audio Part 4), and increase existing fees and create new fees charged to individuals who are cared for by Lawrence Township Emergency Medical Service ambulance staff (12:10 mark, Audio, Part 4).
Nassau Drive resident Scott Bentivegna objected to the zoning permit fees (10:25 mark, Audio Part 4), while the following four residents spoke out about the medical fees and questioned how township residents will be billed for medical services:
- Linda Dlabik, Lawrence Road (00:10 mark, Audio Part 3)
- Marvin Van Hise, Federal City Road (14:50 mark, Audio Part 3)
- Joyce Copleman, Titus Avenue (13:05 mark, Audio Part 4)
- Glenn Collins, Beafort Way (17:30 mark, Audio Part 4)
Four other ordinances were introduced at the Dec. 18 meeting (beginning at 00:15 mark of Audio Part 4).
These ordinances, if approved at the next council meeting, will make changes to the township’s Land Use Ordinance; allow bond proceeds to be used for the installation of a storage shed at the Twin Pines athletic fields; merge the Environmental Resources Committee and Green Team into a single committee; and combine the Greenway Committee with the Open Space and Stewardship Advisory Committee.
Councilman Michael Powers voted against the introduction of the last two ordinances, after Anne Demarais of Lawn Park Avenue (1:05 mark, Audio Part 2) and Teresita Bastides-Heron of Meriline Avenue (04:10 mark, Audio Part 2) spoke out against the merging of the committees.
The months-long debate over public participation at council meetings, seemingly, came to a quiet end when council agreed that the agenda for future meetings should be revised to allow an additional period of public participation toward the end of the meetings (37:35 mark, Audio Part 6). Speakers during the second public comment period will be limited to three minutes.
During the manager’s report segment of the Dec. 18 meeting, Krawczun reported that he and township Police Chief Daniel Posluszny had meet with Kevin Bannon, director of the Mercer County Park Commission, in response to concerns that Cold Soil Road resident Tony Singleton expressed at the Dec. 4 council meeting about the upcoming deer hunt in the Pole Farm section of Mercer Meadows Park. Krawczun announced that the county had agreed to fully close the park during hunting – as opposed to leaving certain trails accessible to pedestrians – and post signs and park rangers to advise the public of the hunt. These changes to the “deer management program” were recently announced by the county in a news release.
Fire Department Presentation
Slackwood Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Michael Oakley, joined by Chief Shaun Dlabik of Lawrence Road Volunteer Fire Co. and Chief Gary Wasko of Lawrenceville Volunteer Fire Co., made a presentation at the start of the Dec. 18 council meeting (beginning at the 3:00 mark of Audio Part 1) outlining the township’s fire apparatus replacement program and explaining why the 1991 snorkel ladder truck currently being used by Slackwood firefighters is in desperate need of repair. As part of the presentation, Oakley spoke about how the fire truck has, since 2010, been “out of service” – meaning it was not available to respond to fire calls – for nearly 175 days due to mechanical failures and other safety concerns.
During the meeting’s public participation segment, Veronica Pickering of the Lawrence Senior Center executive committee spoke – proactively, she said – about how seniors would be opposed to any future cuts to programming at the senior center or to the facility being changed into a “community center.” (06:00 mark, Audio Part 2)
Krawczun, meanwhile, offered an update on the environmental cleanup taking place at the former Pit Stop service station at 1175 Lawrence Rd. (14:15 mark, Audio Part 6); led a discussion about the township’s insurance coverage (18:00 mark, Audio Part 6); and reported that $12,000 had been raised by the sale of certain small township-owned plots to contiguous land owners (29:20 mark, Audio Part 6).
Krawczun also reminded council members that sealed bids for privatized police dispatching services are due back on Jan. 3 (34:20 mark, Audio Part 6). “It is our intention that there will be a contract award, if possible, as early as the first council meeting in January,” he said.