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By PAUL J. PEYTON
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader
WESTFIELD — Heading into his last year as a member of the Union County Improvement Authority, Gregory S. McDermott of Westfield only has positive thoughts regarding his tenure on the authority which began in 1995.
The authority has the power to issue bonds, notes and/or obligations to finance acquisitions, construction projects and renovations utilizing the county’s Aaa bond rating.
Just concluding a year as Chairman, Mr. McDermott will serve the next year as one of just two Republican members of the nine-member authority, a result of the current 9-0 command of the Board of Chosen Freeholders by the Democratic Party.
All authority appointments are by the Freeholder board, one which has been under the Democrats control since 1997. Mr. McDermott was appointed when Republicans had the majority on the Freeholder board.
Last year Mr. McDermott, who serves as a Westfield Councilman, had the uneasy task of chairing an authority where the Democrats had the majority.
That occurred when, with Republicans holding a 3-2 edge, the Freeholders last year increased the Authority by four seats and filled them with Democrats. This year, Republican George Gore, who ran on the unsuccessful GOP Freeholder slate last year, was replaced by County Deputy Manager and Director the Department of Economic Development, George Devanney.
But, despite these changes on the board, Mr. McDermott said looks fondly on his chairmanship.
Among the projects that came to fruition in 1998 was the issuance of $2 million in bonds to fund the Freeholders Access 2000 program which, he explained, “was an opportunity for the various school boards to get money for buying computers.”
Also completed the redevelopment of Linden Airport, a ground lease program to the tune of $15 million which allowed for the development around the airport and improve the area. An entertainment center as well a hotel are just part of the overall development plan.
The Authority also managed to complete another capital lease pro
gram whereby towns have an opportunity to make capital equipment purchases.
The plan, approved this year by the Authority as well as the Freeholder board, will be in the range of $12 million. Both Westfield and Fanwood, for instance, plan to purchase fire engines as well as Public Works trucks through the program.
Two years ago the Authority, through its lease program, helped finance the refinancing for Union County College “which saved them approximately $2.2 million during the course of their refinancing.”
He noted that the refinancing has helped keep tuition down while enabling the college to improve their facilities which, in the long run, helps
Mr. McDermott Looks Fondly on Chairmanship
Of Improvement Group
CONTINUED ON PAGE 7
Sharpshooters Reduce Herd Of Deer by 118; Program May End One Year Early
ELIZABETH The 1998-1999 Union County program to reduce the white-tailed deer population in the Watchung Reservation was concluded March 4. Since January 12th, marksmen took 118 deer from the county’s largest park.
Recreation Department officials said preliminary indications are that this will be the final year of the program since it is believed the herd has been cut to 20 per square mile, the desired goal of the county’s Deer Management Program.
In 1993, the deer population in the park was approximately 180 deer per square mile. The latest effort was the fourth year of a program designed to bring the size of the herd down to a density of 20 deer per square mile. The density goal was established using aerial infrared photographs, and a computer-generated population model.
County Park Director Charles Sigmund, Jr. explained the environmental reasons for the deer management program as follows:
“The proliferation of deer, due primarily to the lack of natural predators, was threatening the health of the reservation’s forest. Something had to be done to protect the smaller mammals, songbirds and insects from the loss of food and shelter as the deer eat away the vegetation,” Mr. Sigmund stated.
“Residents were also asking that action be taken due to the increased threat of Lyme disease which is transmitted by deer ticks,” added County Freeholder Chairman Nicholas P. Scutari.
He also expressed concern for residents’ “loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in residential landscaping and the increasing threat of injury and property damage due to motor vehicle accidents.”
As a response to these problems, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders appointed a Dear Management Subcommittee in 1994, composed of municipal representatives, wildlife management experts, animal rights advocates and Division of Parks and Recreation staff, to study possible solutions to the situation.
It was determined that a shotgun program, carried out by volunteer agents, was the most effective method available. The program, the first of its kind in New Jersey, has proceeded safely and efficiently over the past four years, officials stated.
County officials note that not only is the Watchung Reservation forest being saved as a result of the program, but that the reduction of the herd resulted in significant donations of veni
son to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside. In 1998, the county donated venison resulted in meals for almost 27,000 needy and homeless individuals.
County officials anticipate that analysis of the results of this year’s program will reveal that the goal of 20 deer per square mile has been reached, one year ahead of schedule.
Another infrared aerial survey will be conducted the third week in March and given to the Deer Subcommittee as part of their annual evaluative process.
“It is believed that use of the current volunteer intensive program will come to an end when the results of this year are analyzed,” concluded Freeholder Chairman Scutari.
“Obviously, in order to continue to keep the deer herd at an environmentally responsible level, and to allow the forest to regenerate over time, an abbreviated or female methodology will have to be put in place. At this time we are not sure what form our ‘maintenance’ program will take.
“The Deer Subcommittee will consider that subject and a future course of action will then be recommended to the Board of Chosen Freeholders. We are pleased that the design and implementation of our program enabled us to consider the maintenance mode one year earlier than expected,” Freeholder Scutari added.
Tuskegee Airman to Speak At Youth Detention Center ELIZABETH In celebration of Black History Month, George S. Reed, a member of the CB Govan Tri-State Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, spoke at the Union County Juvenile Detention Center in Elizabeth on Monday, March 8, at 10 a.m.
“The Quest for Equality-A Salute to the History, Achievements and Contributions of African-Americans” is the detention center’s Black History Month theme for 1999.
As part of its educational mission, youth in the detention center have celebrated Black History Month through presentations about the Civil Rights Movement, as well as by learning about the many contributions made by African-Americans in the arts, education and business.
“It’s important for the young people in our detention facility to have the opportunity to speak to individuals who can serve as role models,” said Freeholder Chairman Nicholas Scutari. “The Tuskegee Airmen overcame great obstacles to join the ranks of this nation’s greatest military heroes.”
Beginning in 1941, the 996 Tuskegee Airmen, U.S. Army Air Corps combat aviators during World War II, trained at the U.S. Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Known as the “Black Redtail Angels” because of the identifying red paint on the tail of their aircraft, the Tuskegee Airmen destroyed 251 enemy aircraft and were awarded more than 850 medals, including Distinguished Flying Crosses and Legions of Merit.
“The success of the Tuskegee Airmen led President Truman to eliminate racial discrimination in the military in 1948,” said Mr. Scutari.
“The Tuskegee Airmen are heroic figures in American history and examples of courage, leadership and teamwork, all qualities we hope to instill in the youth of today,” said Freeholder Chester Holmes. “This presentation hopefully will inspire the youth in the detention center and enable them to understand that there are no obstacles too great to overcome with determination and effort.”
St. Patrick’s Day Parade Set For Union Township
UNION The third annual Union County St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be held on Saturday, March 13, at 11 a.m., beginning at the business center of Union Township.
At 11 a.m., special ceremonies, including the sale and postal cancellation of the first U.S. stamps dedicated to Irish immigrants will be held on Stuyvesant Avenue at a special mobile postal office facility.
Mimes, face painters, Irish step dancers, special music selections, a book reading and other entertainment will be held on the block between Vauxhall Road and Morris Avenue.
At Noon, the Irish flag will be raised and the parade will receive an official blessing at the corner of Morris and Stuyvesant Avenues.
At 1 p.m., Grand Marshall Owen McGovern will officially kick-off the parade, which will begin at Commerce Avenue and wind down Morris Avenue, turning toward the Connecticut Farms School.
Parade General Chairman John Langan stated, “Floats and bands, law enforcement, marching groups, pipers and drummers and lots of wonderful people will be walking up the avenue. This will be a great family day, with our annual parade once again dedicated to and in honor of St. Patrick.”
This will be the first year that the parade will feature a life-sized statue of St. Patrick, surrounded by a special honor guard with representatives from every major Irish-American group from the parade committee.
‘Freeholders Forum’ To Focus on Reducing
Taxes, Not Services
ELIZABETH The Union County Freeholders’ efforts to reduce taxes while providing better services will be topic of the next “Freeholders Forum” television show.
The program, shown on local cable channels, will features Freeholder Chairman Nicholas P. Scutari and Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, chairman of the board’s Finance Committee, discussing how the Board has made county government more efficient and increased services to residents while lowing the tax burden on families.
“For three consecutive years we’ve managed to hold the line on and even cut taxes while delivering high quality, innovative services to the people of Union County,” said Mr. Scutari.
“The 1999 budget will provide full finding for the popular Project Pocket Parks, Access 2000 and HEART Grant programs begun last year as well as new initiatives like Downtown Union County, the Freeholder Scholar Program and a Mobile Immunization Clinic,” he added.
Freeholder Mirabella said the board is, “continuing to reduce the amount of the budget raised through property taxes each year.”
In each biweekly, 30-minute program, Freeholder and host Michael Murray, the county’s Director of Public Information, discuss issues and events affecting the lives of County residents.
“Freeholders Forum” is presented by the Union Courtly Board of Chosen Freeholders and made possible through the facilities and technical direction of Union County College.
Entitled “The l999 Budget: Lower Taxes, Better Services,” the show will be aired in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside through March 13, Tuesday and Thursdays at noon. Residents should check cable listings to verify date and time.
Anyone wanting more information or to comment about “Freeholders Forum” should call the Office of Public Information at (908) 527-4746.
County to Convene Shade Tree Conference Tuesday Morning
ELIZABETH The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is sponsoring a county-wide Tree Education Conference for mayors, municipal officials and shade tree commission representatives an Tuesday, March 16, at 8:30 a.m., to discuss the county’s shade tree inventory and efforts to replace aged and stormdamaged trees throughout Union County.
“Our trees have a great environmental as well as financial impact on the communities in Union County,” said Freeholder Linda d. Stender, the board’s Liaison to the county’s Shade Tree Advisory Board. “We are making a concerted effort to increase the number of trees in the county, keep our existing trees healthy and replace the trees that were toppled by the devastating storm on Labor Day.”
Participants at the shade tree conference will include James Nichnadowicz, 4-H agent for Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, who speak about the Master Tree Steward Program; Michael D’Errico, State Coordinator of the Community Forestry Act, who will talk on the New Jersey Community Forestry Act; Lee Gilman, area representative for Bartlett Tree Experts, who will discuss “Tree Selection and the Care and Planting of Street Trees, and Frank E. Dann, Jr., Director of the
Union County Division of Public Works, who will discuss the role of the Shade Tree Advisory Board.
The conference will be held in the Freeholders Meeting Room on the sixth floor of the Union County Administration Building located at Elizabethtown Plaza in Elizabeth. A question and answer period will follow the guest speakers’ presentations.
Gregory S. McDermott