Council Announces New Borough-Owned Strawberry Farm

At the recent Montvale Borough Council meeting, updates were provided on a range of topics including statistics on crime prevention from the police department and the aquisition of a pick-your-own-stratwberry farm. The session also covered the Mayor’s announcements regarding new community projects and infrastructure developments, as well as individual reports from various departments on ongoing initiatives and concerns, including traffic issues and the state of local school cafeterias.

The council recieved updates on traffic concerns, criminal activities, and proactive policing efforts. Police officals shared encouraging news regarding crime prevention, as no cars had been stolen this year, crediting both the community and the police department’s efforts. On the same note, they discussed the recent deployment of tasers to all officers as a measure to prevent potentially dangerous situations that might require the use of firearms. Chief of Police Dr. McDowell cited these as a “very useful tool”.

The meeting highlighted significant community events like the “Touch a Truck” event which had a remarkable turnout, and the upcoming Junior Police Academy, slated to commence on the 19th of the current month. On a more serious note, Dr. McDowell revealed an uptick in traffic summonses and criminal complaints, largely attributed to proactive police work. They also touched upon recent overdoses, three incidents in total occurring between August 29 and September 7, albeit with no fatalities due to timely interventions.

The Mayor, Mike Ghassali, made notable announcements including the acquisition of a farm. The Borough is purchasing a 9.5-acre property on Craig Road for roughly $5 million. The Borough is currently in the closing process. The plan for the farm is to maintain it and bring in a professional farm operator to run it as a public farm. It will function as a “pick your own” strawberry farm and a community garden, offering sections for members of the public to plant their own produce. They aim to establish the sole pick-your-own-strawberry farm in Bergen County, hoping it will lead to further grant opportunities to offset some of the purchase cost. The process to find an operator will involve bidding, and the chosen bid will be held to specific use criteria related to the strawberry theme.

The Mayor also praised the 9/11 ceremony and wished to see it become a recurring event. He also mentioned his plans to testify against a warehouse in Chestnut Ridge due to concerns related to traffic and flooding. Traffic issues, a recurrent theme in the meeting, concentrated on complaints about speeding and reckless driving in several areas, notably during school drop-off and pick-up timings. The council is collaborating with the county to address speeding concerns on Chestnut Ridge Road, among other problematic areas.

In a series of reports from different departments, a variety of topics were covered including the recent storm aftermath handled by the Department of Public Works, revenue details, and updates from the fire department and library. The planning board also reported on their activities, mentioning the approval of a Crumble Cookies store establishment and a detailed review of various plans underway.

Council members expressed their gratitude towards the police department for their initiatives in crime prevention and their community involvement. Discussions about administrative matters and infrastructural developments followed, with emphasis on new implementations aimed at aiding resident interactions with the borough on different concerns.

Towards the end of the meeting, a member of the public, Ms. Zahaira Han, raised significant concerns over the absence of a cafeteria in local elementary and middle schools, criticizing the Parent Teacher Organization’s (PTO) role in managing food services. Despite the council’s acknowledgment of her concerns, they noted their lack of jurisdiction over school policies and encouraged her to address her grievances through the appropriate channels, notably the Board of Education.

The session concluded with the council announcing the date for the next meeting, scheduled for September 26, 2023, and thanking the attendees before adjourning.

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