In a session characterized by debate and a decisive tie-breaking vote by Mayor Charles J.X. Kahwaty, the Franklin Lakes Borough Council moved forward on a series of issues, including the approval of a much-debated bandstand and changes to the borough’s infrastructure to enhance pedestrian safety.
The spotlight of the assembly was seized by deliberations surrounding the proposed establishment of a permanent bandstand in the borough. The debate oscillated around various aspects, including the bandstand’s prospective location, its dimensions, and its impact on nearby residents due to potential noise disturbances. While Community Director Robynson showcased the multifaceted utilities of a permanent bandstand, encompassing mild entertainment to community gatherings, theater, and art classes, opposition stood firm, citing a heavy financial burden and potential criminal activities, buoyed by limited police visibility. Despite the split in opinion, intervention from Mayor Kahwaty tipped the scales in favor of the project.
Alongside the bandstand controversy, the session witnessed extensive discourse on borough infrastructure, as council members grappled with proposals to overhaul Franklin Avenue to foster a “pedestrian-friendly and walkable town.” The council explored a myriad of enhancements encompassing pedestrian strobes and lane reconfigurations to facilitate safer pedestrian crossings.
Though largely supported, the changes weren’t without detractors, with concerns being raised about increased traffic congestion and the fostering of dangerous driving behaviors due to lane reductions. However, the majority leaned towards a vision of slowed traffic to enhance safety, with plans detailing a transformation of existing two-lane roads to single lanes to facilitate pedestrian and bicycle safety. “The thing that carries the most weight is a resolution of the mayor and council,” a council member noted, emphasizing the strength the council’s resolution would bear in discussions with the county on the proposed modifications.
In the administrative stratum, new appointments emerged with Robert Tovo taking the mantle of the Quality of Life Enforcement Officer, amid discussions on his extensive background, and Erica Davenport assuming the role of Administrative Assistant in the construction office.
Despite the emphasis on infrastructural advancements, public safety eclipsed other discussions, painting a stark picture of the community grappling with ambulance response times averaging 23 minutes. The urgency of the matter propelled the council to propose the formulation of a committee to find prompt solutions, comprising different stakeholders.
The council navigated concerns of residents fearing the hurried pace of a large building project in town, with citizens urging a deceleration to foster greater community involvement. Defending the council’s approach, members highlighted the long span of negotiations preceding the project’s initiation, emphasizing it as a balanced outcome born from compromising under significant constraints, including legal pressures.
Also of note were deliberations on a new library director appointment and a $3.6 million nod to mental health services in the K-8 Board of Education. The council expressed concerns over a waning pool of candidates for the upcoming superintendent vacancy set for November.
As the session progressed, additional communal initiatives came under the spotlight, including a Girl Scouts’ venture for recycling used sports equipment and potential funding avenues for mental health services in educational institutions.
The council also engaged in preliminary discussions on broader issues including the environmental repercussions of offshore wind farms in New Jersey, as part of a statewide initiative brought forth by Elected Officials to Protect America, reflecting a willingness to entertain broader environmental discourses despite its peripheral impact on the borough.