Elmwood Park Borough Council Grapples with Rec Department Strife and Cannabis Ordinance Controversies

In a recent assembly of the Elmwood Park Borough Council, discussions revolved around concerns about the local Recreation (Rec) Department and amendments to the borough’s cannabis ordinance.

Former Advisory Board member and resident, Glenn Pedagano, aired grievances regarding the Rec Department and its director. Pedagano expressed frustration over perceived imbalances in team compositions and alleged unresponsiveness and misconduct by the Rec director, even calling for his resignation. Pedagano recounted instances of poor sportsmanship and a lack of response to issues, accusing the Rec director of being unengaged and alleging that he received a raise despite ongoing issues. He called for transparency, accountability, and emphasized the need to protect the children involved in the Rec programs.

In response, Mayor Colletti and the council members acknowledged Pedagano’s frustrations but defended the actions taken to address his concerns. They refuted the allegations of cheating and misconduct and defended the Rec director’s performance, emphasizing that they had held multiple meetings, responded to emails, and provided proof to address the issues raised.

Another resident, Peter Scolaro, also raised concerns about an incident involving a coach allegedly fighting another individual, expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of response. The council clarified that it was a personnel matter that had been investigated and handled appropriately, with Mayor Colletti stating, “It’s been investigated and it’s been handled… we are 100% confident that it was handled the right way.”

Despite the council’s assurances, Pedagano remained unconvinced, reiterating his disappointment with the handling of the situation and questioning the motivations and actions of the Rec director and other officials.

The council also delved into detailed discussions on the amendment of the cannabis ordinance within the borough. The amendment focused on clarifying application fees, license fees, and the types and numbers of licenses that may be issued. A member of the public engaged in a detailed conversation with the council about the number of cannabis licenses and the potential revenue for the borough. He compared the situation in Elmwood Park to that in Patterson, where a similar proposal was declined.

Citizens raised concerns about the proximity of cannabis businesses to schools and the reduction in distance from 500 feet to 250 feet. The council clarified that the change was made to accommodate new types of licenses and state mandates, emphasizing the borough’s control over distance while accommodating state-authorized licenses.

The discussion also touched on the specific location of a proposed cannabis business near Gantner Avenue School, with a council member noting the location “fits like a glove” due to the lack of a sidewalk and separation by a highway. The council referenced the results of a state referendum on cannabis, pointing out that in Elmwood Park, 3,607 people voted in favor, while 2,007 voted against.

Beyond these focal points, the council addressed other issues, including the induction of a new police officer, Jimmy Rivera, and the approval of several bond ordinances for community development, such as a $850,000 allocation for a Synthetic Turf Athletic Field at Borough Park and $730,000 for a new fire engine. Councilwoman Pellegrine provided updates on the Board of Health, the resident assistance program, and the establishment of a new Chamber of Commerce, highlighting efforts to support local businesses. A member of the public, Kenny, expressed concern about a large building being constructed in the area, fearing a repeat of a past fire incident. The council assured him of the building’s compliance with stringent fire laws.

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