In a recent meeting of the Hillsdale Borough Council, intense debates emerged over fiscal policy and community development plans, even as the council took a moment to honor long-serving local firefighters. A poignant presentation recognized three Hillsdale Fire Department veterans for 50 years of dedicated service to the community, a heartening moment that underscored the commitment to public service amidst discussions on fiscal management, infrastructure, and personnel changes.
The spotlight was on Keith Durie, Mark Durst, and Bill Becker, who all joined the Hillsdale Fire Department in 1973 and have since contributed significantly to the borough. Alongside their firefighting duties, Becker has also become known for his culinary talents, while Durie, whose grandfather was a founding member of the fire department, has served on several firefighting associations and boards. Each honoree received individual commendations from Senator Shapizzi and assembly members, as well as plaques for their dedicated service.
However, fiscal policy became a flashpoint of the meeting, with one council member voicing concerns over the proposed 1.6% tax increase for 2023 and the possibility of borrowing to fund the 2023 Base Road program, despite a record capital surplus of over $5.3 million. The debate extended to the council’s budgeting approach, which the member criticized as leaning towards “indulgent spending” and taxation without proper public deliberation or planning. An increase in the mayor’s and council members’ salaries, postponed to a future meeting, also sparked contention.
Under scrutiny were also potential underestimations of project costs, particularly Centennial field and a new community center, which due to rising construction costs, might exceed the estimated $10 million bond. Adding to this were concerns about how ongoing lead pipe replacements might impact road paving projects.
Infrastructure-wise, the council highlighted the ongoing and upcoming projects. Improvements to Centennial Park, Nature Trail Boardwalk, and plans for the Department of Public Works building were all discussed, including a $25,000 stormwater grant from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The debate continued over the construction of pickleball and tennis courts in the borough and the direction of new tennis courts at Edgewood Country Club. Meanwhile, residents also voiced concerns about the state of Evergreen Street, which had not been repaved for 34 years.
In addition to infrastructure and fiscal debates, there were staffing updates and other operational matters. The hiring of a new engineer, Nick Tellus, a recreation coordinator, Dan Tiffy, and the assignment of Patty Hughes to work full-time at the Stony Brook pool were noted. The shared service agreement with the Borough of Oakland was also touched on, with the recent addition of David Young for 20 hours a week on-site and accessible remotely.
Lastly, the council addressed various other community issues. This included the successful opening of the Stony Brook pool over Memorial Day weekend, the possible expansion of a tribute program for local veterans, and discussions on the George White referendum’s impact on future construction costs.