Hillsdale Borough Council’s Drones, Debates, and Dollar Signs Take Center Stage

In a recent Hillsdale Borough Council meeting, members tackled a series of pressing issues, with a drone study aimed at flood mitigation and a contentious debate over compensation increases taking center stage.

The council addressed concerns raised after a previous meeting about assisting residents in flood-prone areas. Some residents have expressed a desire for the council to participate in grants to buy out flood-affected properties. However, no budget allocation currently exists for this initiative.

Instead, the council approved a drone study designed to identify geophysical characteristics that exacerbate flooding in the region. This initiative involves multiple towns, including Westwood, Washington Township, Hillsdale, and Rivervale. The study’s objective is to use scientific methods to manage water release from the Woodcliff Lake Reservoir more effectively. Council member Justin Fox emphasized the study’s importance, stating, “I think we owe it to our residents who live in the affected areas to do this.” The study’s urgency was underscored by expanding flood zones and potential insurance cost hikes for residents.

However, the drone study wasn’t the only hot topic. A heated debate erupted over a resolution to increase the compensation for council members by 50% and the mayor’s compensation by 33%.

Mayor John Ruocco vehemently opposed the proposal, asserting that it would make them the “most highly compensated of all Mayors and councils in the Pascack Valley.” He challenged the council’s justification for the increase, suggesting a political motive and criticizing the inconsistent application of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to adjust the salaries. He also highlighted a 7% growth in the 2023 operating budget and pointed to the borough’s growing debt and the yet-to-be-issued $10 million bond for Centennial Field and Community Center projects.

Despite the mayor’s objections, the resolution passed with a 5-1 vote.

In other developments, Jerry Sant, representing the 125th Hillsdale birthday anniversary committee, updated the council on upcoming events. Highlights include a wine festival, a Fall Festival focusing on Hillsdale’s history, and a gala in November. The committee also plans to introduce a QR code for historic homes and bury a time capsule in November, set to be opened in 2073.

The council also celebrated the achievements of the local little league 14U baseball team, which advanced to the Junior World Series competition in Michigan.

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