Residents gathered during a recent Oakland Borough Council meeting to express growing concerns over the mounting issues surrounding the local sewage plant’s unsightly appearance and potential safety hazards it poses in the Mountain Lakes Road neighborhood. The council also discussed progress on environmental initiatives and infrastructure developments in the Oakland area. Mayor Linda H. Schwager and council members including Steven Saliani, Eric Kulmala, John McCann, Pat Pignatelli, Kevin Slasinski, and Russell Talamini addressed the concerns raised during the various segments of the meeting.
At the forefront of discussions were the evolving tensions and concerns regarding the sewage plant located next to Mountain Lakes Road. Tim Lally likened the plant to a “nuclear test site,” expressing fears of it turning into an “eyesore” with the planned six-foot high chain link fence and conspicuous equipment. Advocating for a concealed shed to maintain the neighborhood’s aesthetic and safeguard the children from an open detention basin, Lally urged the council to reconsider the setup, igniting nods from other residents who expressed worries over potential risks like sinkholes and degraded property values. Noted was a desire for adherence to initial promises of a park-like area and improved aesthetics for the region.
A considerable part of the meeting was consumed by the discourse on financial matters with special emphasis on the funding acquired for the Patriot’s Way Bridge — $8.8 million amassed through grants, easing the taxpayer burden. Despite this good news, some voiced discontent over perceived passive actions of the council in securing additional funds.
In addition to community worries, discussions progressed to planned infrastructural developments in the borough, including the potential increase of weight limit ratings on a local bridge to facilitate smoother construction process anticipated to last up to two years. The council communicated delays faced in the bridge project owing to bureaucratic hurdles accentuated by the environmental assessments mandated due to the considerable grant money secured for the initiative.
Mayor Schwager steered the conversation to positive news from her report, citing the borough green team’s achievement of Sustainable Jersey silver level certification, a feat accomplished by completing “34 actions in 13 categories for a total of 420 points.” The official presentation of the certification is set for the upcoming League of Municipalities convention. Schwager also spotlighted upcoming community events including a POW/MIA recognition ceremony, a fundraising sale for Oakland baseball and softball teams, and a free jazz concert at the Oakland Public Library. Late-night voter registration was announced to be held on October 17th.
As the meeting progressed, the council deliberated on the introduction of alcohol to public events, contemplating the inclusion of a beer garden to enhance event appeal. Concerns over increased insurance, security, and liability risks associated with alcohol consumption were raised, with a collective agreement to explore the initiative further while weighing the potential complexities.
Another noteworthy item on the agenda was the recent deployment of Class III police officers in Oakland public schools. The move, aimed at enhancing the safety of the learning environment, was received positively, with the council appreciating the Board of Education for financing it and the police department for training the officers.
The council also acknowledged Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day, highlighting the opioid abuse epidemic ravaging New Jersey and underlining the importance of education in this front. Mayor Schwager affirmed the borough’s backing for this initiative which seeks to elevate awareness of opioid abuse and foster recovery.
As the meeting wound down, council members reflected on the spirit of national unity in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, praising community member Danny Delia for orchestrating a 9/11 ceremony facilitated through local business donations for securing 343 American flags.