River Edge Council Wades into School Reconfiguration Controversy

At the July 10, 2023 meeting of the River Edge Borough Council, members authorized a heartwarming local project to honor Vietnam veterans amidst contentious discussions on the reconfiguration of local schools and the community’s reaction to this ongoing issue.

The Council granted approval for an Eagle Scout project proposed by Sean Baxter, an Eagle Scout candidate from Troop 1A4. Baxter’s project includes creating a memorial garden filled with red flowers symbolizing military remembrance and erecting a memorial monument in honor of Vietnam veterans. Baxter will coordinate with the business administrator, superintendent of Public Works, the River Edge Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the beautification committee to bring the project to fruition, financed through fundraisers and donations.

While the Council embraced Baxter’s project, the proposed school reconfiguration stirred up heated debates among council members and residents. Despite the Council’s lack of jurisdiction over the school board’s decisions, members pledged to ensure safety and effectiveness in implementing these decisions.

However, residents expressed concerns over potential accidents and negligence due to these changes. As resident Sebastian Muscrell put it, the school reconfiguration issue is the “biggest thing going on in River Edge right now.” Natalya Patel urged the council to involve the Bergen County traffic engineering department, citing potential negative impacts on traffic and safety. Similarly, Liz Davis raised questions about the Borough’s liability in case of accidents resulting from the reconfiguration. This query echoed concerns about a current lawsuit in a neighboring town, although the Council did not provide a response during the meeting.

Moreover, resident Carmen Philbin inquired about the possibility of a non-binding referendum on the school reconfiguration, given that hundreds of signatures opposing the reconfiguration have been collected. The borough attorney reiterated his stance that the Council does not have the authority to conduct a non-binding referendum on a matter beyond their control. He maintained that his legal opinion was sound, and a second opinion was unnecessary.

Elsewhere in the meeting, the Council also discussed a legislative update from the New Jersey Municipal Managers Association regarding local public contracts law, which could speed up the contract awarding process and ensure better prices. They unanimously agreed to an ordinance prohibiting domestic fowl on properties, a recommendation from the Board of Health, though questions about its effectiveness and necessity were raised.

Given the community’s involvement and the potential impacts of these issues, further updates from the Council are eagerly awaited.

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