Democrats gathered at the Library Monday night to meet the Democratic candidates for the Township Committee and to talk about the issues they think are important in Millburn right now, with two issues topping the list – parking and flooding.
The Township recently voted to build a parking deck on the corner of Essex and Lackawanna, across from the train station, after spending years talking about it.
If they had done it when it first came up as an issue more than a decade ago, it would be paid for by now, candidates Seth Levine and Stephen Thomas said.
But they also said they cannot understand how the township committee can decide on parking without tying the decision in with downtown re-development.
The flooding that took place during Irene is the other major issue for the town and will be for some time to come, the candidates said.
Several members of the audience were from the newly formed South Mountain Civic Association and were there to expressly learn the candidates’ views on the topic of flooding. One resident, who grew up here, moved back and into a house in the South Mountain neighborhood, two days before her house was flooded in the storm.
The township is going to have to do what it takes to bring the old and inadequate sewer systems up-to-date and address the flooding problems with the Rahway with towns upstream and downstream, the candidates said.
“The sewer system in South Mountain is too old and too small,” said Levine. “Part of why it's too small is because of its age.”
Levine abd Thomas said that not only does the sewer system need to be improved, but so does drainage and part of that will mean getting all the easements in order to run 24 inch drainage pipes behind some properties.
In addition, the candidates agreed, a bigger pumping station is needed at the Green Acres site along the river just off Gilbert Place, which could get tricky because of the Green Acres designation, although the township was told it could double the current capacity there without a problem.
“What if we find out that we need to triple the capacity? Will we be able to? These are questions that they need to ask,” Thomas said.
Levine and Thomas, both of whom frequent Township Committee meetings, are running against Republicans Robert Tillotson, an incumbent, and Sari Greenberg for two seats on the Township Committee.
With a committee that’s majority Republican, the Democrats say the committee needs a little more political diversity, so that there are more people who won’t just go along with the majority on decisions.
“It’s a positive thing to have Democrats on the Committee,” Thomas said. “We’re not a uniformly Republican township.”
The first Democrat to serve on the Committee was Dan Baer, who attended the meet/greet. Currently the only Democrat on the committee is Jim Suell.
Levine and Thomas are also running on platform that change would be good for the Township Committee and that the committee needs to make difficult choices and plan for the future.
“We flooded during Hurricane Floyd and the township reacted and did some things, partial measures but did not plan for the future,” Levine said. “The Township Committee is very reactive in nature. They very rarely take pro-active measures.”
The Democratic candidates will meet the Republican Candidates for a televised debate tomorrow, which will be aired soon, and for a forum next week sponsored by the Short Hills Association at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Education Center.