FANWOOD — The borough council on Monday expressed its displeasure with the planned increases next year in state health-benefits premiums for active employees as well as retirees on Medicaid, a move that will result in the borough’s health-benefits expenses increasing by $174,000 in 2023.
After borough Chief Financial Officer Patricia Celardo briefed the council about the rate hikes, Mayor Colleen Mahr called it a “really terrible” decision, saying the cost will be “borne by public workers and taxpayers.” She further lamented that the $174,000 figure is “where we start from” as next year’s municipal budget is crafted. The council approved a resolution opposing the increase in premiums, and the mayor noted that the borough is looking to move out of the state health-benefits plan and into a health-insurance fund that will hopefully result in lower costs.
In other business, the council took action on both the demolition of the existing library and construction of a new library. It approved a contract not to exceed $80,200 for Messercola Excavating to raze the existing building at the corner of North Avenue and Tillotson Road. But the council voted to reject all the bids it received for construction of the new library — due to them all being above what the council had budgeted — and will instead solicit new bids at a date to be determined. The council also awarded a contract not to exceed $89,595 to Clancy Relocation & Logistics to pack, relocate and store all of the library’s collections while the new library is being built.
The council introduced an ordinance that will create four dedicated public-parking spaces for veterans, two at borough hall and two in the municipal parking lot behind the South Avenue stores. The public hearing will be held on Monday, October 17. Additionally, the borough is launching a new page on its website — fanwoodnj.org/we-value-our-vets — that will feature news, services and resources for veterans.
In separate business, Councilwoman Kathy Mitchell announced a new program where volunteers will rake the leaves at the homes of senior citizens and disabled persons and place them at the curb for pickup. She said the program will take place on a yet-to-be-determined weekend in November and that those interested in having their leaves raked should contact the borough clerk. Volunteers also will be solicited to do the actual raking.
Councilwoman Mitchell also said that a Green Acres grant will finance half of the expense of replacing the two bridges at the Nature Center that had deteriorated and were removed.