Council votes down change in meeting time

Door left open for change to later time next year


Staff Writer

RED BANK — After months of regular discussion, the Borough Council voted on a resolution that would change the council’s meeting time at last week’s meeting.

The vote was three in favor of the change to a later meeting time, with three against. Mayor Edward J. McKenna, Jr. cast the tie- breaking vote against the change, but promised to revisit the issue at the reorganization meeting at the beginning of next year.

The much discussed meeting time became an issue again when a petition, with close to 500 signatures requesting that the council meet at 7:30 p.m. instead of 5:30 p.m., was presented.

Resident Judy Hathaway, of Ambassador Drive, who assisted Councilman John P. Curley with the collection of signatures for the petition, stood up during the workshop portion of the meeting to hand over the petition to McKenna.

According to Curley, he and Hathaway collected the signatures of residents who want the council meetings to be held later so it will be more convenient for them to attend.

Councilwoman Jennifer Beck has periodically raised the issue of the inconvenience of the 5:30 p.m. meeting time since she first took office four and a half years ago. Her argument has been that the early meetings are inaccessible for commuters.

Curley took the idea to the streets, asking people to sign a petition that supports changing the meeting times to 7:30 p.m.

Curley felt that a significant amount of signatures had been collected to warrant presenting the petition to the council.

“I applaud Judy’s efforts,” said Curley. “Not many residents would go door to door themselves to help get something done.”

“My suggestion,” said Beck at the meeting, “is that for the remainder of the year, we have the first meeting of the month at 5:30 p.m. and the second at 7:30 p.m.”

Beck also suggested that a vote be taken that very evening regarding the meeting times for the remainder of the year.

After a lengthy discussion, she made a motion to hold the first meeting of the month at 5:30 p.m. and the second at 7:30 p.m. for the remainder of the year.

Beck, Curley, and Councilman R. J. Bifani voted in favor of the change, with council members Pasquale Menna, Thomas Hintelmann and Arthur Murphy voting against the motion. McKenna acted as the tie-breaker, voting against the motion.

Murphy said that changing the meeting times at this point in the year did not make sense to him.

“I planned my schedule for the rest of the year around the 5:30 p.m. meeting times,” said Murphy, “I’m all ears to moving it to another time, but we should finish out the year. I’m not against changing it.”

Curley said he was more concerned about the schedule of the residents of the borough and how the meeting times would affect them.

Bifani said he would support the change of the second meeting of the month to 7 p.m.

“I want to see a change,” said Bifani, “ and stop this debate we have at every meeting.”

Hintelmann said that he does not want to go back to the days when the council would be stuck at a meeting until 10:30 or 11 p.m. at night.

After listening to the council discuss the issue, McKenna stepped in to give his opinion.

“We have an ordinance that dictates how the meetings are run,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that we can’t change it. My only opposition to changing the meeting time is the issue of accessibility.”

McKenna said that of all the different times the meetings have been held, including 8 p.m., 7:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m., more residents attended the meetings at 5:30 p.m.

“I thought the whole point was to get the greatest number of people at the meetings,” he said.

McKenna said he did not see a reason for rushing the decision and that it might be better to wait until the reorganization for the new year.

“We’ve already been delayed for so long,” noted Curley.

Curley said that, despite the loss at the meeting, he feels he and Beck are making progress on the issue, and hopes that the meeting time will change next year.