Allan and Weiss bid Borough Council adieu

Long-time council members wrap up terms

By:Melissa Edmond
   When Tuesday’s special Borough Council meeting adjourned at 7:07 p.m., it meant the end of the terms for longtime council members Tom Weiss and Senga Allan.
   Ms. Allan, 59, said she has been known for voicing her opinion the last nine years she has served on the council.
   "I always believe being up there I voted for what I felt was right for the town. If I felt it was right, I would vote for it," she said, advising newcomers Kathy Quick and Steven Szabo to do the same.
   Ms. Quick and Mr. Szabo defeated Ms. Allan and Councilman Tom Weiss in the November elections with 1,425 votes for Mr. Szabo and 1,332 votes for Ms. Quick. Ms. Allan had 1,019 votes while Mr. Weiss had 1,052 votes.
   "The first year is very hard … It’s not easy being up there. I’m sure if they work as group, they’ll do what’s right for the town," Ms. Allan said.
   Ms. Allan said her most difficult decisions were made when raising taxes and paring down borough positions. "We laid off some policemen. Those were very hard decisions because you didn’t know if you were doing the right thing. They (the newcomers) have to do their homework," she said.
   Ms. Allan, a council member since 1996 and a member of the Board of Adjustment for four years, said that she isn’t sure whether she will completely step away from politics.
   "I don’t know. I probably will go to some meetings. If there’s something that I need to voice my opinion on then I will go," Ms. Allan said.
   While Ms. Allan was on the council, she was a member or chairwoman of numerous committees including finance, public works, personnel, public safety, progress and development, and building and grounds.
   "I always wanted us to be a shining star and for everyone to know where Manville was," she said. "When I came on board, we were near bankrupt," she added.
   She said the closing the of Johns Manville asbestos plant, whose taxes had supported Manville and paid for practically everything, was a devastating financial blow to the township.
   She said that she helped move the borough into the 21st century by working on the completion of the Marketplace Shopping Center at the site of the former Johns-Manville plant on North Main Street. The borough was on its own and managed to get businesses like Wal-Mart to become part of the town, she said.
   Ms. Allan said she wants Manville residents to remember "that I made Manville what it is today, a star on the map. I just thank them for giving me the opportunity. I’m very proud of it. It was an honor to serve this town. These people are great people," she said.
   Ms. Allan said she would have liked to be on the council for the last major development in the borough, the redevelopment of Rustic Mall. "I would have liked to see it at least in a planning stage and what direction we were going," she said.
   Ms. Allan, a Harrison Avenue resident for 29 years, intends to watch the redevelopment from the sidelines as a resident. She said she hopes to live in Manville for the rest of her life.
   Ms. Allan will spend her time working at Laboratory Corporation in Raritan where she has worked in the customer care department for 23 years. She will spend time with her husband of 36 years, Thomas, and her two children, Kimberly who serves on the planning board, and Jason, a volunteer firefighter.
   "I’m going to catch up on a lot of things," she said pointing out that now she’ll have more time to play with her four English bulldogs, garden, and relax.
   Ms. Allan said she has not considered running again for election. "I’m not saying I never will," she said. "Right now I’m going to enjoy some peace and quiet. You never know what the future will hold," she added.
   The council’s meeting Tuesday night will probably be Mr. Weiss’s last meeting. He said he has no plans to run again.
   Mr. Weiss, who served on the council for nine years from 1995 to 1997 and from 2000 to 2005, said that he has started to do more volunteer work now.
   "Volunteering is one of my passions," he said, noting that it was something he wasn’t able to do while he was on the council. He said that when he tried to volunteer for the Manville Food Bank in 1995, he had to back out because of political reasons.
   He doesn’t think he’ll stay involved politically "for a while, if ever. I’ll never say never, but I don’t see myself going to meetings."
   "I need a break — a big one," he said.
   Mr. Weiss, 50, who has lived on South 19th Street for 18 years, said that he is proud of the nine years he served on the council.
   "Nine years is a very good amount of time. A lot was done. I have nothing negative to look back," he said. "I think the town has turned over for the best in the past 10 years," he added pointing to the redevelopment of the Johns Manville site with the Marketplace Shopping Center being built there.
   He said that he is proudest of his introduction in 1997 of the Regional Contribution Agreement program, which has so far brought $600,000 in funds for low- and moderate-income families in Manville to repair their homes.
   He said that he found out about the RCA program through one of his classes at the Rutgers School of Planning and Public Policy where he completed 33 hours of training and received a Municipal Elected Officials Certificate in 1997.
   "Everyone thought I was nuts that we could get money for the people in the town that need their housing improved," he said.
   Mr. Weiss said that he and his first-term running mate, Don McDaniels, are the only people on the council he knows who completed the school’s training program. "I put my heart into it, that’s for sure," he said.
   Mr. Weiss, a senior Internet engineer for Thomson/Peterson’s in Lawrenceville, has served as chairman or member of the finance for eight out of his nine years on the council. He also acted as member or liaison to the Storefront Facade Improvement Committee, the Board of Health, the Rustic Mall Redevelopment Investigation Committee, and the Main Street Redevelopment Steering Committee.
   He said that he wants to be remembered for making decisions honestly. "I voted based on how I felt, not based on being told what to do," he said.
   He advises Mr. Szabo and Ms. Quick, who will join the council in January, to work on the budget.
   He said the council will have a hard time because of the loss of state aid.
   "You can’t lose $1.6 million in aid in the past two years and think there won’t be repercussions," he said.
   He pointed out that in 2002 and 2003, the borough received $1 million each year in extraordinary state aid. In 2004 and 2005, it went from $1 million to $200,000 because the state said Manville was faring better in its recovery from Hurricane Floyd, which devastated the borough in 1999 causing $100 million in damage.