Progress Made in Challenging 2012, Officials Say
Bunce, Galate sworn into new three-year terms at annual Hopatcong council reorganization meeting.
Even though Hopatcong was battered by the "most devastating event"—Superstorm Sandy—to ever strike the borough, officials at Wednesday’s reorganization meeting of the Borough Council chose instead to celebrate the progress made last year.
Mayor Sylvia Petillo even joked about the bad parts of 2012 when before the first official meeting of 2013 took place, the council had to finish one bit of last year’s official business—the acceptance of minutes from the Dec. 19 meeting. When the council accepted the minutes, Petillo said, “We closed out 2012” to a cheer from the audience.
Incumbents Richard Bunce and Marie Galate, both re-elected in November, were sworn in for three-year terms by Sussex County Clerk Jeffrey Parrott.
Councilman Howard Baker was elected president of the council, replacing Bunce.
Wade Crowley was sworn in as fire chief; Tom Brown as first assistant chief; Steve Kucivic as second assistant chief; Richard Cook as fire marshal and Franklin Steinberg as assistant fire marshal.
Galate, a councilwoman since 2007, said the devastation of Sandy, which shut down power in nearly all of the borough, was offset by the progress made at Firemen’s Park, where the “exquisite” Sept. 11 Memorial was completed; the start of the farmer’s market, which drew thousands of visitors to the borough each Sunday during the summer and fall and the completion of projects at Modrick Park.
She said the efforts of the borough’s public works department was a key element in the completion of the projects.
Galante also noted the death of Vito Castoro, who encouraged her to run for council. Castoro was also the force behind the annual Christmas display at borough hall that drew hundreds of children annually, she said.
“He will always be a legend and will greatly missed,” she said.
Sandy was the “most devastating event” to strike Hopatcong, Galate said.
But even in the storm, she said borough officials and residents pulled together to help each other. She said she spent election night working at the shelter set up at the high school and was encouraged by the sight of residents who themselves had been forced from their homes, comforting others in the same condition.
Last, Galate congratulated borough residents who turned out to vote during the storm in near-record numbers. She said 5,977 voters hit the polls in November.
Bunce, a councilman since 2003, said he is proud to be a member of the council that with Petillo has worked to improve borough services, stabilize taxes and become a regional leader in the development of programs to reduce energy use, environmental planning and economic friendly policies.
The borough has joined in shared services, such as the regional municipal court with Stanhope that has been “efficient and cost effective” for both towns, Bunce said.
With the support of state and federal grants, the borough completed some key water and sewer projects, and was able to place generators at wells that kept public water flowing even as the borough lost power during Sandy, he said.
In addition, he said, the borough has worked with the state to develop programs and policies that meet environmental regulations and the borough’s need to grow, and has created a business-friendly atmosphere that enforces necessary rules but streamlines the process to review projects. Businesses and developers seeking to build in the Lake Hopatcong region have noticed the borough’s approach, he said.
As a result of the work, Bunce said, Hopatcong officials have been asked to serve on regional economic and environmental boards.
Petillo said 2012 was memorable for several reasons.
She cited the completion of Fireman’s Park, especially the water feature created by Peter van Westervelt and Debra Cianfrone which “extended into a gorgeous sculpted landscape that encompassed the entire park.”
She praised public works superintendent Ron Jobeless and his department for the work at Veteran’s Field, that added lighting, repaired drainage, added new dugouts, backstops and bleachers, and built a new concession stand.
Like Bunce, Petillo said those key projects, and others, were completed with the help of grants and donations.
Petillo said she was proud of the new farmer’s market and the positive image of the borough it projected.
“The market truly exceeded our expectations and was so well received by our residents and the business community that we expect an even bigger farmer’s market in 2013.” she said.
Among the other “firsts” for the borough in 2012, Petillo said, were the addition of a community garden on Bell Avenue and the 2012 Municipal Ward given to Hopatcong by the Sussex County Economic Development Partnership for the “borough’s commitment and outstanding efforts at fostering an "open-for-business" attitude.
Petillo said the borough showed its mettle during Sandy.
More than 500 people were housed at the high school shelter and more than 1,000 meals were served daily.
“The shelter became a safe refuge for those who were not able to care for themselves and was so well run it attracted a lot of media attention,” Petillo said.