Council flips on watershed liaison

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— After explaining why the council did not need its own liaison to the Newark watershed lobbyist and voting down a proposal to appoint one just two weeks earlier, the governing body turned around the appointed Councilwoman Vivienne Erk to do just that.

At the Feb. 6 meeting, Councilman Lou Signorino suggested that the council have its own representative to bring back information regarding the progress on negotiations for the Newark watershed. As it stands, Mayor Bettina Bieri and township attorney Fred Semrau are the township representatives doing that. Signorino said he wanted someone from the legislative branch of government to be involved. He was nominated and the council voted no, the majority saying they were satisfied with having the mayor and attorney update them on the issue.

Last week, that changed. Quickly, toward the end of the council meeting, Councilman Mike Hensley nominated Erk to serve as the council's liaison for watershed. All five councilmembers present voted yes. Two of the three who voted no at the previous meeting for Signorino - Councilwomen Ada Erik and CarlLa Horton - changed their votes. (The third, Ed Rosone, was not present.)

"I voted against Lou (Signorino) because he was going in with his own opinion," said Erik. "He wanted to express his personal opinion. I voted yes (for Erk) because I believe she will come back with a clean view of things, not opinionated."

Erik said it was nothing personal with Signorino.

"I like the guy, but the moment he expressed his personal opinion, that changed it for me," Erik added.

No offense taken.
"It doesn't matter to me who represents us," Signorino said afterwards. "What matters is that the council is represented."

The council hired a lobbyist last year to help get the township more tax dollars from the city of Newark for being the steward of the water supply. In years past, Newark has appealed the tax assessments and won, bringing much less money to the township. Over the last few months, five other watershed communities have joined forces with West Milford to form a coalition to enact change in Trenton, either by revising assessments or enacting a water surcharge. Bieri and Semrau have already made several trips to Trenton when the issue was discussed.

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