It’s not often that a resident’s comments or complaints are answered in the same council meeting, but that happened for Robert Caruso at the Jefferson Township Council meeting on Wednesday, January 15.
Caruso pointed out that the township has no liability for activity on the 1502 acres of undeveloped land it owns. He pointed out the state Landowner Liability Act indemnifies landowners for activities on their property. He also quoted an article from the New Jersey Law Journal that said the owner has no obligation to keep people safe or warn them about going on the land. The Law Journal article cites hunting, fishing or trapping specifically as activities that should not be prohibited.
For that reason, Caruso said, the township ordinances should permit those activities on its undeveloped land.
A little later in the meeting, Township Administrator Debra Milikin presented an amendment to the township’s park regulations ordinance. She said a prohibition of hunting or trapping was never intended to pertain to all township land, just Prospect Point Preserve, Liffy Island, and Camp Jefferson.
“There are no other properties where we would prohibit hunting,” Mayor Eric Wilsusen said.
Council unanimously voted to amend the regulations to prohibit those activities in only the three locations.
Council Vice President Melissa Senatore pointed out there are other omissions in the park regulation ordinances. She said often the fields at Lakeside are prepared the night before a game but are a mess by game time because some unauthorized activities go on there.
“People will come in at night and mess up the field,” she said, adding, “they aren’t insured by Jefferson.
Wilsusen acknowledged that he has discussed park regulations with Recreation Director Grace Rhinesmith.
“They include things like where to tie up your horse,” he joked, saying the regulations will be updated.
Council also voted to amend fees for use of police vehicles by private contractors.
Under current regulations when a contractor requires police presence at a job, the charge is a flat $25 an hour. Council directed the administration to check into what other municipalities charge.
Milikin came back with a recommendation to charge $50 for the first four hours or less and $100 for an entire day. Council agreed.
Another resident didn’t get the answers he wanted.
Bill Boyle brought up the timing of the light at Route 15 and Berkshire Valley Road.
“It’s a state highway,” Wilsusen reminded him.
Boyle said the state Senator and both Assembly members told him problems at the intersection are the township’s issue.
The light was programmed by the state Department of Transportation, the mayor pointed out. He acknowledged the light is longer now because of the left turn arrow.
“It was bad before, it’s worse now,” he admitted.
Caruso asked why the shoulder of the highway couldn’t be turned into a lane.
Wilsusen said he will be meeting with Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26) and will discuss the problems with him.
Councilwoman Debi Merz asked if more police could be stationed near the Tap House during high traffic times because people often try to make a left turn from the center lane to go South on Route 15. Wilsusen said he’d look into that.
Oaths of Office
Wilsusen started the meeting by administering the oaths of office to the chiefs of both fire companies and both squads. He said many municipalities do so at council meetings, although Jefferson has not in the past.
The chiefs are: Fire Company #1, Ray Cabrera; Fire Company #2, Lou Lolacono; Milton First Aid Squad, Frank Parete, and Jefferson Township Rescue Squad, Albie Garcia.
It’s the time of year when council meets with each department to hear its budget requests.
Chief Financial Officer Bill Eagan will attend the Wednesday, February 5, meeting to give council an overview.
Council set a workshop meeting for 7 p.m., Wednesday, February 12, and will meet at 6 p.m. on the night of its next regular meeting, Wednesday, February 19, for more budget discussion.