In its quickest meeting of the year, the Morristown council on Tuesday approved a slew of board appointments and professional services contracts, and transferred $150,000 from a dead project to one with a faint pulse.
A 2016 bond ordinance had earmarked the money to buy a former bar, the Bucket of Blood, a dilapidated structure vacant for decades on Martin Luther King Avenue near the Whippany River.
Mayor Tim Dougherty pitched it as a center where disadvantaged residents might obtain pro bono legal services, incubate businesses, or celebrate local culture and civil rights.
But asbestos concerns and location, location, location–flood zone, flood zone, flood zone–sank the project.
At Tuesday’s virtual session, the council unanimously introduced an ordinance to apply the funds towards acquisition of the Morristown Post Office.
The town has been eyeing the 106-year-old Post Office, near the historic Morristown Green, since at least 2016. Money has been allocated by the town and the Morris County Preservation Trust Fund, but glacial negotiations with the Postal Service have frustrated town officials.
WARNING ABOUT PORTABLE HEATERS
In other business, the mayor urged residents with space heaters to call the fire bureau at 973-292-6610 for safety inspections. An electric heater is being blamed for a Bronx apartment blaze that killed 17 people on Sunday.
“They can be very dangerous…and do not use gas or kerosene in your home with a space heater,” Dougherty cautioned.
With frigid temperatures expected into Wednesday, the seniors center in town hall will remain available during the day as a warming center. The Market Street Mission also offers shelter from the cold, Dougherty said.
Tuesday’s half-hour gathering marked a full return to Zoom, spurred by surging cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Council members had ventured back inside town hall last November for hybrid meetings that included a livestream.
On Tuesday, three more general counsels were approved– the Aloia Law Firm LLC; Decotiis, Fitzpatrick, Cole & Giblin LLP; and Friend & Wenzel LLC. These firms are intended for situations where conflicts arise or specialized legal expertise is needed, according to council President Stefan Armington and town Adminstrator Jillian Barrick.
Attorneys will be paid $150 per hour, not to exceed $15,000 per firm, state the resolutions adopted by the council.
“This is done every year, since I’ve been mayor,” Dougherty said.
John Inglesino’s firm is returning as redevelopment counsel. Robert Rudy III was renamed town prosecutor, and Terry Webb was reappointed as municipal public defender.
A.J. Oliver, whose status as Morristown Democratic Chairman is in question, was reappointed unanimously to the town environmental commission. Maureen Denman also received another term on the commission.
More appointees/ re-appointees:
Planning board: Mark Gandy, Andrea Lekberg and Marisa Sweeney. Library board: Deanna Quinones. Shade Tree Commission: Robert Bell, Susan Landau. Historic Preservation Commission: James Clark, Ken Miller, James Dykema. Morristown Parking Authority: Margret Brady. Zoning Board: Beth Wall, Rachel Blacker. Rent leveling board: Leandra Gerena.
The roster of appointments and contractors is here.