HIGHLANDS – Local resident Kim Skorka almost didn’t get her questions and concerned addressed at last night‘s meeting of the Mayor and Council, except for the alert attention of Councilwoman Linda Mazzola.
During an otherwise well run and organized council meeting, complete with a new presentation of visuals far improved from last month, the public portion was coming to an end and Mayor Carolyn Broullon announced she saw no more hands to be recognized.
It was then that Mazzola asked if an e-mail had not been received with some concerns mentioned.
Broullon, obviously irked or upset by the reminder, concurred, and apparently with the e-mail in front of her or easily accessible, responded to Skorka, though never reading the e-mail to the public nor entering it on the public record of the meeting.
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In response to Skorka’s question about the status of a USGS steep slope study and the fact she has asked before and never received a response from Councilman Martin, Broullon said the last report was in 2017 and she doesn’t know anything about it since then. Although she did not go into detail, that was when the USGS put sensors on the steep slope in Atlantic Highlands to monitor movement of the slope. The hill was the topic of numerous newspaper articles and stories and the topic at many council meetings in both Highlands and Atlantic Highlands when the 10 story Eastpointe was in the planning stages half a century ago. At that time, James R. Snyder headed the firm that wanted to construct two high rises on Mount Mitchill; Highlands approved what was then Top of the East and Atlantic Highlands denied it on the adjacent tract in that municipality where Mount Mitchill County Park and the 9-11 Memorial are now located. Some residents say the sensors put in place a few years ago sensed movement shortly thereafter, but since Skorka knew of no updates or further information on any faults in the steep slope, she posed the question.
In response to Skorka’s question on the status of public hearings on the school consolidation feasibility study, Broullon said there are none set as people want an open meeting when all can be present rather than on Zoom.
Nor was there any update on Skorka’s question concerning the state’s plans regarding a police department study.
Skorka also questioned why Highlands cannot hold in-person council meetings, citing the Open Public Meetings act which would suggest meetings could be held both in person and virtually to accommodate any size crowd. The mayor contended the Governor has said no more than 25 persons can be gathered for a meeting, and the present presentations will continue.
That the Council was portrayed better this month than last may well have been in response to numerous earlier comments when the administration stopped permitting the faces of the public during the meeting. At that time the Mayor said persons attending the meeting would not be shown, citing cases where people were not professional and she did not feel it was proper at a government meeting. However, in eliminating the public’s portrayals during the public portion, administration also only showed council members individually when each was speaking as opposed to throughout the meeting. Last night, administration used the more common form of meeting protocol used by many towns in which all council members and professionals are shown, and speakers are recognized by voice only during the public portion.