Three weeks after losing in the school board election, former trustee Thomas Troyer stood up to defend his record, which was attacked in a public campaign waged by Mayor Michael Gonnelli.
During the Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Troyer touted his role in removing the “bully” category from the high school yearbook superlatives as one of his accomplishments.
“Over the 12 years I have served, I would always ask the superintendent what they intended to do with the bullying category in the yearbook,” said Troyer. The category was grouped among the usual “Most Likely to Succeed” and other superlatives typical of high school yearbooks everywhere.
“Since 1976, this category [existed] and sort of glorified the bully with his picture.”
Troyer said that he was “always given the run around” by the administration, board members, and teachers. The yearbook advisors said, “This is how we do it,” according to Troyer – until Superintendent Cynthia Randina arrived in 2008.
“I will always fight for the underdog.” – Thomas Troyer
“This superintendent – that I’m sure you are trying to get rid of – she was the one that said, ‘we’ll stop it, it is illegal,’” Troyer said. “No other board member got involved.” Troyer said that because he alerted the superintendent the bullying category was removed and the school district went on to become a leader in Hudson County on protecting students from bullying.
“I just take offense to you continuously saying that ‘You are trying to get rid of her,’” said Gonnelli. “It is not my position to get rid of anyone. So I would appreciate that you don’t say that. But if you were involved with [removing] the bullying, I give you a lot of credit for that. But you do do a lot of bullying in the newspaper.”
“I will always fight for the underdog,” said Troyer. “This time it is me. But it is just temporary.”
Decision on school budget cuts
His remarks come at a time when the mayor and Town Council are in the middle of determining cuts for the school budget, which was defeated on April 17 by one vote. The arguments between Troyer and Gonnelli date back to last year after the mayor and Town Council cut $1.1 million from the school budget after it failed by a huge margin.
Councilman Robert Costantino said during the meeting that the council is reviewing the budget line item by line item, but will do what is best for the students and the school district. The council has requested data from the school district to review three year’s worth of information. They are closely looking at administrative costs for any duplication of services.
Costantino said after the meeting that while the cuts won’t be as high as last year’s, the council does intend to recommend cuts. They may look at savings in retirement funds or in the use of consultants, he said. He added that the town also wants comparisons of spending from other school districts.
“We are going to see where we would like to cut without hurting the children,” said Costantino. “This is not about us trying to run the BOE.”
Addressing flooding issues
In other business, the mayor and council approved a resolution to accept bids for the Riverview Gardens Stormwater Management project to alleviate flooding in the area by Farm Road. The project was designed by the firm Remington and Vernick Engineers and entails a brand new piping system with tide gates and a pump station.
“The pipe that exists there now is non-functioning,” said Gonnelli. “It may be a $300,000 project.”
During the public remarks, local resident Sam Maffei asked the mayor to update the residents on progress against flooding. The mayor said the town has invested in updating and rebuilding pump stations and has plans to continue with upgrades that will be part of a five year plan. He said that the town has gotten stores in the industrial area to clean their ditches. The town also plans to install a new emergency generator at the high school.
“We are chipping away at it,” said Gonnelli.
The county also plans to rebuild the Penhorn pump station, which drains the entire Secaucus Road area. During Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, Secaucus Road experienced serious flooding and remained flooded for an extended period of time.
“I’m sure the people of Secaucus can appreciate it, because everything you do now will prevent flooding and will prevent heartache,” said Maffei.
New brick crosswalks, park attendants on patrol
The council awarded a contract in the amount of $128,097 to Four Clean Up for Fifth Street improvements that include adding brick paver crosswalks at Centre Avenue and Fifth Street and Front and Fifth Streets. The town received a Community Development Block Grant for the project.
“It makes the crosswalk stick out, [and] because it grabs attention, you tend to slow down a little bit,” said Town Administrator David Drumeler.
The Town Council passed a resolution to hire Thomas Joehnk, Thomas Conroy, and William Duda at $12.50 an hour as park attendants to monitor activity at all local parks. The park attendants will conduct routine visits to all the parks to open and close them, and to ensure that groups have permits to use the parks. Gonnelli said that he wants to protect the investment the town has made at the parks and prevent any vandalism or littering.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.