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Scotch Plains Mayor and Council Discuss Sandy at Nov. 20 Meeting

Hurricane Sandy lead most of the discussion at the Nov. 20 Scotch Plains business and conference meetings.


Two and half weeks after Sandy hit Scotch Plains, the Mayor and Council held their first public conference and business meetings where they discussed the storm's impact and what it means for the township.

Mayor Mary DePaola announced at the 7 p.m. Conference Meeting and the 8 p.m. Business Meeting that the council will hold a Town Hall Meeting for the public with representatives from PSE&G within the next 2-3 weeks to discuss Sandy.


The 7 p.m. conference meeting began with the manager's discussion items, the first being a "Super Storm Sandy Update." 

In the update, Township Manager Henry Underhill discussed the township's current involvement in the clean-up process, which Underhill said fully began yesterday. The current process has crews making a full loop of the entire town to clean up debris. He added that all debris should be removed within the next 12 days.

In addition, Underhill added that crews have been working hard since the storm to remove trees from streets and wires from homes.

Police Chief Brian Mahoney, who replaced Paul Malool as the township's Office of Emergency Coordinator, was also available to comment and answer questions on the impact of Sandy in Scotch Plains.

"This storm was of epic proportions," Mahoney said. "I've been here seven years and have never seen anything quite like it." 

Mahoney stated that he has been in touch with FEMA on a regular basis to see what the reimbursement costs would be. According to Mahoney, he believes there is still a couple of months of work left to do.

When the floor opened to the public, Scotch Plains resident Albert Muller addressed the council about the public's responsibility in emergency situations such as Sandy. 

"There are steps we as the public can take,"  Muller said. "In a way, we have to take care of ourselves."

Mahoney agreed with Muller and laughed that he would add his name to the volunteer list. However, joking aside, Mahoney said he was serious about getting more people involved as volunteers during emergency situations. 

Mahoney and the council members agreed that they learned a lot from Hurricane Sandy and will be making a lot of changes for possible future emergencies.

DePaola added that it is going to require participation with the public for better communication during these types of situations.

One resident explained that he and his wife did not have any internet or cell phones so had no way of receiving information.

Mahoney addressed the residents concerns and assured him that it is something they are aware of and working on.

"We need boots on the ground." Mahoney said.

He added how Fanwood did a great job communicating to residents, but also that Scotch Plains did not have the luxury to send their police force door-to-door since the township is so much larger than Fanwood.

Mahoney said in the future they will need residents to volunteer and be able to check on their neighbors and keep them informed with new information.

Additionally, as the OEM he plans to coordinate open emergency management meetings for the public at town hall for those residents who can make it there .

Longtime Scotch Plains resident, Kimberly Nix addressed the council very distraught about their presence following Sandy.

Nix said she spent many days following the storm inside Town Hall to charge her phone and keep warm and never once saw any of the council members and only saw Mayor DePaola on one occasion.

Nix said she is very invested in Scotch Plains and felt the mayor and council were not as invested.

"We(the Township of Scotch Plains) are not united," Nix said.

DePaola replied by saying "I was here everyday." She also mentioned seeing Nix at least three times.

Additionally, DePaola mentioned that on Nov. 1 they held a meeting in the dark at town hall and she was also on a PSE&G conference call every morning. She added that herself and some of the other council members were also without power for 14 days.

"We lived through exactly the same thing you lived through," she said.

According to DePaola, Deputy Mayor Bo Vastine and Councilman Ed Saridaki drove around posting notices in numerous locations following the storm, including phone poles.

Vastine addressed Nix by saying she should also keep in mind that in addittion to serving on the council voluntarily each member also has their own family, home and job to take care of.

"As much as we understand your frustration and feelings of isolation… we too felt isolated, the frustration and anger at times," Vastine said.

He added that he also does not feel this absolved the township of their mistakes.

Nix replied by saying she felt disappointed in her council rather than angry.

Councilman Saridaki and Councilman Marcus also provided Nix with a rebuttal.
Marcus stated that he did not want to sit there and defend himself, but did comment to Nix, adding that he was glad a forum would be in place for residents to express similar concerns and suggestions.

"We take what you say very seriously," Marcus said. "We will try to figure out ways to improve our response"

Saridaki told Nix that he had opened his own home to neighbors so that neighbors could take advantage of his hot water during the days without power. He also said he burned four tanks of gas while checking on people around town and running his business in Berkley Heights.

As things move forward following Sandy's landfall in Scotch Plains, Mahoney mentioned some of his suggestions for future emergencies. 

In addition to having residents volunteer, Mahoney said he would also use Town Hall employees to assume emergency management roles, including someone in the Municipal Building that would be available to answer all questions. He also said they would look into a plan for residents to loan generators to those still without power once their own power has been restored.

At the eventual Town Hall meeting the council and Mahoney said they will be better prepared to answer all questions and would welcome any feedback or suggestions from the public.

Muller also wanted to thank the town employees for their hard work throughout town, especially the police officers who he witnessed knocking on doors checking on residents. 

Councilman Marcus also thanked the town employees and his colleagues on council, as well as the group from St. Bart's who delivered coffee and donuts to residents on his street who were still without power on Nov. 11.

"Those types of people and residents make us the good community that we are," Marcus said.

Check back with scotchplains.patch.com for more information on the Nov. 20 conference and business meetings.










Tired November 21, 2012 at 01:34 PM
It's safe to say the systems in place were outdated and antiquated. To say people weren't doing anything because you didn't see them is a bit ridiculous. With all the supposed people on the Patch complaining, there was barely a sole at the town hall meeting last night. Two people got up to say something in a town of 23,000. It's easy to create multiple aliases and act like a gang. It's quite another to show your face in public and speak up. I'll be interested to see who speaks out at the townhall meeting. Hope to see you there. Oh and by the way becks, try to rely on yourself. Be prepared and make things happen. Don't wait for someone else it may cost you your life.
Tired November 21, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Hey Deb did you ever think there were 100 trees down? I have news for you, if you're in real danger and you wait for help during a state of emergency you will die.
Holden MaGroin November 21, 2012 at 01:42 PM
I'm Holden MaGroin and I watched this show on TV last night. What I learned was that Mr. Malool wasn't fired, but rather replaced. This came from the mayor. I also learned through 40 minutes of stories, about the councils' and mayor's families, their dark houses, and how in times like this, we're on our own. The mayor also talked about how communications to us were difficult because of no power at her house, but then talked about how she, and some council members were at townhall everyday. That confused me, but I never could figure out interpretive dance. We can also rest assured that with the replacement of Mr. Malool, chief Mahoney was prepared for the nor'easter by having salt trucks ready to go. This too came from the mayor. I can't recall who said it, but the size of SP compared to Fanwood was also mentioned. It appears that some on council feel we're just too big to govern effectively in times of crisis. All in all, I should have just watched a rerun of Law and Order. At least with that show, I don't always know what is coming next.
Tired November 21, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Whats always coming next is some twisted confused remarks from a guy holding his crotch
Enough Already November 21, 2012 at 02:24 PM
And what seems to always be coming from you, Tired, is excuses and "reasons" why our town representatives didn't do what they should have during a crisis.
Holden MaGroin November 21, 2012 at 02:25 PM
I'm Holden maGroin and this is for my independent friend Tired. I'm glad to see you made it through the storm safely. I'm sorry that you are the one assigned to defend the comments this week. You have a happy Thanksgiving and be safe. Also, as stated above, don't worry if another storm comes...... the salt trucks are ready.
Chester A. Arthur November 21, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Wow.. Just wow.. This meeting in itself is an example of how the town leadership just continues to fall short despite the lessons from Sandy. There's still no communication. The only reason I know about this meeting is because the Patch reported it AFTER it happened. I know more about what's going on in Westfield than in Scotch Plains and I actively look. So what was the point of this meeting? What got done? Part of a post mortem is that you come up with solutions. I mean everyone knows Town Hall did a poor job during and shortly following the storm, and it sounded like this was just a rehash of all that. This comment section will be full of back and forth between Tired and Holden etc, but what came of this? Was there an exchange of ideas? Was this the extent of that discussion? "At the eventual Town Hall meeting the council and Mahoney said they will be better prepared to answer all questions and would welcome any feedback or suggestions from the public" I know they "Welcome any feedback" but how? Facebook? Twitter? The awesome Scotch Plains Web page? Btw, My favorite line of the whole shit show.. "According to DePaola, Deputy Mayor Bo Vastine and Councilman Ed Saridaki drove around posting notices in numerous locations following the storm, including phone poles." It just show the feeble thinking of the current leadership. Mayor elect Glover.. Don't F*ck it up..
Chester A. Arthur November 21, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Tired.. There was no one there last night becuase the town does a shitty job of communicating these things.. Do you really think they wanted to hear from the town? They would have been torn new ones. C'mon.
haljalikea kick November 21, 2012 at 03:02 PM
If Scotch Plains is too large to effectively communicate and help their residents during an emergency, we better not consider becoming a larger town by merging Fanwood & Scotch Plains. The Fanwood mayor has a family too, and had a home without power - but we could depend on her updates, and her daily presence at the Fanwood library .
Mike Hawk November 21, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Chester, Debbie, Enough, Holden..........Mike Hawk here. I'm wondering why you come to the Patch to complain.............seems odd that you would not attend the meeting last night and voice your displeasure directly, rather than here on a website that probably is not read by many. Oh wait, you don't have power, internet or your cell phones still aren't working so you didn't know about the meeting. I see. The meetings are posted in advance on the town website. I won't post it here because Mike Hawk wants to stick it to you and make you do the work. I'm lazy like that. Mike Hawk wishes you all a blessed Thanksgiving
Ed Minall November 21, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Let me throw my hat in the ring. In addition, to the high tech world of emails, Facebook, Text Messages, etc. How about utilizing a resource called the United States Postal Service to inform the residents? I only missed 1-Day of mail service during the storm aftermath. In Town Mail is typically mailed in 1-Day. Unfortunately, my bills found their way, but communication from the Town wasn’t in the mailbox.
Chester A. Arthur November 21, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Mike, I sense a bit of sarcasm in your post. Maybe, I might have mis-read your post as you have mine? idk.
becks November 21, 2012 at 04:29 PM
I did not go to the council meeting because I work and was unable to attend. I've seen council members on the patch so this seems as good a place to get the message to them. They should have stood up said they did not handle this well and will look to do better should this ever happen again. At the end of the day they chose to run for office and have no problem showing up when things are good. When you are in office you have to take the good and the bad.
George November 21, 2012 at 04:45 PM
This really shows that the town really doesn't care for the people that voted and pay their salary.
Old timer November 21, 2012 at 05:00 PM
It sounds like there were more excuses than answers. Our leaders are referring to it as a super storm of epic proportions so we should forgive them for not being able to communicate with the town. I don't see that same standard being applied to Paul Malool. January can't come quick enough. Out with the trash. I hope Glover does right by this man and corrects this injustice.
twogirls84 November 21, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Sometimes a 'leader' needs to just 'suck it up' and admit that there were mistakes of 'epic proportions.' Isn't it time to stop making excuses, remain quiet and just LISTEN to your citizens. They are annoyed, aggravated and just plain pissed off. How about an apology? Never once did I read or hear that anyone was sorry for the lack of communication. I honestly thought I could depend on those that were supposedly 'in charge'...you failed miserably. Now I hear things to the effect that people should rely on themselves and not depend on others. (Perhaps I should write a tax check out to myself?) My fav comment was hearing that our town is much bigger than Fanwood and therefore much harder to 'effectively offer communication.' Seriously? Westfield didn't seem to have much of a problem. So again...stop with the excuses, admit the mistakes and fix the problem .... or step down. You were all disappointments. Shame on you! (P.S... I, and obviously others, have no interest in attending meetings where town members offer nothing but excuses. I do not need to attend a meeting so I can stand up and give the supposed leaders a 'tongue lashing.' That would truly not be a constructive use of my time nor yours. From the article above and some of the commentary, it is clear I made the right decision to remain at home.)
George November 21, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Ed your so right Before,During and after the storm ,I see the postman more than any branch of the town!
Mike Hawk November 21, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Mike Hawk for 2 girls. I think you went a little overboard there. Feelings are now hurt at Town hall. When you yelled 'Shame on you!' Mike Hawk got scared and turtled up. Maybe you could apologize and take it back, and then the council may also say sorry for not visiting you or dropping off a sympathy card during the storm. I'd like to think Mike Hawk is willing to get it done!
twogirls84 November 21, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Mike...I respect your opinion as I hope you would mine. As adults we can agree to disagree on what should or should not have been done, as well as my feelings on the issue. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Tired November 21, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Two more cents, sorry my crotch playing friend I am not assigned to do anything. Independent with an opinion unlike you my big D friend. For the other knuckle heads apparently you know zero ablit town hall meetings because 1) you don't travel on Park Ave past townhall? The meetings schedule is posted there for everyone to see. ALSO the councimeeting schedule is lidted on the town website ONE YEAR in advance. check it out for yourself. If you actually put some slight effort into it you might have found out. Wait I know, it's someone elses fault you didn't know. LOL
Tired November 21, 2012 at 11:32 PM
The meetings schedule is posted on the events board on the lawn of town hall for everyone to see. ALSO the council meeting schedule is listed on the town website ONE YEAR in advance. Guess you were so upset you wanted to show, you just didn't bother to search.
Amanda Q November 22, 2012 at 12:18 AM
@Tired… I can give you a few reasons as to why I think residents opted to skip the last meeting. Maybe many residents didn’t think it was necessary to attend the meeting because they know they will be waived off from the mayor. I remember that happening after the water main break. I believe her response was something like this…. “This is a private matter between you and your insurance company, and at this point, we’re not liable,” Maybe many people didn’t feel it was needed to show up because they felt they already spoke up on Election Day. Maybe the people of this town are finally getting back to normal and didn’t have the time to attend the meeting. Or maybe, just maybe they have already complained enough and they are just waiting for change. One last thing, it must be real easy for you to post under the name tired and call people “cowards” for not showing their face. By the way, the days following the storm were difficult. I felt it odd to receive better updates from delivery now then from our own mayor.
Amanda Q November 22, 2012 at 12:33 AM
@tired... just so I know all the rules.... Rule # 1. If i posted an unhappy comment on the patch then i am required to show my face at the meeting. Rule # 2. If I can't get to the meeting then I should not post my concerns on the patch. Did i get that right? What if i am busy and can't get to the meeting... then i guess i shouldn't bother at all. Thanks for the update, i get it now ; )
Liffey Boy November 22, 2012 at 12:36 AM
I thought it appropriate that I re-post my comments from November 10th: Church Avenue, still no power on this end and no updates! How has Scotch Plains communicated anything to anybody, particularly seniors who have been without power since this began, via the town website?? NO POWER = NO TV AND NO INTERNET... DO YOU GET IT NOW MAYOR/COUNCIL/PSE&G OR WAS THAT EVER A CONSIDERATION! USELESS MUPPETS!!
Grew up with better November 23, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Lots of empty excuses: Our town may seem bigger than Fanwood but that also includes the area of 3 golf courses & multiple parks, area space that is not inhabited. I received phone calls on my working land line from the Fanwood Mayor, even though I am a Scotch Plains resident, but never one piece of communication from Scotch Plains. I did not see one police car on or near my block at any time, even with the heightened risks (theft, etc.) that the darkness brought upon us. The only police I saw were standing idly by at corners where lights were out, guess they were supposed to make sure we could all read the STOP signs they were protecting. I did not see one notice on any poles that were still standing. If you are an elected official there is a responsibility that you take on to take care of your town, which may be at the inconvenience of other things in your life, if you can't handle that idea then do not run for public office. Also, maybe our town should consider having council members be responsible for a specific section of town. If the town was divided into 4 or 5 wards, with a council representative elected by & responsible for their specific ward, then a better ability to reach about what is happening would be available. Each council member could report back to the Mayor & there could also be an At-Large Council person who covered the whole town too. It would allow for more personal representation & in these kind of situations they would have a better handle on specifics
Lenapee Tree November 26, 2012 at 01:34 AM
I will not go to a meeting because I'm frightened of the townships employees. I once questoned something in town and it took months to get my life back to normal. I will not list the problem or why the harrasment stopped, but I am actually concerned this post will be traced so I'm using a neighbors wifi conection. If you are brave and do go to a meeting, ask about the trees in front of town hall and post what they say this time. It was not bugs and it was not the storm.
Builda Wall November 26, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Several different posts on patch have made reference to the trees having been taken down for some reason the town doesn't want us to know. Now my curiosity's piqued. What's the deal?
Nicole Bitette (Editor) November 26, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Hi Lenape and Builda- Township Manager Henry Underhill, said the decision to remove the trees came from Union County and they were supposed to be removed for awhile, it wasn't a recent decision. He did mention the trees were not healthy and for example, had termite damage. He did not say it was because of the storm, but he did say it might have been a good thing because they could have possibly came down during the storm.
Burt Mustin November 27, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I read in another forum that the trees were removed in anticipation of some construction that is going to take place. Is that what you're referring to Lenapee Tree?
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