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Westville Still Considering Environmental Commission Status

By Sara Martino

NEWS Correspondent

"I find it frightening that you would eliminate citizens' participation. Reconsider this action and let the group as an independent body," said resident Virginia Horn during the July 11 meeting of Westville Borough Council.

The "group" is referring to the Westville Environmental Commission, which has been on the verge of being eliminated.

Some Commission members said they had asked permission from Mayor and Council to change the number of members from seven to five in order for the group to have a quorum and conduct business.

When the commission was first founded in 1987, there were plenty of active volunteers.

At that time, the group was formed to protect the environment and citizens' rights while the Council was considering giving permission to Wheelabrator to build an incinerator on Westville's borders.

The incinerator has been in place for years and now the governing body is considering permission for a redevelopment project that also should have local environmental monitoring.

In the past, the Commission has completed many projects, including a Global Protection Service, aerial mapping of the Borough, clean up of the pond in Thomas West Park with the help of Boy Scouts, etc.

Some residents have concluded that the Commission is being eliminated and changed to a Council membership, with ad hoc members, in order to make it easier to approve the redevelopment.

The governing body has been accused of "greasing the wheel" for the new redevelopment project.

"That is ridiculous," said Mayor Michael Galbraith. "We are committed to the environment."

Cheryl Reardon, project director for the Association of NJ Environmental Com-missions (ANJEC) suggested that emotions be put aside.

"The important issue is the well being of the community. There are over 400 environmental commissions that are not controlled by the governing body. That is when the waters run muddy -- when the group is not autonomous. Council would receive zero dollars in grant money. It would be a great injustice to Westville if you decide to disband," Reardon said.

Chairperson Joyce Lovell and Member Fred Coleman also spoke up for the maintaining of the Commission.

Also, they denied some of the allegations that there were not any reports given to Council, and that there was not a lack of communication on their part.

After much discussion and audience participation, Councilman Michael Ledrich asked for a motion to table the action.

"There have been lots of valid points," he said.

The motion to table was approved with one "No" vote from Council Member Russell Welsh.