South Orange Moves Forward to Reduce Speed Limit on South Orange Avenue

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South Orange is moving ahead with an ordinance to lower the speed limit on South Orange Avenue in the Village Center.

At the South Orange Village Board of Trustees meeting last night, Village President Alex Torpey introduced an ordinance that would lower the speed limit on a portion of South Orange Ave from 30 mph to 25 mph. The ordinance would request that Essex County impose the speed reduction on South Orange Ave. between Ward Place and North Ridgewood Ave.

“We’re just asking the county to lower the speed limit a bit as people are driving through downtown,” Torpey said. “This is one of the components of what we have certainly talked about as far as trying to make the downtown more pedestrian-friendly.”

The ordinance passed for introduction unanimously and was scheduled for a second reading at the Nov. 24 board meeting at which time a public hearing will be held.

In addition, Village Administrator Barry Lewis took the time to review the Village’s responses to the Best Practices Checklist, a mechanism by which the state makes recommendations for best practices that it wants New Jersey municipalities to implement.

“Towns are required to respond and depending on the score, you need to get a certain percentile or there’s the possibility of reduction of aid,” Lewis said.

Out of a total of 50 recommendations, South Orange scored 32 yes’s, 9 no’s, 7 n/a’s, and 2 prospective’s, meaning that the Village is currently considering the two proposed practices.

“We scored sufficiently high that we’re not going to be subject to losing any state aid,” Lewis said. “But I think a number of these will be addressed … so that it will be even better next year.”

The board is obligated to review the “no” responses, and while doing so, Trustee Deborah Davis Ford expressed concern that adequate attention was not being given to the recommendations that the Village responded “no” to multiple years in a row. Lewis reassured the board that the Village has taken significant steps to address the items that appear as repeated recommendations.

Essex County Surrogate Theodore Stephens last night also gave his annual update to the Board of Trustees. Among other things, the Essex County Surrogate’s Court oversees the probate of wills and the administration of non-willed estates. Stephens is currently working with Congressman Albio Sires (NJ-8) and Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) to promote a national awareness week for estate planning.

“[Estate planning] is not just for wealthy individuals, but can help even a family of modest means avoid some angst and some very difficult situations,” Stephens said.

Stephens is also continuing his push to increase the public’s accessibility to his office. Since Stephens’ election, he reported that he has implemented extended hours twice a month during which county residents can make an appointment at the surrogate’s office in Newark. More recently, the office has updated its website by making all forms used by the office available for download. Stephens is now working with the Essex County administration to open a satellite office at the Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange.

“What we’re trying to do is offer a level of service for individuals who may live in the western part of the county and may find it difficult to come to Newark,” Stephens said. “We’re hopefully going to be able to provide every service there that we do in the surrogate’s court.”

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