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Environmental Commission: Council, Manager Ignore Us

Members of the Environmental Commission said their concerns are not being heard by township officials.

What started as a discussion about how the Environmental Commission could operate more efficiently soon evolved into an airing of Commission members’ grievances against the Township Council and Township Manager.

Vornlocker declined to comment for this story.

Commission members at their March 1 virtual meeting expressed frustration that their requests for information go largely unheeded by the Council and Township Manager Robert Vornlocker.

One of the suggestions to make the Commission more efficient was to create subcommittees. Commission member Diane Pydeski said that subcommittees may help alleviate what she called the “chaotic” nature of recent meetings.

She said that meetings, which can last more than two hours, never went that long in the past, and it seems as though the Commission is spreading itself too thin.

That’s when the finger-pointing began.

“I think part of it is the frustration that when we want to get something done and we need the township, it just doesn’t happen,” Commission member Stanislav Jaracz said. “And we have it over and over again.”

Jaracz, who is a proponent of electric cars, said he has been trying unsuccessfully for months to get information on the use of the township’s electric vehicle fleet.

“I just cannot close the chapter on (electric) vehicles,” he said. “Pretty much every month I can report on how the vehicles are underused, and we have no idea if the vehicles have been taken in for recall … this is part of the chaos. We want to get things done, and we are frustrated because we can’t and then just move on.”

Another suggestion was to name a Commission member as liaison to the township. Township Councilman Ted Chase currently serves as the Council liaison to the Commission.

Commission member Arnold Schmidt said that besides Chase, township Principal Planner Mark Haley serves as a liaison for the Commission.

Chase said he tries to bring up with the Township Manager issues in which the Commission is interested, “but most of the time, Bob Vornlocker ignores me.”

“Well, that means he ignores us,” Jaracz said.

“So we need to ask Ted, since Bob Vornlocker ignores our requests, what better way can we go about this, is there a better way we can go about getting information,” Schmidt said.

“I think we’ve been asking that for the last year,” Commission member Robin Suydam said. “I think Ted is stumped.”

“It’s unfortunate that it’s not working the way it’s supposed to,” Schmidt said.

“My feeling from this whole discussion, and what we’re frustrated at, is I don’t see that the town has us as a priority,” Commission member Paul Walitsky said.

Schmidt, who is also a member of the Shade Tree Commission, said it’s not just the Environmental Commission members who feel slighted.

“Being on Shade Tree, we’ve been asking for very simple things, like having a couple of trees cut down on JFK Boulevard, and we have been blocked for over three years,” he said. “We’ve been making these requests and we’ve been ignored as far as that’s concerned … That’s just the way it is.”

Commission member Jessica Johnson said that those in power rarely listen to individuals.

“If you don’t have it backed up with some sort of organization on your own, you’re just going to get ignored again,” she said.

“I think the commission is trying to do a great deal more than it did in earlier years, and I think the township expects these committees … to simply handle certain issues that are procedurally in their area,” Chase said.

“Perhaps the most effective thing … would be to talk to the Council through the public section of the Council meetings where everybody can hear you,” he said.

Continuing her earlier thought, Johnson said an organized group is harder for those in power to ignore.

“It’s really easy to avoid one person, it’s a lot harder to avoid different people who keep coming at you with different issues,” she said. “If we (say to the Council) here are some things we want you to work on, they won’t be able to ignore us.”

Ignoring the Commission may have worked for the Council in the past, she said, “but that’s not where we are right now. They need to get on the train or move over.”

“They refuse to come to our meetings,” she said. “They’re going to push me too far, and then they’re going to regret it because I’m going to show up at their meeting.”

Jaracz brought up the possibility of Vornlocker attending Commission meetings.

“I’ll tell you what happens if Vornlocker attends our meeting, he does the bulk of the talking,” Chase said.

“Bob Vornlocker takes on the whole room,” Schmidt added. “He takes it over.”

“That’s really sad, because he in his position should be a listener,” Suydam said.

“It’s International Woman’s month,” Johnson said. “Maybe he needs a woman to go toe-to-toe with him.”

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