Two seats on the Hillsdale Council are being sought by four candidates, including one former and two current council members.
The candidates include incumbent Democrat Chris Looes, who was elected to a one-year unexpired term last year and previously served as president of the Meadowbrook FFA; Republican John MacEwen, who was appointed to an open seat on the council for several months last year and formerly volunteered as an EMT in Norwood; Democrat Paul Muller, a firefighter and volunteer with several groups and incumbent Republican Frank Pizzella, a volunteer with various community groups and two-time appointee to the council under both Republican and Democrat majorities.
Neither Looes nor Muller agreed to be interviewed for this article.
Pizzella works as the legal administration and compliance director for an international private equity fund manager, a position which involves returning struggling ventures to profitability. If elected to a new term, he said he would use the same skills to help Hillsdale find new ways to generate revenue in order to lessen the tax burden on residents.
“A town like Hillsdale has to figure out a way to leverage what it has and create assets that make money,” he said.
Pizzella suggested examples including expanding the annual Pascack Brook fishing contest into a street fair, hosting tournaments at Stonybrook Swim Club or borough rec fields and hosting shared services for other towns.
Changes to how recreation programs work in town could also help bring in money for improvements to facilities, Pizzella said. He wants to bring in the various sports associations as members of the recreation commission in order to help have more authority and work together toward common goals.
MacEwen also said he would look for new sources of revenue, like events, which could also help support downtown businesses.
“Driving revenue and traffic through their doors is an important thing,” MacEwen said. “We want these business owners to stay, we want them to thrive. That’s going to generate more revenue for us as a town.”
Looes touted this year’s budget as an example of her fiscal experience in a letter she wrote to the Pascack Valley Community Life, noting that the 1.9 percent tax increase was “one of the lowest in recent history.”
She also pointed to the purchase of new police and fire vehicles as a positive from her term, thought it was Pizzella who suggested using a lease purchase agreement instead of borrowing money for the fire chief vehicle as a compromise that would allow Hillsdale to purchase the vehicle without increasing the borough's debt.
Looes and Muller have criticized their opponents for approving last year a new garbage contract which eliminated one of the two trash pick-ups each week during the summer in order to save several hundred thousand dollars. In a letter to the Pascack Valley Community Life, Muller wrote that “most Hillsdale residents think this is a terrible deal” and accused the then-council, which included Pizzella and MacEwen, of approving the contract “without public debate, without hearing from our citizens” at a September 18, 2012 meeting.
The vote actually occurred at the October 2, 2012 meeting and was discussed openly beforehand, including by 2012 independent council candidate Jim Moldow. The vote itself took place at the end of that meeting, following a closed session discussion of a legal issue with one of the bids.
Current officials have discussed making a change to the contract, following complaints from residents. MacEwen said he would also support restoring the service, as long as taxes can remain stable.
Pizzella said he would also like to restore the twice-per-week service in the summer, but believed it was important to keep Hillsdale affordable for its residents. He also said he believed officials could have done a better job educating residents about the change and possibly should have provided large trash bins.
“There might be a lot of people in Hillsdale who say, ‘I don’t care, charge me for garbage,’ but I think the majority of the people who live in Hillsdale are sort of sensitive to the economy, and they’re not all making a boatload of cash. Things are different now. We think that, because we live here, everybody’s affluent. But that’s not necessarily the case.”
The general election is Tuesday.