While many were still without power this past Tuesday — and still are right now — it was a usual Election Day in New Providence.
With three candidates and only two Council seats open in New Providence, incumbent Alan Lesnewich and newcomer Gary Kapner were voted in by the residents with 3,255 and 3,187 votes, respectively. The two Republicans defeated Victor Moschella, an Independent candidate, who received 608 votes.
“It’s good to grow up in a town and do this. I’ve been here 60 years. I’m very happy. I’m happy to get the approval of the voters,” Lesnewich said after the results were announced at a campaign party at Creative Wallcovering & Interiors. “I’m looking forward to continuing to do some of the things we’ve started doing [on Council]. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the existing Mayor and Council, and doing what’s right for the town.”
Moving forward, Lesnewich said he plans to continue to focus on field improvements around the borough during his next three years on Council.
“That’s my passion. Fortunately, we’re in pretty good shape right now,” Lesnewich said. “I’m not seeing anything controversial out there in the future. We have some exciting things happening. The liquor license is going out to bid – that’s huge. Continuing to negotiate and work with Summit on the dispatch services – that’s a big one. Right now, I don’t see anything else that’s a big issue. Hopefully it will keep going, smooth sailing.”
Kapner, who has owned Creative Wallcoverings & Interiors in New Providence for 20 years with his wife, said he feels good about winning the election.
“My first course of action would be to learn how the Council functions and operates. Obviously, I have my own opinions but I’m not there to reinvent the wheel, either,” Kapner said. “First, I have to see how the process works. I’m familiar with it. I’ve been attending the meetings; I’m a member of the Planning Board so I’ve been there. I’ve been excluded from the [Council's] Executive Sessions. I would say there’s a short learning curve of three or four months.”
Once he’s officially a Councilman this January, Kapner said he wants to look into how applicants coming before the Planning Board and Board of Adjustment can cut through some of the red tape.
“It’s a bit of a burden for a homeowner to bring attorneys, engineers and architects before the Planning Board or Board of Adjustment for something that really didn’t need to be there,” Kapner said. “What’s the gray area? What can the borough professionals approve versus the Planning Board or the Board of Adjustment approve?”
Kapner said this issue is important to him personally.
“I’ve gone through that process here. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy getting my business moved here to be told I didn’t need a variance in the end,” Kapner explained. “I spent $25,000 to be told I didn’t need a variance. That bothered me and I got myself involved with the Planning Board because of it. I’m not knocking anyone who serves [on either board]. I just think there needs to be a better balance.”
Other issues Kapner said he would like to address are attracting new businesses to the downtown and reconfiguring parking in the downtown area so it’s more user-friendly for pedestrians and for residents to park.
One issue both Kapner and Lesnewich discussed was JCP&L and the company’s failure to provide residents and borough officials alike with adequate communications following Hurricane Sandy.
“I think what happened this year is we had a [JCP&L] representative come speak with us after the complete failure of communication that had occurred. We thought we had that part straighten out because it was the lack of communication, which leads to confusion, which leads to people not understanding what’s happening — that’s the problem,” Lesnewich explained. “This year, I find the same thing is happening and I have listened into some of the meetings with JCP&L every day and the same questions come up, the same concerns come up and the only thing that’s changed is the attitude seems a little bit better in terms of saying, “We’re sorry, we’ll get back to you” as opposed to last year, “too bad.”
Lesnewich said he’s the type of person who prefers to know any news so he can act accordingly.
“If it’s bad news, tell me the bad news. If it’s good news, tell me the good news. People can’t make decisions if they don’t know what’s happening,” Lesnewich explained. “So I can know I have to keep my generator going or I can know maybe to get a hotel room. Or I can know that my elderly parents need to be moved out of town. One of the problems is a lot of these decisions are being called [from JCP&L] in Ohio. We’re in New Jersey. It’s a huge problem.”
Kapner said he plans to find out if something can be done to prevent this failure of communication and lengthy power restoration process from happening to the residents of New Providence again.
Kapner said he was at the meeting last year when a JCP&L representative came before the Council and said how prepared the company was for the next storm.
“I sat there and they said, “we’re prepared, we have better communication.” None of that seems to be happening,” Kapner explained. “I realize, given the circumstances, it’s an overtaxed moment. But they don’t seem to be prepared well on a regular basis. They haven’t maintained the system in an appropriate way.”