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Impound Lot Scrapped, New Seizure Lot Location Proposed

Kinnelon Council agrees not to get into the business of towing cars and comes to consensus on a new possible location for police vehicle seizure and evidence lot.

The Kinnelon Council seemed to agree on two things regarding the proposed vehicle seizure and police evidence lot that seemed to cause some controversy last month: that the lot's location should be moved closer to the Department of Public Works (DPW) garage and away from the recreation field and that an impound lot should not be included.

The new location proposed for the vehicle seizure lot is near where recyclables are collected and leaves are deposited. The leaf pile would be moved and the area would be fenced in on a graveled portion of the land. But an impound lot would not be included in that location.

"Going into that business is something that, I don't think, is going to be enough of a benefit to this borough," Councilman Stephen Cobell said Thursday, as the council members discussed whether to move forward with the impound function as part of the lot, enabling the borough to enter into shared service agreements for towing with other municipalities.

Mayor Robert Collins asked that the council discuss the impound lot in conjunction with the discussion regarding the vehicle seizure and police evidence lot, something Kinnelon Police Chief John Finkle has said is needed for the department to become accredited. The department has entered into the accreditation process, which, if approved, could save the borough close to $30,000 a year in insurance costs.

The difference between simply constructing the vehicle seizure lot and adding an impound function as well would be the needed space to tow additional cars. The impound lot would have the capacity to hold more than 30 cars whereas the needed amount of space for the vehicle seizure lot would fit between six and nine cars.

Last month, the council was considering constructing a lot that could serve both functions in the parking lot behind the borough municipal building, but was met with opposition from many youth sports parents and coaches who said the lot would be too close to the recreation field where the children play.

Councilman Gary Moleta agreed with Cobell Thursday and said, after hearing the concerns of residents, that the impound lot would not be worth the possible revenue, which some officials have said has already piqued the interest of surrounding boroughs, it would bring in.

"I don't think it's a good idea for the community to have other towns come in," he said.

Councilman Dan O'Dougherty was concerned with the number of vehicles that may be in the lot. Seized vehicles are typically those that are involved in arrests or part of the crimes, as well as vehicles seized as evidence.

"Because of the economy, we're going to get more and more of these vehicles," O'Dougherty said.

However, in order to seize a vehicle, Finkle said there has to be no cost associated. Individuals whose cars were seized are able to eventually buy back their vehicles.

Councilman Ron Mondello said that if the costs for monitoring the impound lot and maintaining it were accounted for, he also did not believe the impound lot would be worthwhile for the borough.

"It doesn't seem that the cost is worth the extra bit of headache," he said.

But Moleta asked that the vehicle seizure lot be within view of the police department so that officers can still keep a watchful eye over the facility.

Collins noted the concerns of the residents and said that he would like to see the money brought in from the insurance savings repurposed to help start a field maintenance fund where the borough could continue to update and maintain recreation fields. During the discussion on the vehicle seizure lot, the sports volunteers have also spoken about the poor field conditions of the borough facilities.

Borough Engineer Paul Darmofalski presented the new proposed location, along with two others, Thursday night, and said that in terms of the environment, the graveled location would be preferred. Some residents had expressed concern about fluids leaking on to the parking lot if cars sat on a paved lot for an extended amount of time.

"From an environmental design, the actual gravel is better than an impervious surface," he said.

Darmofalski also noted that the area is more than 30 feet away from a stream and the borough would not need Department of Environmental Protection exemptions to move forward with the project in that location.

The council will continue to discuss the lot at Thursday's meeting at 8 p.m. in the municipal building.

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