West Orange getting serious about cleaner living, better-looking neighborhoods

Published 12:20 am Saturday, July 22, 2023

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WEST ORANGE — The city of West Orange is undergoing a transformation, undertaking an ambitious initiative to breathe life into its streets and demolish dilapidated structures, all while fostering community involvement through an “Adopt-A-Street” program.

These combined efforts aim to create a more attractive and inviting living environment for residents.

The comprehensive revitalization project, with an estimated cost of millions of dollars, has achieved considerable progress, with several roads resurfaced and numerous dilapidated structures successfully demolished, city leader said.

The massive resurfacing project encompassed more than a dozen roads, requiring a substantial $2 million investment. The initiative focused on critical repairs, including concrete repair, asphalt paving and guardrail installation, ensuring the city’s infrastructure meets safety and quality standards for the foreseeable future, according to Mayor Randy Branch.

“We continue to inspect our city’s housing for unsafe conditions,” he said. “Cosmetically speaking, our city is cleaning up.”

In February, Branch disclosed that 20 structures had been identified for demolition due to their hazardous, unsightly and substandard conditions. At that time, five of these structures had already been successfully leveled. The demolition efforts played a pivotal role in transforming the city’s landscape, making it more appealing to potential residents and investors.

Public Works Director Jon Sherwin said since the beginning of the year, the city successfully demolished seven residential and commercial structures, addressing various safety and compliance issues.

“The cost of these demolitions amounted to $51,300,” he said. “Additionally, the ‘Clean Up West Orange’ initiative encouraged the owners of 26 properties to voluntarily demolish their structures following non-compliance evidence presented by our building and code enforcement officials.”

“Clean Up West Orange” displayed a staunch commitment to property compliance enforcement, with the code enforcement official investigating a staggering 182 violations last month alone. 15 cases were filed in municipal court, underscoring a city effort to promptly and effectively address property-related issues.

While the demolition achieved notable success, the process requires meticulous planning and coordination with utility companies, title and lien investigations, and exhaustive reports.

“It isn’t a quick process to say the least,” Sherwin says, “but it is well worth the effort that the city has embraced and is committed to continue.”

The city has also embraced a community driven approach to tackle litter issues with “Adopt-A-Street.”

Spearheaded by Mayor-Pro-Tem Meritta Kennedy, the initiative leverages social media to encourage civic participation in maintaining clean streets.

Branch said the city is experiencing a lot of litter on Dayton, Holly and South Streets, and the action on MacArthur Drive creates the need for Adopt-A-Street.

“Western Avenue around Lansing Street also is a high litter area,” he said. “I am not saying that these are the only trouble spots for litter, just that in my opinion, these are our highest litter areas.”

Since its launch, “Adopt-A-Street” has garnered significant interest, with nine teams already dedicated to maintaining nine sections of streets within the city. Teams are composed of devoted citizens and the high school student council have successfully kept their respective sections free of litter, highlighting the program’s effectiveness, city leaders say.

Adopt-A-Street has been a game-changer for Public Works Street, where just two employees have been keeping up with the task of maintaining clean streets.

If you would like to participate in “Adopt-A-Street,” call city hall at 409-883-3468 or download an application form from the city website, cityofwestorange.com.

— Written by Chrissie Mouton