After decades of residents from the 4th ward-district 2 voting at the Chiego Center – located off of Westfield Avenue next to the Church of the Assumption – starting this November, they will have to go to the EJF/Aldene School to cast their ballots for primary and general elections. The Union County Board of Elections decided to move the 4th Ward-District 2 polling place in response to a formal notice sent on June 7th of this year and signed by Reverend James Spera, pastor of the Church of the Assumption. The correspondence simply stated:
I regret to inform you that the Chiego Center at the Church of the Assumption, Roselle Park, New Jersey will no longer be available as a “polling place” for the Borough of Roselle Park. Our Parochial activities during times of elections necessitate this action.
Reverend Spera explained that the June primary always coincides with the church’s popular Feast of St. Anthony and although there had never been a problem before, this year, according to Father Spera, “There seemed to have been a conflict and the [borough] clerk seemed to have difficulty in understanding that the property doesn’t belong to the town or to the county. We certainly are willing to extend hospitality but in order to prevent any future complications, I thought maybe it’s better if they find another place.”
Doreen Cali, the Borough Clerk, in line with Roselle Park Borough Code 2-8.3.f (Powers and Duties), serves as the Chief Administrative Officer in all elections held in the Borough. She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of elections held in the borough.
The church pastor proceeded to explain that although there was an agreement to use the space in the Chiego Center, neither parking nor the rest of the church’s property was part of the agreement. Before this primary election, there had never been any issues with the municipality or Ms. Cali regarding the accommodations but this June there was an insistence, for lack of a better term, by the Borough Clerk that parking was to be provided even though it was not a requirement. Additionally, on the same day as the June primary, the church was setting up for the Feast of St. Anthony that was set to start two days later and parking for voters which now became a mandate interfered with preparations for the four-day event.
“I don’t want to have an argument every year over this. The church doesn’t mind helping but I’m not going have somebody demanding the use of church property,” said Reverend Spera. He went on to state that he is the protector of the parishioner’s property, adding, “This is parish property. This is not my property. I have to think about potential problems. The set-up of the rides, the tents, and the equipment posed a potential safety hazard and, as such, I felt it wasn’t in the best interest of everyone’s safety to block off the parking lot as we had done in the past because we had stuff coming in already at that point. We never had this trouble. Access to and from Chiego [Center] for voting wasn’t blocked and street parking was available but the clerk had no interest in having a conversation about safety. She was just demanding use of the property.”
Father Spera stated that barricades which were set up this year on the orders of the Borough Clerk ended up costing the church money since the setting up for the feast needed to be postponed. The pastor remarked, “If the municipality needs parking, then find a place that provides that, because we can’t.”
In reaching out to the Borough Clerk, Ms. Cali simply stated, “The Church of the Assumption discontinued their agreement with the Board of Elections to use their facility.”
Fourth ward residents in district 2 will now have to go to EJF/Aldene Elementary School starting on the general election day this year. The school grounds do not provide parking and voters will have to find parking on the street.
Those uncertain of where they vote find out by using visiting the Union County website’s “Where Do I Vote?” section (link). Election day is Tuesday, November 8th.