City Council 5/16/2007 – Recap
5/17/07 City Council Recap
Pier C Park Saga Continues
During the caucus, eagle-eyed City Council members asked about an $80,000 bill for the architect working on plans for Pier C Park. This has been planned and promised for the better part of a decade, with Mayor Roberts continually pushing up the opening date with each election season. As the joke goes, the “C” in Pier C stands for “Coming Soon”. In what seems to be an annual springtime discussion, the Council asks why work has not begun on Pier C, and Community Development Director Fred Bado gives them a laundry list of reasons why “it’s close to getting underway” with no actual word on when that work will actually begin.
Bado said the city received bids for to build the park that range from $19 to $29 million. $1.8 million has already been paid to architect Michael Van Valkenberg for work Bado says has been done so far. The council was amazed so much money has been spent with so little to show for it, essentially a sketch that shows up in the “Look, I’m doing stuff!” mailers the Mayor sends out a few times a year (paid for by the taxpayers).
Both Pier A and Pier C are projects funded by the Port Authority, but the difference is the PA controlled the Pier A project itself. They told David Roberts to handle the details on Pier C, which is taking forever to get done. Bado said the high cost might mean the planned beach volleyball court may have to be removed from the project. Councilman Peter Cammarano derisively described the volleyball court as a “Million Dollar Dog Run.” Bado responded “More like a Million Dollar Kitty Litter Box.” The bottom line: don’t plan any picnics on Pier C for at least another couple of years.
Collapsing Piers * Who Pays?
Questions were asked about the collapsing piers north of Sinatra Park. There were few answers about what the future holds, and who will be paying for the expensive repairs. The city has a 50-year lease on the waterfront property, but it is unclear whether Stevens or the taxpayers will be footing the bill for the work.
Church Square Park Gazebo
Council watchdog Helen Hirsch wanted to know why there was a resolution on the agenda to amend an existing contract for the restoration of the CSP Gazebo by 10%, or $12,300.00. Ms. Hirsch also wanted to know why she could not find information about this change order on the city’s official website after seeing the report about it here first on Hoboken411. Environmental Services Director Joe Peluso said the contractor didn’t realize when the planters around the gazebo were ripped out that there would be no concrete beneath them, so the extra money was need to pay for pavers that will be placed where the planters used to be. Ms. Hirsch pointed out there is a pattern of “low bidders” coming back for more money later for city projects, and it should stop. Councilmen Russo and Cammarano agreed, and voted against the resolution. All others voted yes, and it passed. Peluso also told the council there would be another resolution ahead for even more money before the gazebo project is complete.
Joe Sherman Still Getting Paid
Councilman Mike Russo was surprised to see City Attorney Joe Sherman is still on the payroll, after Mayor Roberts made a big splash out of firing him several weeks ago. Business Administrator Dick England said Sherman was “never terminated” as an employee, and is still being paid even though Roberts has hired a new lawyer to take his place. Russo called the move “illegal”. Councilman Peter Cammarano said it wasn’t necessarily against the law, but the Mayor needs to be told he should have only one attorney on the payroll. Councilman Ruben Ramos was concerned Sherman would end up with a big settlement, saying Roberts has made “Four highly public terminations, which have turned into four highly public lottery tickets.” He was referring to Roberts’ expensive efforts to improperly fire several people he didn’t like, including Chief Financial Officer George DeStefano, who got his job back and a $499,000 settlement.
Pot Calls Kettle Black
The non-binding resolution opposing the one-shot state revenue deal to sell the NJ Turnpike and other toll roads was supported by the council, but not before resident John Carey stood up to point out their hypocrisy. Carey pointed out that Governor Corzine lives in Hoboken, so he probably got the idea to sell the roads from here, since the City has been selling off assets to plug budget gaps for years. He pointed to the sale of the municipal garage, sewer lines, and land for the 916 Garden Garage to make up for budget deficits, and said if the Governor has a good case to sell the roads, then maybe he should do it, and the city council should stay out of it. The council took up the resolution at the request of the union representing NJ Turnpike employees. Carey said if the council really wanted to make a statement, they should oppose the proposed 18% increase for United Water bills, which will affect more residents than a sale of the toll roads.
What’s Wrong With Hoboken ?
The council was treated to a presentation for fourth grade students at All Saints Episcopal Day School who did a study of what people like and don’t like about Hoboken. Their research project brought them to the conclusion that Hoboken is “a good place, and that maybe it would be even better if we could help solve some of the problems such as dog poop, litter, and parking.” The students interviewed several people, and found out that so far this year only one ticket was issued for “animal soiling”, and Judge Glatt says it was dismissed. Even the fourth graders know it’s hard to solve the problem when there is nearly zero enforcement.
Council Gets Three Weeks Off
The next council meeting is not until June 6th. That is he day after the primary election for state senate and assembly pitting Union City Mayor Brian Stack and Councilman Ruben Ramos against West New York Mayor Sal Vega and Former Councilwoman Carol Marsh. That will be followed a week later by the runoff elections for the 4th, 5th, and 6th wards. For many, summer can’t come soon enough.
See original preview below.
The Hoboken City Council meets tonight for the first time since the May 8th election. With the June 12th runoff ahead, politics may continue to set the tone. Here’s a quick look at the agenda:
Fines Going Up
Jazzed by the windfall profit from $1000 open container tickets on St. Patrick’s parade day, the Hoboken City Council is moving to raise minimum fines for several other transgressions. Penalties for garbage violations, noise control, street and sidewalk repair issues, health, sanitation, and general nuisances will rise from $50 to $150. A public hearing and final vote will be held on the changes.
New Uptown Stop Signs
A new all-way stop may be coming to the intersection of 15th and Washington Streets. The Council will hear public comment, and take a final vote on the ordinance to make everyone from every direction stop before moving past the Tea Building.
Another Project Over Budget
The council will consider a resolution increasing the maximum amount for the contract to Abbott Contracting for the restoration of the Church Square Park Gazebo from the bid accepted for $109k to $121,300 (up $12,300). Low bidders often come back to the council for more cash when the project is well underway, and they almost always give it to them.
Hoboken Against Gimmicks ?
The council will also consider a largely worthless resolution urging state lawmakers to vote against the proposed lease/privatization of the NJ Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, and Atlantic City Expressway to fill the state budget deficit. The resolution calls the move a “one shot gimmick that could last as long as 75 or more years”.
The city council should know since it has a long history of their own “one shot gimmicks” to close budget gaps, most recently the sale/leaseback of the Municipal Garage, and the sale of city land to the Parking Authority to build the 916 Garden automated garage. Call this one the “Pot calling the Kettle Black” resolution.
Speaking of The Budget
The annual budget shuffle is underway ahead of the close of the fiscal year June 30th. This is the time when money is moved from one line item to another to keep the books looking balanced. This year the council is being asked to move $701,900.00 on the list of fund transfers. Among the highlights, $430,000.00 is moving from the Construction office, and $128,900.00 from the line item for “Salary Adjustments will be move to fund overruns elsewhere. The Police line item needs $450,000.00 to fund a budget overrun, and the Recreation Department has overspent its budget by $110,000.00.
Election Results Made Official
The City Clerk will read the results of the election into the record. 1st ward Councilwoman Terry Castellano, 2nd ward Councilwoman-Elect Beth Mason, and 3rd ward Councilman Mike Russo will hear their election victory tallies made official. Meanwhile, 4th ward Councilman Chris Campos and 6th ward Councilman Nino Giacchi can only listen and look forward to the June 12th runoff, as more people voted against them May 8th than voted for them. It will be Campos’ first time in a runoff, and Giacchi’s second. Both have served on the Council for six years after being hand picked for the job by Mayor David Roberts.