In what is bound to reignite the controversy over the wisdom of abolishing the Jersey City Parking Authority, the city has received unanimous approval from the State Local Finance Board to undertake the change.
Mayor Steven Fulop is committed to dissolving the agency and has a majority vote on the City Council to merge the parking authority with the Department of Public Safety, which currently oversees police and fire departments in the city.
The change would save the city $2.5 million in operation costs, and would allow the city to use Parking Authority assets such as its Central Avenue building.
“Dissolving the Parking Authority and merging parking enforcement into the Department of Public Safety will not only save taxpayer dollars, but will also greatly improve efficiency.” – Mayor Steven Fulop
“Dissolving the Parking Authority and merging parking enforcement into the Department of Public Safety will not only save taxpayer dollars, but will also greatly improve efficiency,” said Mayor Fulop. “We are pleased the Local Finance Board unanimously approved this measure and look forward to working with the Parking Authority board and the City Council on the next steps toward streamlining this service for the benefit of residents and taxpayers.”
“The Finance Board’s approval is an exciting step forward on the road toward improving accountability and bolstering the important but often unsung services that the authority’s hard-working officers and employees provide for our city,” said Parking Authority Chairman Dana Eisenberg.
The integrating of autonomous agencies into the city government was a campaign initiative from Mayor Fulop, who said the elimination of autonomous agencies will cut costs, improve accountability and streamline services. In the case of the Jersey City Parking Authority, parking enforcement will fall under a traffic and parking division within the Jersey City Public Safety Department. Further, parking enforcement personnel will have additional ticketing abilities to enforce quality of life issues.
Parking Authority Chairman John Tarantula, however, has appealed to the matter to Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable, citing a possible conflict of interest by Weiner Lesniak, the firm the city hired to issue a report on the benefits of the merger, noting that the firm’s partner, Ray Lesniak, serves as a state senator and votes on the financing of the Local Finance Board.
Councilmembers Richard Boggiano and Michael Yun questioned the report issued by the firm, saying that it provided no information as to any negative consequences resulting from the merger.
Tarantula said some of the claims for abolishing the Parking Authority were not accurate.
“The administration said the JCPA carries a debt of $20 million for uncollected tickets. That is incorrect. It is the municipal court and the city that are responsible for collecting unpaid tickets,” he said. “The additional $6 million debt which has been referred to is largely the bond payments due for the purchase of our office at 394 Central Ave., and is based upon a 20 year payment plan like most loans have.”
Tarantula was critical of the city for continuing to rent elsewhere when it had options to use Parking Authority spaces.
The city was originally scheduled to set up offices in the Parking Authority building, something that it opted not to do until recently.
The City Council recently approved a resolution that would lease space in the Central Avenue building. But the city is also making other moves to consolidate offices that are scattered throughout the city.
The city’s shifting of municipal offices continues
As of the beginning of April, many city departments that were previously scattered over numerous locations relocated at a new campus at 199 Summit Ave. just south of Montgomery Street, city officials said.
This continues the mayor’s consolidation plan, and according to Fulop will save the city about $18,000 a year in rent and parking costs.
“One of the goals outlined in our transition report was to have all city health services in one location and this is a move in that direction,” the mayor said. “This new Community Health Campus will not only benefit community members with more centralized services, but will also provide for a more efficient delivery of services.”
By having multiple offices and clinics in one location, employees will be cross-trained in certain services and will be able to streamline operations and reduce duplication of work. The new Community Health Center will also feature an education center, vegetable garden beds, and a local Jersey Fresh farm stand.
The offices located at the new location include the Office of Senior Nutrition Services, the Health Education Unit, the Bureau of Animal Control, the Office of Licensing and Permits, the Health Investigations Unit, the Regional Environmental Health Inspectors Unit and General Administration.
Additional health department offices and clinics will be relocated from the HUB at 360 Martin Luther King Drive and 115 Christopher Columbus Drive to the Community Health Campus by the summer.
Currently, the city spends $480,000 a year in Health Department rents and parking costs. For 115 Christopher Columbus Drive the city spends $120,000 a year on rent, for the HUB the city spends $50,000 a year. At 1 Journal Square Plaza the city spends $240,000 a year in rent, and another $70,000 a year is spent on Health Department parking fees. When the move is complete and all offices are at the new Community Health Campus, the city will spend a total of $300,000 on rent and parking after grant funding is reimbursed.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.