Residents livid over new contract for JCIA head; council members calling for AG investigation, resignations
Jersey City Incinerator Authority (JCIA) Director Oren Dabney last week received a new five-year contract that gives him substantial annual increases and the use of a department-owned car, thanks to a unanimous vote by the JCIA Board of Commissioners, according to a report by NJ.com.
According to the web site, Dabney was granted this new five-year contract – even though his old contract did not terminate until 2014 – and despite the fact that none of the board’s seven members had seen a copy of the new contract.
Under the new contract, Dabney will receive an immediate 4.8 percent pay raise to $126,215 and is eligible to receive annual increases each of the next four years of up to 4 percent. In addition, if the JCIA is dissolved within the next five years, Dabney’s contract guarantees him lifetime health and pension benefits, according to NJ.com.
A semi-autonomous agency, the JCIA dates back to the 1960s when Jersey City incinerated most of its garbage. Trash incineration was discontinued in the 1970s. Today the JCIA collects trash and performs such other functions as removal, graffiti removal, demolition work, and the enforcement of some environmental regulations. The agency’s $33 million budget is largely supported with Jersey City taxpayers’ dollars.
City Councilman and 2013 mayoral candidate Steven Fulop in April proposed a measure that would dissolve the JCIA and merge some of its current functions into the Department of Public Works.
Residents were quick to respond to the news of Dabney’s contract and are calling on Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy and the City Council to demand the resignations of all seven JCIA commissioners.
Shortly after news of the raise was posted online, the Reporter and city activist Esther Wintner encountered one of the JCIA commissioners in public. When Wintner asked him why he voted on a contract he had not seen, he responded that other independent agencies, including the Parking Authority and the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority, had approved raises that their directors were earning more than Dabney.
Meanwhile, four members of the City Council – Fulop, Rolando Lavarro Jr., Nidia Lopez, and David Donnelly – plan to reintroduce Fulop’s consolidation plan this week and have demanded that the state attorney general launch an investigation. They have also demanded that the seven JCIA commissioners resign immediately.
If a consolidation plan is approved by the City Council, it would also have to be approved by the state Local Finance Board. If the Local Finance Board gives its approval, consolidation would begin some time next year.
Jersey City’s Levin throws hat in 2013 council ring
While an official announcement is still weeks away, accountant and long time activist Dan Levin has made a commitment to running in the May 2013 City Council race.
“I’ve made the commitment to do it,” Levin said Wednesday. “I don’t see anyone out there who’s going to advocate and work towards the things I think the city needs.”
Levin, who recently sold his Ward E home located downtown, said he would either run for the council’s Ward E seat or he may run for an at-large seat. Which seat he runs for will, he said, be contingent upon where he moves once the sale of his current home is finalized.
Levin previously ran for Jersey City mayor and last year ran for an at-large seat on the council.
Well-known and highly regarded throughout Ward E, Levin could be the candidate to beat if he remains in his current ward.
Only one announced candidate, Candace Osborne, is running for the Ward E seat at this time, although other candidates might join the race. Osborne is running on a slate with 2013 mayoral candidate Steven Fulop, the current Ward E incumbent.
The council at-large race is already shaping up to be a more competitive one.
Two of the council’s at-large incumbents, Rolando Lavarro Jr. and Peter Brennan, have already stated their plans to run for reelection. Brennan, an ally of Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, will be running on the mayor’s 2013 reelection slate. Lavarro is running on a slate with Healy’s challenger, Councilman Steven Fulop. Viola Richardson, the council’s third at-large incumbent, is also expected to run for reelection.
Levin said he will make a formal campaign announcement in August or September, during which he will also detail his campaign platform. Although Levin has run independently in the past he said he would not rule out running on a major slate next year.
“I’d be interested in joining a ticket that I shared some goals and values with,” Levin stated.
For more on the race, see Al Sullivan’s column this week.
Spectra Energy breaks ground for natural gas pipeline in Bayonne
After the Bayonne City Council voted at its July 18 meeting to approve the construction phase of the project, the Spectra Energy broke ground on Thursday for its natural gas pipeline.
The pipeline will include 19.8 miles of new and replacement pipes, six new stations, and other related modifications in Linden, Jersey City, and Bayonne. The pipeline would cross the Hudson River into New York to connect the company’s existing pipeline to Manhattan and Staten Island, supplying customers of Con Edison.
Spectra has also said that it will supply energy to power facilities operated by Bayonne Plant Holding and boilers at the International Matex Tank Terminals, also in Bayonne.
But because of the pipeline’s close proximity to sensitive areas, local activists and Jersey City officials have argued that a natural gas explosion could cause mass casualties and significantly damage important transportation infrastructure. Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy has also argued that the potential hazards posed by a gas pipeline could hurt future commercial and residential development in the city.
Bayonne received significant incentives as a result of the agreement with the energy company, including more than $2 million in annual taxes as well as concessions on the route of the pipeline, which the company hopes to complete by November 2013.
Similar concessions were offered to Jersey City, but the city rejected the offers, arguing the pipeline route is not a safe one. Jersey City has appealed the decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to allow Spectra to build the pipeline along its planned route.
“The city is still waiting for word from FERC as to whether it will overturn its approval of the pipeline,” said City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill. Two weeks ago, Morrill said, “the agency communicated to the city that it will need more time to consider the city's arguments. Until FERC finalizes its decision on the pipeline, the city cannot act. However, if FERC does not reverse its initial decision, as the mayor has previously stated, the city will file suit in federal district court.”
City officials have in the past also stated that the city may also block or deny local building permits Spectra will need to break ground in Jersey City.
Jersey City Medical Center gets county contract for 911 medical calls
The Hudson County Board of Freeholders has awarded Jersey City Medical Center's Emergency Medical Service (EMS) the contract for 9-1-1 medical call screening for Hudson County. It does not cover calls made in Bayonne, Hoboken and Secaucus, which have their own 9-1-1 screening systems currently in place. Jersey City calls, which are also separate, are already screened as part of Jersey City's existing contract with the Medical Center.
The one-year contract, beginning Aug. 1, was issued to the medical center's EMS after being awarded a year ago to an agency outside of Hudson County. It had previously been with JCMC for over 20 years since the inception of the 9-1-1 system. Callers who dial 9-1-1 are first asked if it's a police, fire, or medical emergency.
The contract involves the screening and processing of all 9-1-1 medical emergency calls. This insures the dispatch of proper local assets and respondents to the scene.
"We're very pleased to receive the contract again," said Jim Dwyer, director of the Jersey City Medical Center EMS. "We feel because we're a local agency we have the familiarity with the geographies and municipalities in Hudson County needed to know where people are calling from and notify the proper resources."
Added Rick Sposa, EMS Communications Coordinator, "Our certified emergency call takers have the breadth of experience needed to provide the instantaneous instruction over the phone before help arrives 24/7 for such common emergency situations as chest pain, cardiac arrest, child birth and choking in several languages."
"We believe our EMS can provide the best, most effective service to the residents of Hudson County in the most economic manner," said Joe Scott, president of Jersey City Medical Center, who praised the Board of Hudson County Freeholders and Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari for bringing the call screening back to the county.