While the Secaucus mayor and Town Council reported progress against collecting old debts and generating revenue in last week’s meeting, some residents like Tom Roarty feel they haven’t gone far enough, especially when it comes to accepting perks.
Roarty returned to request that the council members reject the option to receive full-time health benefits at part-time salaries.
“It is a matter of principle as much as a matter of cost,” said Roarty. “My wife works three jobs and not one pays her full-time health benefits.”
The six council members get paid an annual salary of $12,500, and four of them collect full-time health benefits, which the municipality covers in full. Any official elected after May 21, 2010 who is part-time is not eligible for health benefits. However, the existing council members are all grandfathered in.
“Why don’t you put it to a public referendum and let the people of Secaucus decide?” said Roarty.
“I have no intention of putting that on a referendum,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. He noted that switching to state health benefits saved the town over $4.5 million over the life of the union contract.
Roarity replied: “You can spin it like Fox news spins it…the fact of the matter is that the taxpayers are still paying for your health benefits.”
Unwilling to change policy that has been in place for decades, Gonnelli said that he had no intention of taking away the council member’s perks.
Roarty named neighboring Meadowlands municipalities where health or lifetime benefits have been reduced or eliminated.
“Why don’t you go up the hill and see what they are making,” said Gonnelli. “We are in Hudson County. We are not in Bergen County.”
“The rules are different in Hudson County,” said Roarty.
Secaucus can now put behind it a controversial period after finalizing a claim to receive $527,770 by the Municipal Access Liability Fund for the approximately $787,000 that was allegedly stolen by the former tax collector Alan Bartolozzi. A statutory bond will cover an additional $250,000.
“It puts an end to a sad chapter,” said Councilman Robert Costantino. Alan Bartolozzi was sentenced last year to seven years in state prison for stealing more than $75,000 in town tax payments and three years for stealing $500 from the Secaucus Public Employees Association. He served as the tax collector for the town for 24 years before his arrest in 2009.
“Because of that incident, we have redone the entire finance department, put a lot of controls in place to ensure that something like this can never ever happen again.”
More impact fees
With an interest to build more upscale, luxury rental units and fewer 3-bedroom apartments, Fraternity Meadows, the builders of the Xchange development, will pay $4,487 in impact fees per unit to the municipality. Xchange opened its first building with 304 rental units – including 64 affordable housing units – during the spring of 2008.
Entering into the fourth phase of the project, the total in impact fees for the full build out was expected to be $5 million at $2,800 per unit. However, the increase equates to an additional $2 million. The developer is also expected to complete 230 affordable housing units – 80 remain to be constructed, according to the resolution.
“We are picking up a couple of extra million dollars,” said Gonnelli. He noted that the developer also donated two shuttle buses for senior services.
New ‘conditional’ officer
Justin Machno has been given a conditional offer of employment as a police officer provided he successfully completes the police academy training. According to the town’s resolution, he sued the municipality for dropping their original offer of employment after he allegedly had an unsuccessful completion of the psychological evaluation. Earlier this month Machno was reevaluated by a board certified physician and was found to be fit to serve as a police officer. Machno agreed to drop the suit, given the conditional rehiring.
An ordinance was introduced to allow unlicensed restaurants to permit patrons to bring their own wine or malt liquor. The public hearing will be Nov. 13.
An ordinance was introduced to raise the fee by $50 for certificate of occupancy inspections required within three days.
The town entered into an inter-local agreement between the municipality and the Hudson Regional Health Commission to conduct elevated blood lead investigations.
Manor II Electric has been awarded a contract for $66,437 for the auxiliary power installation at the high school pump station.
James Henke has been hired as a full-time parking enforcement officer at an annual salary of $23,500 to enforce the latest residential parking rules.
The Shady Tree Committee will plant 50 trees in the coming weeks throughout town.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.