The Town Council had a full plate of resolutions and other matters at its April 9 meeting, from awarding a $2.1 million contract for the renovation of the town’s most historic firehouse to warning residents about possible phony charity clothing bins.
The council also approved a resolution seeking aid in getting Verizon to offer Fios internet and cable TV to a wider part of town, in order to offer competition to Comcast, which has had the monopoly in the town for decades.
Using a change in state law, the Town Council voted to allow collection agencies to go after ticket scofflaws and to permit suspension of driver’s licenses for those who do not pay after multiple attempts to collect.
Clothing bins are sprouting up like mushrooms
Town officials warned residents not to be fooled by the crop of clothing bins that have popped up at various locations, saying that an investigation of some has been unable to verify that they are legitimate charities.
“My guess is that those who own these are sifting through the clothing donated, selling off the best and selling the rest for rags,” said an official..
For years, Secaucus had two bins near the Little League Field in the Plaza section of town, owned by legitimate charities. That number has swelled to more than 40 in other areas, and have become an unsightly mess that town officials have moved to license or remove.
“We looked to find the owners and found addresses for some of them that were fraudulent.” -- Councilman Jim Clancy
Unpaid fines mounting to municipal court
With more than $185,000 in unpaid fines owed to the municipal court – of which nearly $82,000 would go to the town – the council approved allowing debt collectors to pursue scofflaws.
Mayor Michael Gonnelli said this comes after the state approved a change of law that would allow towns this option.
He said people who get tickets receive a notice after 30 days. If unpaid, a second notice on the ticket is issued requiring a 20 percent late fee. Upon third notice, scofflaws can be pursued by debt collectors. Unpaid tickets can also result in a loss of driving privileges under state law.
Historic firehouse gets face lift
With 10 bids to choose from, the council voted to award Three Sons Restoration a $2.1 million contract to upgrade Washington Hook and Ladder fire house, located on County Avenue.
Last month a bond ordinance was adopted for capital improvements to the firehouse with a $213,000 down payment estimating the cost at $4,450,000. The 10 bids received for the work ranged from $2.1 million to just over $3.5 million.
Washington Hook & Ladder Company is the oldest of the fire companies in Secaucus, founded in 1905.
A water truck given to Secaucus last months by the County of Hudson was used in a out of town swamp fire in Ridgefield Park, said Clancy.
Buchmuller Park improvement questioned
Tom Troyer, in public comment period, questioned what he thought was an excessive cost to relocate bocce courts as part of the upgrades to the Buchmuller Park area.
In March, the council authorized the payment of slightly more than $31,000 for the moving and reconstruction of courts with an option that would have brought the cost up to just short of $40,000.
One of the three bocce courts had to be relocated because of improvements being made to the Little League Field. Gonnelli said $1.6 million in improvements to Buchmuller Park and the ball field were being paid for by a grant from the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund and not local taxes. But he said the cost of the bocce court renovation was high because of footings and other work that had to be done.
The park improvements are being done in phases, he said, with the playgrounds already completed, the ball field just completed, the bocce courts next, and other areas including the basketball and walkways due next. A new fountain is also slated to be included in front of the park.
Troyer later said he didn’t care where the money was coming from to pay for the bocce relocation just as long as it wasn’t being wasted or the town over charged for the work.
Bocce is a very popular activity in the park, and along with moving the one backup court, the two active courts have been upgraded with new rot-resistant wood, Gonnelli said.
Meanwhile, the town has begun to train crossing guards as part of the Safety Net for Schools, said Councilman William Mc Keever, noting that this adds another layer of security for school kids.
“This provides one more set of eyes outside our schools looking for someone that might not belong there,” he said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.