“What it really came down to was being persistent,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli on Tuesday, announcing a recent contract settlement with the National Football League (NFL). In preparation for the Super Bowl, the NFL had contracted to lease space at Secaucus High School, offering to pay a fee of about $18,500 to the Board of Education and $5,000 to the volunteer firemen for additional services.
Then, just days before the big event, the NFL notified the town by e-mail that they no longer needed the location or the services, effectively walking away from the contract.
Mayor Gonnelli fired off a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Feb. 7 requesting payment of the agreed-upon fees.
“I called the commissioner’s office twice a day and left messages,” he said.
Last week, persistence paid off, with Gonnelli receiving a call from Goodell’s office offering to settle.
“I negotiated last night and they’re cutting us a check for $18,000,” said the mayor at the Town Council meeting on Feb. 25. “The reason we settled on $18,000 is because we didn’t incur any of the expenses that would have come with the $18,500: custodial, security, opening the school.”
From the NFL check, $13,000 will go to the Board of Education and $5,000 will go to the volunteer Fire Department.
“I negotiated last night with the commissioner and they’re cutting us a check for $18,000.” – Michael Gonnelli
Gonnelli was referring to the lack of publicity or support going to New Jersey municipalities from the NFL regarding the Super Bowl.
Also at the meeting, Gonnelli announced the opening of a $200 million data center project in town. Gonnelli cut the ribbon earlier that day.
“We’ve become the data center capital of the country,” said Gonnelli. “What you’re seeing is the warehouse space that is no longer warehouse space is being turned into these high tech facilities.”
The new data center is called CoreSight on Emerson Lane.
Recently it was announced that an old Panasonic facility was being demolished. “What’s happening at Panasonic is the 700,000 square foot of warehouse is under renovation,” said Gonnelli. “They already have a tenant for that [building]. And the two existing buildings that are being demolished are being marketed for yet another data center.”
Also discussed was a potential 65-unit residential development between 10th Street and Meadowland Parkway. Although no concrete plans have been submitted yet, an unofficial meeting was held with area residents so they could voice their opinions on the project.
“I’m sure that plans will be submitted shortly. Public hearings will be coming up,” said Gonnelli, adding that anyone who missed the initial meeting or had questions could contact him for further information.
An unrelated public hearing will be held on March 10, this one to discuss flood control plans for the region. As part of a contest administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a Dutch firm submitted designs to prevent local flooding in Secaucus from future weather events.
“The purpose of hiring these folks was to pick out the best flood control projects in the region,” said Gonnelli. “Those projects will be judged on a number of different things. They need to be innovative projects, they need to be projects that have an economic development component, and they need to be projects that protect residential and commercial areas.”
Representatives of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Dutch design firm visited Secaucus earlier in the week, and according to Gonnelli were surprised to find that many of the ideas they were contemplating were already in place.
“We are one community that started doing flood control from the day Sandy ended,” he said. “Secaucus has built miles of berms, installed new tide gates, more pumps and generators. We keep moving forward.”
In regard to the contest, he stated, “There’s a pot of about $68 million and hopefully we will have a project funded.”
Other business conducted at the Town Council meeting included swearing three individuals into service. Walt Sanchez became a firefighter on the Secaucus Fire Department, and both Kevin Flaherty and Michael Reinke were sworn in as captains in the Secaucus Police Department.
“For 2013, there were over 600 calls that the Fire Department went out on,” said Councilman James Clancy, explaining that in addition to fighting fires, the department was involved in everything from accidents on the Turnpike to broken pipes in people’s homes to rescuing the traditional cat in a tree.
Councilman Robert Costantino announced that the Fire Department engaged in 1,146 inspections in 2013. “That’s a lot of work,” he said. “In 2012 the revenues for those inspections was $207,000. In 2013, that revenue was $254,000.”
“We’ve done a lot of things to increase those revenues,” said Gonnelli. “Any time there’s an event where there’s over 350 people, we require them to take a special permit and we require a special inspection to make sure that the event is running safely.” Inspections include things like ensuring that exits aren’t blocked and the buildings aren’t over capacity. “The fee for that is $250 for each one. At the Convention Center it happens a couple of times a week. So we’re generating fees while we’re also ensuring the safety of the public that use these facilities.”
Costantino also reported that the auditors had released the town’s annual debt statement.
“This year the total debt from the town is $39,976,599. That’s about a $1.1 million reduction from last year,” he said, referring to the combined town and Board of Education debt. “We’re living within our budget and creating surplus.”
Charity events coming up
Councilwoman Susan Pirro announced that the Friends of the Secaucus Animal Shelter are hosting a bus trip fundraiser to the Sands casino in Bethlehem, Pa. on Sunday, March 23. Tickets are $30, including $20 back in slot machine money and a $5 food voucher. Buses will leave from The Secaucus Recreation Center on Koelle Boulevard at 8:30 a.m. and return at 5:30 p.m. Space is limited. Interested parties should contact (201) 893-5448.
And finally, the Philippine Society of Secaucus is hosting a benefit dinner and show for Typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation efforts.
“The donations will assist in the recovery and reconstruction of the economy, lives and livelihoods of the people affected by the typhoon,” said Councilman Robert Costantino. The event will be held on Saturday, March 29 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Secaucus Senior Center, with a minimum donation of $25.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.