Home repair $ for low-income residents

Also at council: Activist asks about principal suspension
Mayor Michael Gonnelli shows a picture of two harbor seals spotted near Trolley Park recently.
Mayor Michael Gonnelli shows a picture of two harbor seals spotted near Trolley Park recently.

Secaucus is set to bring back a home repair program for lower-income residents in town, said officials at the April 24 mayor and Council meeting. The town has implemented the program once before as part of its state mandated affordable housing plan.
According to Town Administrator Gary Jeffas, the program will offer $15,000 forgiveness loans for home repairs for up to 48 units through town.
The properties must be owner-occupied or rented, and the recipients must be low- or moderate-income, based on state guidelines.
For owner-occupiers who qualify, they will not have to repay the loans if they continue to own their property for at least 10 years. However, if they move out before 10 years, they would be on the hook for at least some repayments to the affordable housing board,
Landlords who rent to tenants in the program will also be exempt from repaying the loans. That is, unless the tenant moves out before the 10 years, and they rent the apartment to a new tenant who is not on a low- or moderate-income. Then, they would also have to pay a portion, based on when the prior tenant moved out.
The program should launch within the coming months, Jeffas said at the meeting.

Local activist alleges mayor posted wrong information about school incident

During the public comments section, former school board member and sometime council critic Tom Troyer accused Mayor Michael Gonnelli of posting factually inaccurate information on his Facebook page about a recent Secaucus High School incident.
The school district mysteriously suspended both Principal Bob Berckes and Vice Principal Jeffery Case last month, and reassigned a security guard, according to sources. The district and town officials have refused to confirm or deny the suspension, but when reached by a reporter, Ann Marie Grecco, an assistant to Superintendent Jennifer Montesano, said an investigation is ongoing.
Media reports quoted sources as saying the matter had to do with a case of a student being caught with a knife, which sources say either was not properly handled or was allegedly covered up.
“I don’t make comments,” Gonnelli responded to Troyer. “You don’t see me on Facebook, doing any of the stuff you’re talking about.”
“Recently, you made a statement that the investigation showed no weapons,” Troyer responded. “I made no statement whatsoever,” Gonnelli said. “Wherever you read that, I’d like to see it.”
The Secaucus Reporter later asked Troyer if he had proof of the Facebook posts, but he did not.
Troyer also made an allegation pertaining to 1st Ward Councilman Robert Costantino and Facebook.
Costantino theorized that Troyer had his facts mixed up.
“Sometimes, when the town crier comes up to the mic, there’s a lot of misinformation,” Costantino said to Troyer at the meeting.
Speaking a few days after the meeting, Jeffas said that Troyer later showed Gonnelli the posts he was referring to, but the comments about the incident were made by someone other than Gonnelli.
“He apologized to me after that,” Gonnelli claimed. The mayor said that someone else posted a Facebook message about something else unrelated to the high school incident, which referenced him.

“I don’t make comments.” – Michael Gonnelli


Bids for road repair projects, parking lot placed

The council adopted a number of resolutions authorizing the town clerk to advertise and receive contractor bids for improvement projects to local roads. Each year, the town singles out certain roads for the work.
This year, they include Sampson Place, Schmidts Place, Edna Place, and Minnie Place. The work to be done includes repaving and adding new curbs and sidewalks. Jeffas estimates the cost to repair the streets will be $1.4 million, based on previous years.
Another resolution passed will advertise bids for work on the First Avenue parking lot, to be located by the Little League Field near Buchmuller Park. The town closed on the property last month. Previously it was vacant land, purchased from the well-known Henkel family in town. The town wants the lot finished in time for the summer months, accommodating the ongoing Little League season.

Alternate commissioner appointed to health commission

The Hudson Regional Health Commission will have a new alternative commissioner representing Secaucus, after another resolution passed at the meeting.
The county office runs environmental control programs such as air pollution control, nose pollution control, and solid waste enforcement in Hudson County.
The person appointed was Christine Aguilera, who is also the Secaucus Health Department’s relatively new paid administrative assistant. Generally, whoever is in the salaried administrative assistant spot also becomes the HRHC’s alternative commissioner, an unpaid position.

Youth organization donates food

Secaucus Cares, a local service organization, announced at the meeting that they had collected 150 pounds of food for the Global Youth Service Day from April 20-22. The GYSD is the largest service event in the world, dedicated to contributions that children make on a daily basis. This year, Secaucus Cares kids chose to celebrate the day by holding a food drive.
The children donated the food to the council, which will go to the Secaucus Food Pantry.

Hannington Dia can be reached at hd@hudsonreporter.com