The Secaucus Mayor and Council moved Tuesday night to apply for permission to defer nearly $1M in pension payments for police and public employees.
The unanimous, 7-0 decision to seek approval of the Local Finance Board would take advantage of a new law as municipalities work to make ends meet in the economic downturn.
The move would defer half of the town’s pension payments — $666,801 in payments to the Police and Fire Retirement System and another $247,411.50 for the Public Employee Retirement System — for one year.
Business administrator David Drumeler said he and the town’s chief financial officer, Margaret Barkala, felt it was the “appropriate” course of action.
The approved resolution will be attached to the town’s application to the finance board.
Under the law passed by both houses of the state legislature and signed by Gov. Jon Corzine on March 17, towns that take the 50% deferral option this year will begin to pay the balance in 2012 over 15 years.
In order to use the deferral, towns are required to demonstrate the need in addition to the finance board approval.
The New Jersey League of Municipalities estimates that as many as half of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities will opt to defer the payments, which are due this month.
Televised Meetings Progressing
Councilman Gary Jeffas said the town has submitted a request to the state for approval to begin the process of hiring a videographer to produce council meeting coverage for TV. When the state gives the nod, the town would then issue a request for qualifications.
Jeffas also reported that a cat trapping program is underway in the area of Chestnut Street. Mayor Dennis Elwell added that the health department had also been on the scene in recent days. A group of residents from the area attended the March 24 meeting of the mayor and council to complain about cats and other animals allegedly being fed by a neighbor.
Councilman Michael Gonnelli and Elwell sparred briefly over flood contract projects in town with Gonnelli suggesting politics has played a role in the order that problems are tackled. “Let’s set projects by priority and not politics and votes,” said Gonnelli, who also requested that the town notify council members when projects are happening in their respective wards.
Councilman John Bueckner rebuked fellow council member Dawn McAdam for a statement at the last meeting when the council clashed on professional services contracts.
During debate over the contracts, which independent members of the council including Bueckner questioned for their necessity, McAdam suggested the council had approved the pacts unanimously in the past.
Bueckner at Tuesday’s meeting said he went back and reviewed the minutes and he then admonished McAdam for her statement, which turned out to be incorrect.
Ambulance Service Criticized
Secaucus resident and Democractic primary candidate Joe Morano criticized the town’s contracted ambulance service with Liberty HealthSystem saying a recent call in town for a seizure victim wasn’t handled for a half-hour.
The town used to have a volunteer ambulance company (of which Morano was a member) but interest waned and Secaucus had to contract the service out after volunteers couldn’t staff the unit 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For two years it contracted with Bergen County before moving the pact to Liberty.
Elwell said the town is looking at different options as it has heard of long delays, although the 30-minute delay suggested by Morano was unprecedented.
Gonnelli criticized the town’s use of a $5M impact payment from the developer of Transit Village to partially finance the new recreation center. The former deputy fire chief said the money should have been earmarked for public safety, although a report from Rutgers University cited by Elwell said taxes would cover the impact of the development.
Public Meeting Notes
• The mayor and council voted to ratify a settlement with PBA Local 84 after that union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the town.
• The governing body approved an appraisal valuation and consulting contract for a block on Plaza Drive with McNerney & Associates that tops out at $75,000.
• June 2009 will be Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month in Secaucus following a vote. The neuro-muscular disease affects control of voluntary muscles and affects several hundred people in the state. A cure has not yet been developed.
• A head lifeguard and lifeguard were approved for the Secaucus Recreation Center at the rates of $11/hour and $9/hour, respectively.
• An aspiring Eagle Scout plans to devote his project to clean-up along the Hackensack River. The mayor and council said they would provide a dumpster and other support.
• Resident Andrew Conti again appeared before the governing body regarding a public records request he made about legal invoices in the town’s case against Gonnelli’s previous roles as deputy fire chief and councilman. Conti, who was denied a refund for $180.25 he was charged fo the records, asked the council who denied his refund request. It was determined that town clark Michael Marra sent a letter informing Conti of the refund denial, but town attorney Frank Leanza said he couldn’t recall if he recommended the denial.
• Walking out of the two-hour-plus meeting, we overheard a resident tell another: “Isn’t that better than TV?”