Monday, October 17, 2005

Questions Delay Pool Repair Vote

City Council members balked Monday (Oct. 17, 2005) at voting on a $1.2 million pool repair contract because administrators could not explain one of the funding sources.

The elimination of a low bidder also raised concerns, but officials and Corporation Counsel Jacqueline Drakeford explained that the bidder had failed to include proof of business registration in the sealed bid package.

The city has three pools, at Rushmore Playground and Hannah Atkins Field in the West End and Seidler Field in the East End. Rushmore has needed repairs for at least two years and in the record-breaking heat of last summer, the city bused children from that neighborhood to the other two pools.

The bidders were Allstate Technology of Oak Ridge, NJ, with a low bid of $873,000; RJR Engineering of Califon, NJ with a bid of $1,762,000; and Stoneridge Inc. of Feasterville, PA at $1,177,800.

Council members said they believed that $750,000 in Green Acres funding to go toward the pool repairs at Rushmore and Seidler was a grant, but Finance Director Ron West said part of it was a loan. Because neither West nor City Administrator Norton Bonaparte had the breakdown on hand at the meeting, the council decided after a lengthy discussion to put off the vote until a special meeting on Oct 27.

The special meeting was a compromise after city engineer Carl Turner said Monday, “If it is not acted on this evening, we will probably not have the pools open next year.”

Given that the next regular council meeting will not be held until Nov. 14 due to the general election hiatus, the council agreed to hold the special meeting along with budget deliberations Oct. 27.

Public Works and Urban Development Director Priscilla Castles said the Green Acres funding had been committed to pool repair at least two years ago.

The council also included pool repair funding recently in a major bond ordinance. Councilman Don Davis was irked that the council did not know the grant/loan ratio for Green Acres funding, because he said it might have influenced the council’s thinking on the bond issue.

But mostly the council was upset at not receiving all necessary information from the administration.

Davis said the issue was presented as “Oh, our kids won’t have a pool,“ adding, “but our kids’ parents may not have a home” when the tax impact hits.

Another issue raised at the City Council meeting for the second time was the problem of children who used to attend Jefferson School now having to make their way to the “swing school” on West Front Street.

In a late development at the beginning of the school year, the Jefferson building was designated to house administrators displaced by a large influx of ninth-graders at Plainfield High School.

Parents complained they received short notice of the change, which meant their children had to go through an industrial section on their way to school instead of residential neighborhoods as before.

Council members said the matter was best pursued with the Board of Education, as the city’s governing body has nothing to do with school issues except for having two liaisons to the board.

According to a Board of Education agenda for Tuesday (Oct. 18, 2005) the board will be voting on a resolution to “conduct a feasibility study” on transportation to the swing school for Jefferson students and also to look into the safety of students “walking to all schools in the district.”

The Board of Education meeting is 8 p.m. at Washington School, 427 Darrow Ave.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: city council, budget, schools