Monday, November 17, 2008

City Council Meets Tonight

At tonight’s City Council meeting, the governing body will vote on two Housing Authority appointments, the Special Improvement District budget and two salary ordinances giving employees 4 percent raises.

The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

Pamela Dunn-Hale is up for appointment to a five-year term on the Housing Authority, replacing Veronica Taylor-Hill, and Hattie Williams is up for reappointment for a five-year term.

The proposed Special Improvement District budget is $234,054 and includes management and office costs, projects to improve the district’s appearance and to beautify it, marketing and advertising and special events including concerts and car shows. The funds come from both a special surtax on property owners in the district, Urban Enterprise Zone funds, advertising and a small amount of interest.

The Special Improvement District includes both the downtown and South Avenue business districts. The program is now in its fifth year. A public hearing will be scheduled on the budget.

The two unions that have settled are the Plainfield Municipal Employees Association and the United Service Worker Union Local 255, whose members are Public Works employees. As explained by Human Resources Director Karen Dabney, the PMEA had language in its past contract that linked salary increases to cost of living figures. Because the cost of living increase from October 2007 to September 2008 was 4.35 percent, the salary increase will be 4 percent.

For PMEA, new salary ranges go from a low of $32,319 - $43,202 to a high of $68,426 - $90,824. Public Works employees will have salary ranges of $28,851 - $39393 to $52,701 - $72,048. The ordinances will be up for first reading tonight, with a public hearing before a final vote on second reading.

At last Monday’s tumultuous meeting, a protest by parents and coaches over use of the high school for indoor track practice eclipsed some council matters. In a discussion item, Police Director Martin Hellwig reported on Halloween safety measures. Hellwig said assaults three years ago triggered a response the next Halloween that included reaching out to schools. Still, he said, there was a “crime spree” with paintball guns that resulted in car windows being broken. This year, residents met with police to make plans that included an 8 p.m. curfew, strategic placement of the Mobile Command Center near City Hall and alerting middle and high school students to the curfew with the help of Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III.

Hellwig said police were reassigned to have a greater street presence and 52 cars were stopped for suspicious activity. Two paintball guns were confiscated and a juvenile with a BB gun was taken into custody. Two handguns were also taken off the street, Hellwig said.
Residents were told to call police if anyone rang their doorbell after 8 p.m., but there were no calls.

Hellwig said the successful community effort was based on setting an “expectation of acceptable behavior.”

--Bernice Paglia


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