Monday, February 02, 2009

City Cars Up for Vote Tonight

The big fuss about 24-hour use of city cars may be over with tonight (Feb. 2, 2009), if the City Council heeds William Reid.

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

On Jan. 26, Councilman Reid called for a vote tonight to allow cars to be assigned to City Administrator Marc Dashield and Police Director Martin Hellwig for the balance of 2009. If a policy change is warranted, it could then take place in 2010. Reid went so far as to offer $5,000 of his own money to cover costs of car usage for this year.

The issue came up at the Jan. 1 reorganization when a council majority voted to allow yearlong city car use for the mayor and fire chief, but limited use for the city administrator, Public Works supervisor and police director only through January pending further talks on how the perk fit into compensation packages. All had previously received permission without question.

On Jan. 15, the council approved yearlong 24-hour city vehicle use for Public Works Supervisor John Louise and extended car use for the other two just through February.

But the Jan. 26 discussion broadened into exactly what went into contract talks for top city officials and how costs for use of 24-hour cars were documented. If permission for yearlong use is granted, council members said they still want more facts on how it actually works.

In other matters, a proposal to revise the council’s meeting calendar was brought up Jan. 26 even though it was not on the printed agenda. An ordinance amending the schedule adopted Jan. 1 calls for one regular meeting a month on the second Monday, with an agenda-fixing session on the prior Monday. Traditionally, two regular meetings have been held each month, except for summer and election hiatuses.

The only exception in the proposed amendment was for November, but that would place the June meeting in conflict with the 2009 Democratic Party reorganization. In comparing the new meeting schedule and dates for four conference meetings with a 2009 calendar, Plaintalker found several other conflicts or errors that may require revisions.

One of the four conference meetings was scheduled for Feb. 23 with the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, but Reid, a former PMUA commissioner and now the council liaison to the authority, said he is “getting a little resistance” to the proposal. The format of the meeting was not spelled out in council discussions. The PMUA is an independent authority established in 1995 to provide sewer and solid waste services to the city.

Council President Rashid Burney also wants to hold agenda sessions at four schools across the city, starting Feb. 9 with one at Washington Community School. Two of the other announced dates are erroneous, one being a regular meeting and the other falling on a holiday.

Another item, a layoff plan for just one person, was questioned by the council on Jan. 26 and may have been withdrawn from tonight’s agenda.

Last month, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs informed the council she would seek advice and consent of former Councilman Don Davis for a commissioner’s seat on the PMUA and for Eugene Dudley to be reappointed as an alternate. However, no resolutions were presented. The PMUA holds its annual reorganization this month, so appointments may resurface for council approval.

Due to a delay in passing the budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, the council is also expected to approve tonight emergency temporary appropriations to operate the city through March and April.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course PMUA does not want an open session. They are accountable to no one, especially those who pay their salaries and benefits. They raise rates as they wish most recently the increase was about 20%. No discussion, no recognition that we are in hard times, just a stand alone dictatorship. This organization needs to be looked into. I hope Councilman Burney will set steps in motion to look at this organizaiton. PMUA's lack of transparency doesn't pass the smell test.

8:38 AM  

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