Some Council Highlights
--Councilman William Reid apologized to Council President Annie McWilliams for an outburst at the May 3 agenda session where he accused her of disrespecting him and being unethical over something that happened at the April 12 business meeting. Reid had claimed he was not given information on a last-minute item passed out to council members.
On Monday, he said he is very passionate about city affairs, but in the May 3 instance, “My negative passion came out.”
“I will attempt to repress that negative passion in the future.”
--The governing body took no action on the defeated school budget. As officials explained at a special meeting Friday,the council could not cut the $21.8 local tax levy because it was mandated by the state. Council members said attempting to identify changes that could be made among budget lines was pointless, as the council would not have time for a thorough review. The state deadline for changes is May 19.
--The administration will attempt to get more people trained for the role of Zoning Officer in order to help enforce a sign ordinance. At present, although proper signage is desired, enforcement is on the shoulders of already burdened Planning Director Bill Nierstedt. City Administrator Bibi Taylor said David Brown II, the new director of Public Works & Urban Development, is taking a course to become qualified and will encourage others to earn the title.
--The administration withdrew a resolution to hire Automatic Data Processing to provide time, attendance and payroll services after council members asked for a biometric system rather than a time clock plan to replace an outmoded manual human resources management system. The issue came up on May 3 and the governing body was told there might be objections from unions over biometrics. But council members said they want to get the latest system if there is to be a conversion.
--Council candidate and former mayoral candidate Jim Pivnichny objected to a contract for engineering services with Remington & Vernick, saying it would cost $88,725 for just one-third of a mile on Watchung Avenue.
“This one really bowls me over,” he said.
But Taylor said sometimes such projects take up to two years, and Brown said the award resulted from a “fair and open” bid process.
--The council granted approval for the city to turn over four West End parcels to habitat for Humanity and seven parcels to Plainfield Community Development Corp, which is affiliated with the Housing Authority of Plainfield. All the properties were part of a redevelopment plan for 197 scattered sites. Some may recall that when the 197 plan first came about, a Westfield company was assigned more than 60 lots to redevelop, while non-profits only got four. The Westfield company built about 30 pre-fabricated homes, but failed to build the rest.
--The council spent more than an hour discussing issues related to youth baseball. The volunteer Queen City Baseball League had used ball fields in the past, but now that the city has begun its own youth baseball league, the volunteer group has experienced problems with lighting, access, equipment and scheduling. About 50 young players, along with parents and coaches, came to the May 3 agenda-fixing session to ask for help. Speakers suggested the team was being sabotaged and called it a “control issue” with the Recreation Division.
Although the council asked the administration to name a neutral “point person” to assure access for the volunteer team, Taylor said she and Brown were acting in that capacity, in consultation with Recreation Superintendent Dave Wynn. The council had two ordinances up for a vote Monday, one to put the Public Works Division in charge of ball fields and one to restrict Wynn’s powers to playgrounds. But Taylor said, “These ordinance mix apples and oranges,” and at the vote both failed in 3-3 ties.
Prior to the vote, Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson said, speaking for Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, that the mayor felt the legislation was heavy-handed and if it passed, she reserved the right to take legal action against the governing body.
Councilman Adrian Mapp noted a new budget year was coming. Not hearing a willingness to change the behavior that led to the friction, Mapp said the next level might be to take away the salaries for Recreation.
More later on some of these issues.