PATERSON, NJ – As the City Council reviewed the budget of the Bunker Hill Industrial Park Special Improvement District during its workshop meeting Tuesday night, one official had a question. Councilman William McKoy wanted to know who the district’s executive director was.
“Joey Torres,’’ someone responded.
McKoy did a double-take. “The ex-mayor?’’ he asked. Yes, the ex-mayor.
As it turns out, Jose “Joey” Torres has been the Bunker Hill district’s chief executive for more than two years, taking the $36,000 part-time position months after he lost the top job at City Hall. But the disclosure of that fact caught McKoy and a few other folks in the Council Chambers Tuesday night by surprise.
“How’s he the director when he’s working all the way down in South Jersey?’’ McKoy asked, referring to Torres’ full-time $135,000 job as business administrator in Jackson Township in Ocean County.
“I work the hours, but they’re not steady hours,’’ Torres said in an interview with PatersonPress.com on Thursday. Once a month, Torres said he attends the Bunker Hill district’s board meetings. Other than that, he said he works a makeshift schedule of an average of 20 hours per week for the board, administering and monitoring the various contracts issued by the improvement district for landscaping, security and other services.
The Bunker Hill district is a private group of about 100 businesses in the 4th Ward that assess themselves an extra tax they use to make improvements within their area. Under state law, the city council must approve the district’s budget every year because it generates its revenue through the tax collections.
Paterson has one other Special Improvement District – the one that covers the downtown business area.
Bunker Hill district’s previous executive director had been Jamie Dykes, the director of the Greater Paterson Chamber of Commerce. Dykes said he resigned from the position in 2010 because he no longer had the time to handle the Bunker Hill job along with his other duties. Dykes’ final salary at Bunker Hill was similar to what Torres is being paid, officials said. Torres was picked for the position months after Dykes left, officials said.
Torres was the most qualified among several applicants for the position, according to David Hertz, co-chairman of the Bunker Hill board. So far, Torres has handled the job well and not been sidetracked by his full-time job in Jackson, Hertz said.
Torres said he is proud of his work at Bunker Hill, including the cleanup of the old NJ Transit rail station in the area. “I think if you drive through the district, you’ll see what I mean,’’ Torres said.
Councilman Kenneth Morris, the council’s liaison to the improvement district, said the appointment of the executive director was entirely the Bunker Hill board’s decision. When asked what he thought about the selection of Torres for the director’s job, Morris said, “I’m not going to second guess them any more than I would want somebody to second guess my decisions on the council who doesn’t have all the facts.’’
McKoy said he thought it was “challenging for someone to do that job from afar.’’
The council is scheduled to take a preliminary vote on the Bunker Hill district's $201,000 budget for 2013 at its meeting on January 22. After that, the council will hold a public hearing and final vote on the budget, neither of which has been scheduled yet.
Torres has said he is mulling another run for mayor in 2012. If he won, he said he would step down from the Bunker Hill position. “I couldn’t do both,’’ the former mayor said.