Berkeley Heights Council Discusses Possibility of Hiring Assistant Engineer

Township Administrator Amey Upchurch and Township Engineer Robert Bocchino defend the request to add an assistant engineer to the Engineering Department during the Township Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18. Credits: Deb Dawson

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Township Administrator Amey Upchurch and Township Engineer Robert Bocchino spent a long time on Tuesday, Dec. 18 attempting to convince the Township Council that an assistant engineer is needed.

Upchurch did the presentation because Bocchino had difficulty speaking.

“As township engineer he not only has oversight, but is also responsible for getting things done because of understaffing,” Upchurch said.

Currently the entire department is under one manager without a middle management layer. Bocchino is managing both the strategic and tactical aspects of the department.

Upchurch said another assistant engineer is needed who would be not only Bocchino’s assistant engineer, but also an assistant director of public works and the director of community development. S/he would also oversee recycling efforts. The main idea is to add someone who can move permits and inspections through the system more quickly, ideally within 10 days.

Councilman Thomas Pirone wanted to know “where the bottlenecks are.” He is interested in what is not happening, saying he does not want to vote on hiring someone until someone comes up with an analysis on what happens when and by whom it is done.

Upchurch responded with the nuber of permits issued since 2009: 2009 - 815; 2010 – 990; 2011 – 968; 2012 to date – 1173. Mayor Joseph Bruno noted, “We have less people working now than we did three years ago.”

Pirone asked, “Lay it out.”

 “That’s why we need an assistant engineer to get those answers," said Councilman Robert Woodruff. "I guess that’s why we’re here. There appears to be a very important position to be filled. We need to accept some things on faith. Once the structure is provided, competence and responsibility will be more easily determined.”

Upchurch agreed, “Everything is reaction. Everything is a nose bleed. One person is spread doing everything.”

Woodruff suggested a meeting with Chief Financial Officer Mike Marceau next.

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“It’s about numbers,” he said. "If you’re telling us as the business administrator, we have to take it that you know what you’re doing. Your explanation is here. We need to know the numbers. You also know the (system), ‘I’d like four but I’ll take two.’’’

Upchurch said she had the numbers with her and would send them to the council on Wednesday, She also said she would get the analysis previously requested by Pirrone by Friday, relying on the code official for much of the information.

In other business:

  • Councilman Kevin Hall said budget hearings for the 2013 budget will likely be early next year. He suggested the first meeting might take place during the week of Jan. 28.
  • Upchurch said the township will save $74,370 over each of the next two years thanks to the municipality using a reverse online auction service called EMEX LLC. Upchurch put the township’s electric needs online and a number of BPU certified third party suppliers bid on the business for the next two years. Liberty Power won the bid.
  • On Wednesday the municipality’s holiday lights will be shut down for a short period to show solidarity with the people of Newtown, Conn.
  • There is no answer yet regarding wherher the township can prevent a referendum from taking place on Berkeley Aquatic’s request for sewer hook-ups.

The reorganization meeting will take place on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. All are invited.

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