SOMERVILLE, NJ - The Borough Council has signaled its support of a Senate bill that seeks to compensate dozens of communities in the state where costs have been incurred dealing with crowds, traffic, safety and related problems at state Motor Vehicle agencies since their re-openings four months after they were ordered closed by Gov. Phil Murphy to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The letter blames the NJMVC for destroying the lives of residents the past two months in the residential neighborhoods in the vicinity of the Somerville NJMVC office on Roosevelt Avenue
State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-25th) wants to ensure the state picks up the tab for the increased expenses.
“It’s the right thing to do. The MVC is responsible to cover the costs for these issues,” said Bucco. “It’s their job to ensure things run smoothly, and when they drop the ball like they have done with the reopening of facilities, they can’t expect cash-strapped municipalities to take the hit.”
Bucco has introduced a bill that would requireg the state to reimburse towns for costs incurred as a result of the long lines at MVC locations.
“The re-openings were botched,” said Bucco. “After closing their doors when Governor Murphy locked down the state, MVC was clearly unprepared and overwhelmed for what would happen when they opened again. Police were called in to ensure traffic safety and control the large crowds. This came at a significant cost to police departments and municipalities. The impact on Randolph in my district has been severe, and it’s the same across the state. Local taxpayers should not be forced to shoulder that burden and residents shouldn’t have to sacrifice police protection in their neighborhoods.”
The Senator’s bill would appropriate $500,000 in federal CARES Act money to establish a fund to pay back local governments for expenses incurred by local police departments for the management and control of crowds and traffic at New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission locations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All of this should have been avoided,” said Bucco. “Weeks before MVC reopened the doors, I urged the commissioner to implement plans to handle an enormous backlog of paperwork and customers. My emails went unanswered and we all witnessed the results. MVC’s mistakes created the problems this bill addresses.”
The Somerville Borough Council sent a letter to Bucco endorsing the bill.
Signed by Mayor Dennis Sullivan, the letter reads:
The Borough of Somerville had the pleasure of meeting with the MVC Administrator prior to the opening of the Somerville MVC in order to review the plan recognizing that the re-opening would create a massive response.
The MVC made substantial promises that included ambassadors in the parking lot, crowd control personnel, outdoor restroom facilities, signage, additional customer service support staff, off-site parking, and potential off-site services.
It was repeated to us multiple times that customers will be advised prior to parking that the location will be limited and assured that the Borough of Somerville would be minimally impacted.
Unfortunately, the promises and discussions did not come to fruition and the Borough of Somerville has been negatively impacted greatly.
During the first week of re-opening, local elected officials and municipal staff had to handle the crowd control. Many of us walked person to person asking if we can be of assistance and explaining the services that are being offered.
Somerville Police Department and Department of Public Works had to shut down streets to allow for emergency vehicle access. Public Works had to perform daily cleanups and health professionals had to be engaged as the guidance issued by the DOH was ignored.
The facility’s dumpster enclosure was being used as a restroom by folks waiting on line for hours.
Still many weeks later the Somerville Police Department is handling the crowd control and the site requires attention by our Public Works and municipal staff.
The Police Department has been handling folks sleeping in their cars on local roadways overnight daily.
Municipal officials built a relationship with the landlord and the local staff to coordinate sanitation pickups and ensure that the site remains sanitary over the past week.
The borough dropped off barricades, in which the local staff is coordinating at the request of the borough.
These costs have substantially added up and have placed an enormous financial burden on the Borough of Somerville, it has also drained our local resources, causes us to focus on issues at MVC instead of our local projects.
The MVC has destroyed the quality of life of the local residents for the past two months.
The Borough of Somerville fully supports Senate Bill 2762 and will urge the legislature to pass the bill to provide some financial relief. We also urge the legislature to investigate the matter fully.
Bucco’s legislation would be retroactive to March 9, 2020, when Murphy issued Executive Order No. 103 declaring a public health emergency and state of emergency.