Consolidation Study Commission Minutes and Updates

Minutes of the June 12, 2013 Consildation Study Meeting

               Minutes of the June 12, 2013 Meeting of the Consolidation Study Commission SP-F


The meeting was called to order at 7:40. Those present were Dr. diBattista, Mr. Molenaar, Dr. Saltzman and Mr. McCarey from Fanwood, and Ms. Dreikorn, Mr. Lange, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Wiener and Mr. Parisi from Scotch Plains. Mr. Nagy and Ms. Hoynes, alternates from Fanwood, were also present. Mr. Arthur, alternate from Scotch Plains, was absent.

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In addition Christopher Vaz attended for the State Local Finance Board, representing Eugene McCarthy, a non-voting commission member.

Mr. Lange made the public notice announcement and reported that the Scotch Plains alternate selected by the Mayor and Council has expressed that he is declining the appointment, so the position remains vacant.

Two Fanwood residents, Matthew Juckes and Don Rosenberg, then presented themselves as candidates for the fifth member from Fanwood. Since Mr. Juckes presented his background and responded to questions from the commissioners at the May 22 commission meeting, the commission had Mr. Rosenberg present his background and respond to questions. The meeting was then open to the public to ask questions. Once public comment was closed, Dr. diBattista moved to go into executive session to discuss the candidates, seconded by Dr. Saltzman and unanimously approved. The commission members and alternates then considered the candidacies in executive session. At the conclusion of the executive session Mr. Wiener moved to go into public session, seconded by Mr. Thompson and unanimously approved.

After returning to public session, Mr. Molenaar commented that both residents were highly qualified candidates and expressed the commission’s gratitude that both came forward. He then moved to select Mr. Juckes as the fifth commissioner from Fanwood. Dr. diBattista seconded the motion. The four members from Fanwood were then polled on the motion. Mr. Molenaar, Dr. diBattista and Dr. Saltzman voted aye and Mr. McCarey nay. The motion carried 3-1 and Mr. Juckes was welcomed to the Commission. Mr. Parisi suggested to Mr. Rosenberg that there might be other ways he can contribute to the Commission’s work.

Mr. Vaz then administered the oath of office to all commissioners and alternates present and each member signed their oath and returned it to Mr. Vaz.

Mr. Lange then moved to elect Mr. Parisi as chairperson, seconded by Mr. Molenaar. The motion was passed unanimously. Mr. Parisi then chaired the meeting. He moved to elect Dr. diBattista as vice chair, seconded by Mr. Molenaar and unanimously approved. Mr. Parisi then expressed his gratitude to the members for their faith in him and commented that it was his goal to foster thoughtful discussion about the issues presented by the Commission’s work. He expressed admiration for the quality of the Commission membership and invited all members to actively participate in discussions and setting Commission agenda items.

Mr. Molenaar then moved to adopt a meeting schedule for the remainder of 2013 and the reorganizational meeting in January 2014, setting the second Wednesday of each month as the meeting date, 7 pm as the meeting time and the Board of Education meeting room as the meeting place, when available. Dr. Saltzman seconded and the motion was unanimously approved.

The Commission then discussed draft bylaws circulated by Mr. Parisi. After much discussion the consensus among the members was to revise the draft to require that 1) a quorum must include at least two members from each municipality, 2) vacancies would be filled by vote of the Commission members from the affected municipality after public notice and a public interview process, except for vacancies for members originally selected by the Mayors and Councils, which would be filled by the affected Mayor and Council, 3) Commissioner terms shall be for the duration of the Commission, 4) bylaw amendments would be by vote of at least 7 in favor provided there is ten days’ notice of the proposed change and 5) the fiscal year shall be a calendar year. Since these and other non-substantive  changes required material redrafting of the bylaws the Commission agreed to review the next draft for approval at its July 10 meeting.

Mr. Parisi then asked Mr. Vaz to explain the role of a fiscal agent. Mr. Vaz explained that the statute enabling the creation of a study commission is silent on the issue of fiscal agent, normally a role that handles funds for a governmental entity if the entity does not handle its funds itself. Mr. Vaz stated that the question of whether the Commission could choose to act without an agent requires more review. Mr. Juckes commented that he would be cautious about the Commission taking on such a role without protecting itself against liability risk. Mr. Vaz suggested that the Commission ask the municipalities if either would be willing to serve as fiscal agent. Mr. Molenaar asked why the state doesn’t assume that role. Mr. Vaz responded that the statute does not mention such a role for the state and it has not chosen to take on that role. The Commission agreed to ask the municipalities if either would be willing to act as fiscal agent and suggested that Mr. Parisi as chairperson make the inquiries. 

The Commission then discussed funding the Commission’s work, including whether it should issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a consultant to perform a consolidation study before procuring funds, or attempt to procure funds first. Ms. Hoynes asked if the Commission’s charge was to issue the RFP. The commission discussed the matter and inquired about Princeton’s process. Mr. Parisi mentioned that Princeton issued an RFP and that RFP is available on the website of the organization that was awarded the bid. Commission members expressed interest in reviewing that RFP prior to the July 10 meeting, in order to consider the overall issue further.

Ms. Hoynes then reiterated her question to the state regarding its fiscal impact report and why the Commission could not review that before issuing an RFP. Mr. Vaz replied that it would be best if Mr. McCarthy answered that question when he was next present at a meeting, which is expected to be July 10.

The meeting was then opened to the public. Jason Benedict from Fanwood asked about an end date to the process and what would occur after this Commission’s work was done if no consolidation had occurred by then. Mr. Parisi responded that the end date for the Commission’s work is three years from application approval date, which would fall in September 2015. Dr. Saltzman and Mr. Parisi each responded that the second question is beyond this Commission’s purview.

Mr. Molenaar moved the approval of the May 22nd meeting minutes, seconded by Mr. Lange and unanimously approved. There being no further business the same two members moved and seconded a motion to adjourn, unanimously approved. The meeting ended at 9:37 pm. The next Commission meeting is July 10, 2013 at 7 pm in the Board of Education meeting room.

The Commision was formed in June 2013. It is charged with overseeing a study, by an independent contractor, on the benefits and costs of consolidating Fanwood and Scotch Plains into one municipality without either losing its identity as a community.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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