SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – At the Council Meeting on Tuesday night there was a lively discussion regarding professional appointments and changes to meeting rules.
Mayor Kevin Glover spoke about his “promise to put the best people in to best serve Scotch Plains.” According to Glover, “No one has a lifeline. It is time to put politics aside and work together … and all appointments filling the 10 service provider posts will get monitored for performance in order to properly and fairly assess their progress for the town.”
There were some differences of opinion among councilmembers as to whether or not it would be best to appoint new service providers. Specifically, Councilman Mickey Marcus flatly disapproved of changing the Town Labor Attorney over to Wiss and Company. In his opinion, “the prior labor attorney worked well with the previous town manager and town attorney on issues concerning labor contracts and police matters. He did a good job.”
Councilman Bo Vastine also sided against too much change. With the firm Wilenz, Goldman and Spitzer newly in place as Town Auditor and amidst existing negotiations for a Police merger, Vastine commented “it’s not prudent or responsible to change horses in mid-stream.” Vastine believes the prior history and knowledge of working with the town on labor contracts, and the ability to work well with the town manager and town attorney are of critical importance. According to Vastine, “there are tangible costs with replacing professional service firms where intimate knowledge and history with the township is lost.”
Nonetheless, the overall vote was towards change. As Deputy Mayor Colleen Gialanella stated, “Politics is a hobby. Local mayors and town council members have limited powers. Outside professionals who bring a wealth of new knowledge and different viewpoints bring forth avenues of progress and growth. We want different ideas and new resources.”
The issue of choosing a health insurance brokerage provider was unanimously shelved until further research could be done to determine the legitimacy of the vast cost discrepancies between providers – a differential of between $50,000 and $90,000.
While a lively discussion ensued regarding proposed changes to how Council Meetings are conducted, the final decision was shelved for a future meeting, after all comments and objections could be analyzed.
Discussion of a “Mitigation Grant” to forestall future disasters – specifically backup generators - has yet to grow into an actual plan that can be sent through to the city and state for approval before any grant can actually be applied for. The prior OEM was working on a disaster prevention plan for the past two of his 12 year tenure and that process needs to be furthered.
A GIS mapping system may finally fit within the budget, and would provide a digitized geographical base map (block and lot structure of the whole town) and can be used by both the tax assessor’s office and the zoning office. The cost comes in around $30,000 for the software and computers. Mayor Glover stated, “This is one of those things we need to do to bring Scotch Plains into the 21st century.”
A cost breakdown for the Sandy cleanup - which is budget estimated to be at $1million - has to be further documented before FEMA can offset with assistance. And, a $16,000 grinder is being looked at to create mulch and possible revenue from of all the fallen trees from Sandy.
During the public comment portion of the town council meeting, one Ramapo Way resident expressed interest over the roll-out time frame of the emergency radio station AM530, as well as the status of the proposed elimination of the Scotch Plains Business Improvement District Management Corporation. Rising tax concerns and further ideas for merging township services - such as a shared county library - were also brought up by residents.
“Yes, the emergency radio service is waiting on licensing approval. It’s a 30 to 60 day waiting process through the FCC, and the station will strictly be used for emergency broadcasts,” stated Mayor Glover.
Also under negotiations are plans to forward the process of merging both Police and the Department of Public Works into shared services between Scotch Plains and Fanwood. Residents will learn more about the development of that merger in a public presentation planned for March.
More to follow about the status of the Scotch Plains Business Improvement District Management Corporation.