Summit Common Council Approves Appointment of Thomas P. Scrivo As New City Solicitor; Agreement with Utilities Authority Okayed

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SUMMIT, NJ - Thomas P. Scrivo, managing partner in the Newark-headquartered law firm of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter and the township attorney for Berkeley Heights, on Tuesday was voted in as city solicitor for Summit by the Common Council.

Scrivo succeeds Barry Osmun, who retired this year after 22 years at the helm in the Summit Legal Department.

For 2012 he will be paid $36,000 for preparing resolutions and advising the council on legal matters. For other functions he will receive a fee of $170 per hour. His total compensation will not exceed $100,000 per year.

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Shortly after the unanimous confirmation of his appointment, Mr. Scrivo was put to work by Council President Dave Bomgaars.

The city’s governing body came under fire this past year for what some residents and council members claimed was the use of email to conduct public business, chiefly involving the institution of paid shopper parking, outside the public eye.

In fact, Osmun, in one of his final acts as solicitor, said last month that email correspondence by Council Member Thomas Getzendanner to his fellow council members concerning the parking issue unintentionally violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.

Bomgaars on Tuesday charged the new solicitor with developing a formal council policy on the use of email, instant messaging and text messaging.

Getzendanner, in reaction to the appointment, said the city was lucky to have hired someone with the municipal government experience Scrivo brings to the table.

Although the new solicitor’s fee is higher than that paid to Osmun, he added, he believed the retainer portion of the compensation package was reasonable.

In another major action at Tuesday’s session, the governing body agreed to extend the city’s solid waste disposal contract with the Union County Utilities authority until 2031.

Council Public Works Chair Stephen Murphy said the agreement was seen as more advantageous to Summit than the pact first proposed, which would have run through 2045.

He noted through the contract approved Tuesday Summit would be paying a tipping fee—the fee charged to haul its garbage to the county incinerator in Rahway—of $57 per ton--$12 per ton less than it currently pays.

This would be close to the lowest tipping fee in the state, Murphy added, and it is expected to save Summit about $1.2 million the time the contract expires in 2031.

The renewal, which extends the utility authority’s agreement with Covanta Energy to operate the Rahway facility, also will allow Summit to exceed the 8,125 ton maximum annual limit of garbage it can send to the plant by 125 percent.

In addition, if the city does not meet its annual tonnage obligation its tipping fee will remain the same, according to Murphy.

However, Council Member Nuris Portuondo, the only member of the governing body to vote against the pact extension, said the council was voting for it knowing there were certain “risks” involved.

She said the agreement and the philosophy behind it seem to run counter to city efforts to have residents recycle more and contribute less to the waste stream.

Portuondo added the long-term contract precludes the city from taking advantage of technology that could be developed during the life of the contract to make trash collection more efficient. She also said the city is studying alternatives to its current methods of collecting trash and the long-term contract does not seem to favor those alternatives.

In another appointment, the council named Margaret Gerba of Chatham Township as Summit’s new assistant city treasurer.

The appointment of members of the Board of School Estimate, however, ran into a slight snag.

A motion was presented to name Bomgaars and incoming Council Member Robert Rubino to the school estimate body.

However, Portuondo and Mayor Jordan Glatt asked if Rubino could legitimately be named when he will not officially join the governing body until its reorganization meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 4.

The motion was then changed to name Bomgaars and Council Member Richard Madden. Madden is scheduled to serve until Jan. 4, when Rubino is expected to receive a full term on the school estimate board.

Getzendanner, although not opposed to those named to the Board of School Estimate, voted against the measure because he said that Glatt was remiss in not calling a meeting of the board this past year so it could pass along $600,000 in extra state aid received by the Summit schools directly to the city’s residents in the form of tax relief.

Another measure, to authorize a bid advertisement for a lightning detection system for the city’s fields and school facilities at a cost of about $70,000, was opposed by Getzendanner on the grounds it was too expensive during a time when the city was supposed to be practicing austerity.

The council member, who serves as a baseball umpire in Summit, said umpires are capable of making judgment calls about when to call off games due to a lightning threat, added the funds could better be spent in installing sidewalks in such areas as Woodland Avenue.

Portuondo replied, however, the proposed system would detect lightning within a five-mile radius of city facilities and it would enable sirens to sound so coaches would have enough time to get players off the fields.

She added the cost of maintenance and warranties on the proposed system would be almost negligible so that the initial outlay would, in fact, be just about the only expenditure on a system aimed at protecting the city’s children.

Community Programs Director Judith Leblein Josephs noted the expenditure would partially be paid for out of fees charged to teams who use the fields and to the Board of Education.

She noted the team directors had voted to contribute money from the Field Restoration Fund, which comes from the $20 fee charged to teams, for the lightning detection system.

Glatt added many umpires were afraid to call close games in the face of lightning and the system would take the call out of their hands.

In addition, he said, the city could face legal liability if a child was injured when the city did not have the detection system.

Asked about the possible liability, Scrivo said since a council committee had made the governing body aware of the advantages of the system if an injury did occur the city possibly could be held liable.

Glatt also presented the Keys to the City for Capitola Dickerson, a 98-year-old Summit resident who graduated from the Juilliard School of Music and has taught music for more than 70 years.

The mayor noted Dickerson has been a member of the city’s Wallace Chapel for 75 years and is its oldest member. He also said her former piano students can be found in all but two states of the United States.

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