Saturday, January 31, 2015

Crownover Nominated Again

Once again, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp is seeking City Council confirmation of Thomas Crownover to represent Plainfield on the regional sewerage authority, this time while also asking to put the city, not the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, in charge of the appointment.

Mapp has put Crownover's name up to serve on the PMUA several times without success. The nomination now is for a five-year term succeeding David Ervin as representative to the Plainfield Area Regional Sewerage Authority, which serves eight municipalities in conveying sewer flow to the Middlesex County Utilities Authority for treatment.

Crownover's nomination was proposed earlier this month but withdrawn due to a conflict over the appointing entity. A proposed ordinance amendment would change language in the Municipal Code which now says the PMUA's director or a PMUA commissioner must serve on the PARSA board. The amendment would bring the code into conformance with the city' charter.

However, the ordinance amendment would have to pass on two readings, meaning it would not take effect until March, so it appears Crownover would not be eligible until then. In addition, if the change is disputed by PMUA attorney Leslie London, there could be further delay for Crownover's nomination. Perhaps the timing will be explained Monday.

The agenda-fixing session Monday is 7:30 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave,

Plaintalker has often reminded the public that an archive exists on the blog. It can be checked by putting a keyword in the box at the upper left. If you are so inclined, you can review all the posts on Crownover by putting his name in the box. With this post, you will see 16 stories in all. Take a look.

--Bernice

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Latinos, Apply to Boards and Commissions

Latino residents do not need to go through a political broker (don't laugh just yet).

Despite Plainfield's reputation as a political quagmire, you can apply to serve on a board or commission on your own by filling out and submitting this document.

There is a vacancy on the PMUA. The board has five commissioners and two alternates. Commissioners have five-year terms and alternates serve for two years. If you fill out the form, specify "PMUA Alternate No. 2." and put in your information. Submit it as directed and check back to make sure it has been received. To learn more about the PMUA, look at the web site at pmua.info and explore all the links. 

Give it a try before you rely on someone else to "help" you. Sometimes those who would help are just trolling for a quid pro quo, and they will try to collect sooner or later.

From the Oxford Dictionary:
if I do this for you, what's the quid pro quo?
si te hago eso ¿quĆ© recibo yo en retribuciĆ³n or a cambio?



More on "Manager Motors"


The city's vehicle fleet is worth $7.1 million and employees earning a total of $322,000 are monitoring it.

"We need to centralize this," Personnel Director Karen Dabney told the City Council Monday.

After more from Dabney and other city officials, ordinances that would put one person in charge at a starting salary of $70,887 passed on first reading and the public will have a say before final passage next month.

Dabney said there are a number of vehicles that should have been sold at auction, some dating back to 1977 and still under insurance coverage. Another problem is verifying who was at the wheel of a vehicle in an accident or one that may have 'blown through" EZPass, she said.

Public Works Director Eric Watson backed Dabney up on the need for an inventory and a way to know "who's using what." He said the condition of vehicles must be determined for trade-ins and also in case of a "lemon," for which he used the example of a $1 million fire engine.

Watson said when he headed the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, he found there were "certain people who always damaged trucks." Noting the state has a central motor pool, he called it "an economic situation."

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said highly paid public safety staff should not be doing vehicle maintenance.

Giving fleet management to one person, he said, "will more than pay for itself."

Police Director Carl Riley joined the discussion, saying there were 50 vehicles in the police fleet that are over 20 years old. He said a lieutenant is assigned to support services and, along with two mechanics from city yard, came up with a preventive maintenance plan. He pointed out that the city recently acquired surplus military vehicles as well and said he would rather have the lieutenant work on public safety and let a civilian manage the fleet.

Riley also heads the Department of Public Affairs & Safety, which includes the Fire Division. He said a similar situation exists there, with a truck down and a lieutenant spending time getting quotes to replace it.

Among council quotes, Councilwomen Diane Toliver and Tracey Brown asked whether the manager position could just be part-time. Council President Bridget Rivers suggested that secretaries in the different departments could add fleet management to their tasks. Councilman Cory Storch said he was not against the proposal, but didn't think the administration had "done its homework." He had asked for the number of vehicles involved, among other things.

Storch and Rivers voted "no," but the ordinance passed on first reading with Toliver, Brown, Rebecca Williams and Gloria Taylor voting "yes."

The public can speak on the ordinances at the Feb. 2 agenda-fixing session and at a public hearing before the final vote on February 9.

--Bernice

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

More on PMUA Appointments

2014 PMUA Reorganization

Before the vote Monday to replace Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders as PMUA commissioners, Dunn's brother Danny urged the City Council not to make a change, citing the pair's business acumen and calling Sanders "a successful architect."  He also praised Union County Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green for various contributions to the authority's success, including the expansion of service contracts with other municipalities.

"The chairman is the person we have to go to," Dunn said.

So are Green, Dunn and Sanders a package deal? Danny Dunn seemed to think so, saying it would be going backwards to put new people in.

The council moved on to interview commissioner candidate Henry V. Robinson, a 31-year veteran of the Plainfield Fire Division and 50-year city resident. Having retired as a battalion chief, Robinson said he felt "people have to take ownership of something."

"The city is part of my fabric," he said.

Councilman Cory Storch said while no one complains about the PMUA workers, people are very concerned about the rates.

"What's your perspective?' he asked Robinson, who said he agreed with Danny Dunn that the cost could be brought down through the shared services contracts.


Councilwoman Gloria Taylor, taking part by telephone, objected strongly both to Mapp's offering names at a special meeting and to holding the meeting itself on a stormy night.

"This is a fraud and not an acceptable way to do this," she said, calling it a "sneak attack."

"We have no knowledge of who these people are and should not be doing this." 

Actually, the council had previously interviewed the other candidate, financial analyst Michelle Graham-Lyons.

Councilwoman Rebecca Williams said it was "past time" the council took action, as terms had expired and there was a need for "fresh eyes."

Malcolm Dunn's term expired on Feb. 1, 2014 and Sanders' term expires next week.

As expected, Taylor voted "no." Councilwoman Tracey Brown, a former PMUA commissioner, abstained. Storch, Williams, Diane Toliver and Council President Bridget Rivers voted "yes." The new commissioners will be seated at the Feb. 10 PMUA reorganization. Graham-Lyons will serve until Feb.1, 2019 and Robinson's term is to Feb. 1, 2020.

Mapp previously tried to change the makeup of the authority by offering four names in January 2014, but all were rejected. In February 2014, on the eve of the PMUA reorganization, Mapp won council approval of his nominee Charles Tyndale to replace holdover Alex Toliver.

Mapp attempted further changes in April, October, November and December of 2014. His predecessor, former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, made a lame-duck attempt in 2013 to secure long terms for Dunn and Sanders and also to appoint her confidential aide to the PMUA.

The board has five commissioners and two alternates who can only vote if needed for a three-person quorum. One alternate seat is vacant and as of Feb. 1, Charles Eke will become a holdover in the other seat.

--Bernice

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dunn and Sanders Replaced at Special Meeting

A dark and stormy night for the region was a bright one for Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, who saw City Council passage of all five items at Monday's special meeting, including replacement of PMUA Commissioners Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders.

The new commissioners, financial analyst Michelle Graham-Lyons and retired Plainfield Fire Battalion Chief  Henry V. Robinson, will take office just in time for the authority's annual reorganization on Feb. 10. Dunn is a holdover whose term expired on Feb. 1 last year and Sanders' term ends on Feb. 1 this year. The vote was 4-1-1, with council members Cory Storch, Diane Toliver, Rebecca Williams and Council President Bridget Rivers voting "yes," Gloria Taylor voting "no" and Tracey Brown abstaining. Vera Greaves was absent and Taylor and Williams took part by telephone.

Dunn and Sanders, along with former Commissioner Alex Toliver,  gave the three votes necessary in January 2012 to approve a controversial settlement with former PMUA Executive Director Eric Watson and Assistant Director David Ervin. Interestingly, another resolution approved Monday confirmed Watson as director of the city's Public Works & Urban Development department concurrent with Mapp's term to Dec. 31, 2017. Mapp had named Watson acting director in September 2014, to the surprise of many, and in December the council agreed to another 90-day acting term. The vote Monday was 4-2, with Taylor, Toliver, Brown and Rivers voting "yes" and Storch and Williams voting "no."

Another move that previously met with skepticism, establishment of a vehicle fleet manager position, also won approval, as did creation of a salary band from $70,887 to $102,079. The ordinance for the "manager motors" position passed 4-2, only after Personnel Director Karen Dabney, Watson, Mapp, City Administrator Rick Smiley and Public Safety Director Carl Riley testified at length on the need for it. Storch and Rivers voted "no" and Taylor, Toliver, Willliams and Brown voted "yes."

When it came to the accompanying salary ordinance, Toliver, who had hesitated before voting for the position, abstained.. After it was explained to her that the two ordinances went together, she changed her vote to "yes," joining Taylor, Williams and Brown. Storch, who said his questions about  the new position were not fully answered, abstained and Rivers voted "no.". With the change from a failed 3-2-1 vote to 4-2, the ordinance passed on first reading. Second reading is expected at the Feb. 9 regular meeting.

The last item, renewal of Comcast of the Plainfield's franchise for 15 more years, passed unanimously and the matter will now go to the state BPU for approval.

--Bernice

Cable Franchise Renewal is Due

Cable franchise renewal was probably more important in the days before competition from FiOS and internet providers, but it is now time for the city to grant renewal to Comcast.

An ordinance granting "renewal of municipal consent" is on the agenda for a special meeting called for 6 p.m. tonight by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, although the meeting may be called off due to a snowstorm.

A draft of the ordinance includes a few changes.

- The previous franchise in 2000 called for a 10-year term, with a 5-year automatic renewal; the new one is for 15 years from the date of expiration of the past one, which was August 2014.

- The franchise fee remains the same, 2 percent of gross revenues, though it can be more and is listed currently as 3.5 percent.

- The old franchise included 24-hour telephone response in addition to regular 9-to-5 business hours at a local office. The new one cites only "standard business hours" for a local office.

- A commitment to provide free basic internet access via high-speed cable modem on 10 non-networked personal computers in the Plainfield Public Library is omitted from the new ordinance, although cable television will be provided as in the past to schools, municipal facilities and the library.

The Public, Educational and Governmental Access section of the new agreement continues provision of a system-wide public access channel.

A new section, Competitive Equity, allows for adjustments to the franchise agreement if the city grants any other cable franchise with terms "materially less burdensome or or more favorable" than those in the ordinance.

Rates are not part of the franchise renewal process, as noted by Comcast's Director of Government Affairs Charles Smith III when he appeared at a public hearing in March 2014.

The special meeting, unless canceled, will be held at 6 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave. For more than you ever wanted to know about cable television, see the FCC's "Evolution of Cable Television."

--Bernice

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Regarding Monday's Special Meeting

For some reason, no background material has turned up for this special meeting noted below, so there can be no advance stories for the public. The nominees for PMUA are not known, nor is the nominee for director of the DPW&UD. The ordinance creating the title of "Manager Motors" and the accompanying salary ordinance were offered previously on Jan 12, but the council did not have a consensus to move the ordinances to the Jan/ 20 agenda for votes.

As for the cable television ordinance, a draft exists. It is mostly boilerplate identical to the one passed in 2000, with some changes which Plaintalker will post tomorrow.

Note that this is a special meeting called by the mayor. Here is what the city's special charter says about calling a special meeting:

Special meetings upon at least 2 days public notice may be called by the mayor whenever he deems necessary, and shall be called by the city clerk upon written request signed by a majority of the councilmen. The call for a special meeting shall specify the purpose of the meetings, and no other business may be conducted at such meeting.

In 2012, former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs exercised her prerogative to call a special meeting, but only three of seven council members showed up and the meeting failed due to lack of a quorum. The current chill between the executive and legislative branches portends a possible repeat of that scenario.

CORPORATION NOTICE
CITY OF PLAINFIELD

NOTICE OF SPECIAL MEETING

PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 2, SECTION 2:2-10(A) OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE CODE OF THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD, 1971, A SPECIAL MEETING IS HEREBY CALLED BY THE MAYOR OF THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD AT 6 O’CLOCK P.M. ON MONDAY, JANUARY 26, 2015  AT THE CITY HALL LIBRARY, 515 WATCHUNG AVENUE, CITY OF PLAINFIELD, FOR THE PURPOSE OF CONSIDERING AND ACTING UPON THE FOLLOWING:


1.       RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE ADVICE AND CONSENT OF THE APPOINTMENTS TO THE PLAINFIELD MUNICIPAL UTILITIES AUTHORITY.

  1. RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING ADVICE AND CONSENT OF THE APPOINTMENT OF DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT. 

3.       AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE SCHEDULE OF SALARIES AND WAGES ADOPTED PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 14, CHAPTER 11 OF THE MUNICIPAL CODE OF THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD, NEW JERSEY, 1971 (MANAGER, MOTORS).

4.       AN ORDINANCE CREATING THE POSITION OF MANAGER, MOTORS FOR THE PURPOSE OF CENTRALIZING AND MANAGING THE CITY’S FLEET OPERATIONS.

  1. AN ORDINANCE GRANTING RENEWING OF MUNICIPAL CONSENT TO COMCAST TO CONSTRUCT, CONNECT, OPERATE AND MAINTAIN A CABLE TELEVISION AND COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM IN THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD, NEW JERSEY.


FORMAL ACTION MAY BE TAKEN.

BY ORDER OF THE MAYOR OF
THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD
ADRIAN O. MAPP

/S/S/  ABUBAKAR JALLOH, R.M.C.  
   MUNICIPAL CLERK

DATED:     PLAINFIELD, NEW JERSEY
                     JANUARY 22, 2015.