Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Quick Look at the January 13, 2014 Council Meeting

 

A closed session was held beginning at 7:00 PM. Under State law, certain sensitive legal, contract, and personnel topics may be discussed in closed session; minutes of these sessions should be made available after the issue is resolved. Tonight’s session included the following topics: Under Contract Negotiations, the PBA Collective Bargaining and Professional Services. Under Litigation: Kelsey/Grieb. Under Personnel: Public Works Superintendent. Only 4 Council members and the Mayor attended the closed session; they were Mayor Maccanico and Council persons Cindea, King, Shuler and Vorbach. Councilmen Tienken and O’Brien were absent.

Meeting Attendance: Mayor Maccanico, Council persons Cindea, King, Shuler, Tienken, Vorbach present; Councilman O’Brien absent

Under Discussion Items, the Council talked about the rates charged for delinquent taxes. Currently, the Borough charges 8% for late tax payments; this rises to 18% when the delinquency lingers on. Councilman Vorbach felt this was a very high rate to impose on people who might be struggling. Borough Administrator Jay Delaney explained that if the rate was reduced, the burden of unpaid taxes would be shifted onto the rest of the taxpayers. He noted that finance coordinator John Barrett had recommended keeping the current rates, which are the same as charged by the surrounding towns. After some debate, the issue was tabled for more input by the financial professionals.

Under ordinance introductions was an ordinance apppropriate money from the Water-Sewer Utility Capital Improvement Fund in order to cap and close an out-of-service well on Route 71 and Allaire Road. The Borough had been cited by the DEP and the 2009 Council voted then to close the well, but the work never progressed. Councilman Tienken asked why the Borough should spend the money and what would happen if we just ignored the issue. Mr. Delaney explained that the issue had been ignored long enough, that the DEP had ordered the Borough 5 years ago to close the thing and the work was never done. He noted that the well is leaking and there is a concern that it will contaminate the ground water. The Borough has been negligent in their duty to contain an environmental problem and needed to do so now. So explained, the Council voted unanimously to introduce the ordinance. The second reading of the ordinance and the public hearing are set for January 27th.

Resolutions passed included an renewal of the shared services agreement for the Special Citizens Area Transportation System (SCAT) with Monmouth County, an approval of the 2014 Shore Municipal Alliance Grant Strategic Plan, and formal designation of the 2014 holiday calendar.

During the first Voice of the Public, resident John Tangeman asked about the Council’s meeting minutes and was told these would be approved at the next meeting. During the second Voice of the Public, Kathleen Crippen and Gladys Erbe talked about the recent Asbury Park Press letter to the editor that stated when Council members indulge in sidebar discussions on the dais or send text messages, this violates the Open Public Meeting Act. Borough Attorney Fred Raffetto agreed that all activity by the Council members during a meeting needed to be as transparent as possible. He noted that if a Councilperson needed to take a phone call or a text message about a personal emergency, he or she needed to step down from the dais to conduct any personal business.

The meeting adjourned at 8:31 PM

January 1 Reorganization Meeting Recap

Note: On New Year’s Day, heightsonline posted from the Borough’s annual reorganization meeting to our Facebook page so that our readers might have the most up-to-date information. Realizing that some readers do not use Facebook at all, here is a recap of the reorganization and what it means to the taxpayers:

After Borough Clerk Jay Delaney certified the 2013 election results, Tom O’Brien (D) and Tom Vorbach (D) were sworn in for their 3-year terms. O’Brien previously served on the Council from 2006 through 2008; Vorbach is the Incumbent.

Previously, the Council make-up had been 5 Republicans and one Democrat. Now, the make-up is a bit muddled: O’Brien and Vorbach are Democrats. Councilwoman Sara King and Councilman Jim Shuler are Republicans. Coucilman Chris Tienken renounced the Republican Party and became unaffiliated. Councilwoman Patricia Cindea is not recognized by the Republican Party. This creates three distinct voting blocks and may impact how local issues are decided. In most instances, there must be a 4 – 2 vote or a 3 – 3 tie. Mayor Butch Maccanico, a Republican, only votes in the event of a 3 – 3 tie. There is going to be a need to peacemaking and strong consensus building in order to get anything accomplished in 2014.

Instead of looking for strong leadership, Councilwoman Cindea proposed her pick for Council president, second-year councilman Chris Tienken. Typically, this position is granted to one of the senior members of the Council as it requires an in-depth grasp of how government works. It also requires a enormous commitment of time, since it is the position that backs up the Mayor. Tienken has neither the experience nor the time to perform this role effectively. Residents with issues or problems are welcome to contact the Council President. It will be interesting to see how Tienken discharges his new duties.

Mayor Maccanico next proposed the Council Committee positions and suggested that, since everyone had discharged their committee duties well in 2013 that no changes be made with the exception of appointing Tom O’Brien as the Finance Chair. This would fill the committee seat vacated by former Councilman Richard Diver.

Councilwoman Cindea immediately countered with a proposal to make herself the Chair of both Public Works and Buildings & Grounds, committees chaired by Jim Shuler. She also asked that Tom Vorbach take her committee of Legislations & Grants and that Shuler chair Vorbach’s committee of Utilities. The Mayor asked why she wished to make these changes and she indicated it was because she had not been asked prior to the meeting about what she was interested in. Tienken supported Cindea’s proposal. Cindea went on to explain she wanted to work more closely with the Beautification Committee. This is an ad hoc committee of the Mayor and has nothing to do with Public Works, so it is confusing as to why this would have anything to do with the Committee appointment. The Mayor was skeptical and said he wanted people who worked well together for the common good of the community, and not do something self-serving. Councilwoman King supported keeping Shuler on the Public Works and Buildings & Grounds committee. Cindea forced her changes through with a 4 -2 vote: herself, O’Brien, Tienken, and Vorbach with King and Shuler voting no.

Tienken then proposed that Cindea be appointed as the Council’s representative to the Planning board and received the necessary votes. The key point here is that the two Democrats supported this key position and that of Council President to go to the two Council members with no clear party affiliation.

As predicted earlier by heightsonline, Eastpoint Engineering was re-appointed as Borough Engineer.

The appointments of court officials was next, and Tienken clearly demonstrated his lack of experience. He requested to table the motion to re-appoint local resident Colin Quinn as Borough prosecutor, a role Quinn has held for many years. Tienken’s reason for wanting to postpone the appointment was because no bids had been received for the position. Borough Clerk and Administrator Jay Delaney explained that the court positions are not put out to bid; they are salaried positions and the salary is already budgeted in the current Salary & Wage Ordinance. Tienken still argues to table the prosecutor appointment and Cindea seconds him. She asks if going forward, there would be more information provided about the prosecutor appointment. Several members of the governing body explain that all the information is there, it is simply a re-appointment of the employee who currently holds the position. King, O’Brien, Shuler and Vorbach vote against tabling the appointment; the vote to appoint Quinn is then unanimous.

Other court appointments went unchallenged, with Charles Shaw re-appointed as public defender. James Carton was appointed as alternate prosecutor and Donald Greer as alternate public defender.

Joe May was re-appointed as Zoning and Code Enforcement Official, Joe Beliveau re-appointed to Fire Official, and Janine Gillis re-appointed Deputy Borough Clerk.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment appointments caused the next breakdown. Mayor Maccanico proposed a slate re-appointing current members Fred Manger, Dennis Pearsall, and Randy Maccanico. Tienken asked for clarification on how the slate was voted on: all together or one at a time. Cindea began speaking over everyone, raving that the appointments should be tabled until the first full Council meeting. She was gaveled by the Mayor and the Borough Attorney advised against this as it could impact the first meeting of the BOA. The Mayor again gaveled Cindea for carrying on a sidebar discussion in conflict with the Open Public Meetings Act. Cindea then asked that the appointment be tabled until February. Vorbach offered a compromise to vote for the appointees one at a time and the Council voted to accept this procedure.

On the first nomination, it became clear that long-time BOA volunteer member Fred Manger had incurred Cindea’s displeasure. He was nominated for a 4-year re-appointment by King with a second by Shuler. Cindea, O’Brien, Tienken and Vorbach voted no. This is interesting because Manger is a long-time member of the Democratic Party, was appointed to serve on Council when John Brennan and Bol Solinski resigned, and was Fran Enright’s running mate when the two ran for Council previously. For O’Brien and Vorbach to support a vote against one of their party members is surprising. However, Manger butted heads with Cindea over the summer on the subject of the B-3 zoning change. Clearly, in Spring Lake Heights, taking a position on a topic you feel strongly about is cause to have you prevented from volunteering your time.

Pearsall and Maccanico were re-appointed for their new terms with no issues.

Following the meeting, several Borough officials noted that Cindea has been campaigning to have her husband appointed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment and this was the root of her attack on Manger.

The Planning Board appointees are the Mayor’s appointment with no Council vote needed. Appointees were former Councilman Richard Diver, Environmental Commission chair Kathleen Crippen, and James Hackett, who was moved up from his role as alternate. Eileen Eilenberg will fill the alternate slot.

Environmental Commission appointments are also the Mayor’s choice. Charter member Betty Sturdy was re-appointed to a 3-year term along with returning member, Gaylen Nolan. Alternates will be Margaret Melchione and Bob Cindea.

The professional appoints were next on the agenda. Councilwoman King made a motion to table the professional appointments. She noted that the bids had been opened on Dec. 31 and the information provided later that night to the Council members. King explained they had not had a reasonable chance to review the costs or responses. Shuler seconded the vote. Tom O’Brien supported tabling, but Cindea, Tienken and Vorbach all voted to go ahead and make the appointments without fully reviewing the proposals. With a 3 – 3 vote, Mayor Maccanico broke the tie in favor of tabling so that Council members could review.

However, since only two bids had been received for auditing services, it was determined to vote to accept the lower bid. As anticipated, Suplee Clooney & Co. of Union County, a firm heavily connected to the Democratic Party, received the appointment. PM Consultants was re-appointed to provide financial and accounting services.

Issues were raised over some general administrative issues. The Asbury Park Press, Coast Star, and Star-Ledger were appointed the official newspapers to carry legal advertising and to receive meeting notices. Tienken and Vorbach voted to table setting the rates for delinquent taxes and returned check fees, claiming they were too high. Borough Clerk/Administrator Delaney noted they were the same fees as in previous years, were the rates allowable by law, and were consistent with what other towns charge. The Council voted to table.

In perhaps the most telling and often bizarre debate of the day, Councilwoman Cindea called into question the proposed 2014 meeting schedule. She asked why there were two meetings being scheduled for December when one had been held in the past. Delaney explained that having one December meeting was a policy put in place before he came to the Borough. He said that typically there was a need for an additional end-of-year meeting and it was difficult to schedule at the last minute. He noted that it was good practice to have two meetings.

Newly appointed Council President Tienken proposed that the Council had too many meetings and suggested the Council hold less meetings throughout the year. He suggested that meetings could be cancelled to save money, completely ignoring the fact that meetings are held for the public to participate in discussions and provide input into issues, as well as providing input on Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment issues.

King noted that the public needs to be able to participate and that is why there are regular twice-monthly meetings. Shuler agreed it is better to schedule the full slate of meeting snow and then make any adjustments or cancellations as needed later on. After some discussion, the Council agreed to accept this tactic and voted to accept the schedule put forth. 

A little side-note on this: Council members are paid $3,000 a year for their terms and are paid whether or not they attend the meetings. Currently, they are required to attend two meetings a month. In 2013, Councilwoman Cindea had three unexcused absences in a row from the last meetings of the year. Councilman Tienken has 3 jobs and has made no secret of the fact that he has little time to spend on Council business. Reducing the number of meetings would certainly serve these two representatives the best, while constricting the public’s opportunity to participate in government. If the council wants to reduce the number of meetings held by half, then they won’t mind reducing their salaries by half. 

At the meeting’s Voice of the Public session, resident Gladys Erbe spoke against the habit of some Council members to hold sidebar discussions or to send text messages while on the dais. She noted that an editorial in that day’s Asbury Park Press explained that this activity was a violation of the State’s Open Public Meetings Act and said she felt was inappropriate of the Council members to conduct themselves this way.

The reorganization meeting was adjourned with an invitation by Democratic Party Club president Eileen Eilenberger’s invitation for all to visit St. Stephan’s Green for a buffet.