Recap of the City Council Meeting - 9.21

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The Clifton City Council meeting began with five Council members present, Councilman Eagler attended remotely due to illness, Councilwoman Pino was absent also due to illness. Three items were tabled until the next meeting at Councilwoman Pino’s request:

  • D-1 Draft Mural Ordinance
  • Premium Pay Discussion
  • Recreation Trust Fund Report

Action Items begin with approval to award additional design services for geotechnical investigation and retaining wall design as part of the Anzaldi Recreation Facility, Phase 3 project to Neglia Engineering.

There is a discussion on the Richardson Scale Park Improvements, to inquire if plans are final or if a sprinkler park can be added. The City Manager Nick Villano explains the improvements are being funded by Open Space funds which requires advanced plan approval. He notes the location for a potential sprinkler park has been referred to the Recreation Board for review, who will provide options to the Council. The motion is then approved to advertise for improvement bids.

The following additional resolutions were approved:

  • Adopting prequalification regulations in connection with bids for restoration and rehabilitation of the Historic Flag Barn.
  • Authorization to approve the purchase of 5 additional police Ford SUV patrol vehicles
  • After discussion, authorization to approve awarding an emergency contract to Firefighter One LLC for one ambulance emergency medical transport vehicle. Discussion revealed an ambulance was damaged by flooding and an insurance claim was submitted. It was clarified that FEMA money can only be applied for after insurance denies a claim.
  • Authorization to approve temporarily waiving storm related permit fees until 9/30/21 for anything damaged by flooding.
  • After a lengthy discussion, authorization was made to approve a request from the Clifton Adult Opportunity Center (CAOC) for expansion of facilities on City Hall Property. The following items were discussed:
    • What is being approved? The Adult Opportunity Center needs approval of a request for a lease to proceed with approval and review by the NJ Historic Preservation Commission for plans to build near their existing building on City Hall property. The request approval does not supersede any necessary applications or approvals from the Clifton Zoning and/or Planning Boards.
    • What is the City’s agreement with the Adult Opportunity Center? Clifton and the Adult Opportunity Center made an agreement in 1982 for use of the building on City Hall property, which needed many repairs and upgrades at the time. The CAOC pays for these upgrades and the city retains ownership of the building. This new requested lease would state that after the $3 Million dollar building project is complete, ownership would default back to the city should CAOC ceases operations.
    • Will this building change the historical status of the City Hall Property? No. Approval from the NJ Historical Preservation Society also requires any new building be within aesthetic guidelines for the property.
    • Will it set a legal precedent for other nonprofit organizations, like Jewish Family Services, to build on City Hall? No, any new buildings or partnerships with nonprofits remain the decision of the City Council.
    • Is anyone on the Council a member of the Adult Opportunity Center Board? No.
    • What is good for taxpayers? If the CAOC were to purchase property elsewhere in Clifton instead of using property on the City Hall campus, it would be removed from the Clifton tax roll. The buildings approximate $30K in taxes would become a loss of millions over 10 years. This agreement provides services to disabled adults in Clifton without a loss in tax revenue.
    • What does the Clifton Adult Opportunity Center do? CAOC is a nonprofit organization that helps the families of developmentally disabled adults with programming and provides a group home for adults needing professional care.
    • Are there other nonprofits with similar agreements with the City? Yes.
      • City Green rents property, makes upgrades and improvements, and the City retains ownership of the building and land.
      • Senior Horizons is leased, and ownership reverts back to the city after 30 years.
      • Passaic County Coalition against Alcohol Abuse ran on City Hall property for many years at the Firehouse.

Second Reading Ordinances

An ordinance is passed to amend the salary of the Municipal Attorney. It is explained the attorney is part time to save the City money. Additional specialized outside attorneys have to be hired for specific cases, as well as the additional litigation the City has been under for the past several years.

First Reading Ordinances

An ordinance is passed to provide the Clifton Fire Department Employees with Five reserved parking spaces in municipal parking lot number 8.

CITY MANAGER COMMENTS

The City Manager shares a recap on the storm damage and city cleanup efforts, including the collection of disposed damaged household items requiring trash tonnage tracking to hopefully be a reimbursed expense through the City’s FEMA application.

The City has been distributing water to the portion of City residents under the PVWC Boil Water Advisory, at several locations, plus delivering to housebound residents. Further direction on when the Boil Water Advisory will be lifted will come from PVWC.

Assistance is available at the Senior Center to help any residents with FEMA applications and paperwork, no appointment necessary.

The Power of One charity has done a phenomenal job collecting donations and assisting families impacted by flooding. Some families have been moved to hotels and are receiving donated food and clothing.

PUBLIC COMMENTS

Ray Lill raises a question about the status of the Cannabis committee, if the motion was voted on the Council not to allow the 6 Cannabis license types, why was the committee formed? Can the Council make a motion to abolish the committee?

Gerard Scorziello announces there will be a Board of Education Candidate night forum at the Republican Club on October 12th at 7:00pm at the Clifton Elks club on Clifton Avenue.

Ann Schnakenberg requests some form of virtual public participation be made available in meetings for residents who cannot attend, and to say no to new construction on City Hall property due to its status as a historical property.

Deborah Rizzi thanks the first responders for their service during and after the storm. She references her experience working at a large water company and the city’s lack of coordinated communication with PVWC for the Boil Water Advisory. She asks what is the city’s communication plan for future emergencies? What is the uniform effort to communicate with residents? What is the role of the Council during a crisis? She states it was clear that the Council was not communicating well to each other. The public in-fighting is embarrassing, and compares it to teaching her children how to work on a team. Encourages Council to put differences aside and work together.

A recording of the meeting is available to view in its entirety online here.

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