City Council Meeting: Goose Poop, Lead Pipes, Overtime and Cannabis
The March 1st City Council meeting was held live at City Hall, all 7 Council members were present, Councilman Eagler attended via Zoom due to illness.
The meeting begins with the Agenda Action Items, and a discussion on the Wild Geese Control Services contract. The City Manager (CM), Nick Villano, explains they are renewing the contract with Birds Beware, Inc. to use dogs as a continued deterrent and considering other options including sound and repellents. Councilman Gibson states he wishes to explain for the public’s benefit that Clifton has 40 parks, 35 of which have grass areas that can potentially attract the geese which is approximately 210 acres of parkland. Currently, 9 parks have an issue with the overpopulation of geese and their droppings. He recommends the city explore using the repellants in addition to the dogs alone, and requests the CM find out the cost.
Councilman Eagler makes a motion to approve the contract award.
The authorization to approve an extension on the contract for marketing of recyclables is also discussed. The CM notes that 2021 was a highly profitable year for recycling, and the last month’s revenue was 40K. He needs to confirm if that was for Dec. of ’21 or early in ’22 under the new contract. He explained under the new recycling program that no longer source separates, the city still makes money on the sale of cardboard and paper. But they don’t know yet if the combined recycling products will lose money and be a wash for the program. He projects they need about 5-6 months to see how the change to recycling pickup affects the city’s revenue.
Also approved are:
• Request by Downtown Clifton to hold a Farmers Market every Wednesday, June through Oct. of 2022
• Request by St. Philip the Apostle Parish to hold its 41st Annual Carnival, June 16th-18th
• Request to hold the Turkish Day Parade on Saturday, May 28th
Discussion Items / New Business
Next on the agenda are Discussion Items / New Business, beginning with a discussion on snow removal at the Skate Park during the Winter. Councilwoman Pino asks the CM and City Attorney if the city is liable for injury at the skate park if it is open after a snowstorm? City Attorney, Matt Priore answers that this is a complicated issue, but yes, there is the possibility that the city would be sued in the event of injury if the park was not effectively cleared of snow.
Councilwoman Pino asks if the city can close the gates before a snowstorm and open them after the snow melts or is removed? The CM explains that after a snowstorm they must prioritize manpower to clean roads, then firehouses, etc. He recommends it is not realistic to keep the Skate Park open in the Winter and suggests putting a roof over the park if the Council intends to keep it open. A debate continues among the Council to discuss the necessity to keep the park open, the option to treat the Skate Park like other parks that cannot be closed or tennis courts that are left open, and if a roof would protect from snow drifts. Councilwoman Pino asks if the CM can get a cost estimate on adding a roof in the future, and if in the meantime they can close the gates before a storm for the remainder of this Winter? The CM agrees to get the quote, advising the funds would likely not be prioritized in the short term, and offers to personally check on the Skate Park after a snowstorm for the remainder of this season to make a determination.
Next discussion item is the replacement of Lead Service Lines by Passaic Valley Water Commission (PVWC). Councilwoman Sadrakula asks the CM and City Attorney why they are seeing this ordinance if they didn’t agree on it at the last meeting. The City Attorney explains the Council did agree at the last meeting and the request was made to draft the ordinance. Councilwoman Sadrakula asks if there can be a sliding scale for the fine intended for absentee landlords, since the fine could potentially be the same for a two family with one tenant and a larger complex. He explains this ordinance is the model from the PVWC shared with the three owner cities and that it contains the standard municipal fine used in all ordinances which establishes a fine ranging from $0-$1,200. The fine is determined by the Judge, not the Council, and is based on the level of egregiousness the judge determines in the refusal to allow PVWC to change the lead line. The deterrent of the fine is used with the understanding that the reason a landlord or homeowner may not want to grant access is usually to hide a basement apartment or other illegal activity.
The Mayor interjects that every ordinance with a fine is worded this way and explains that for residents the removal of lead pipes is a no-brainer, since the pipes will be removed for free by PVWC. He continues that lead is proven to be dangerous to children, so why argue against it? He asks the CM what the cost savings is to homeowners? The City Attorney states it is estimated at $4-7K depending on the property.
The City Attorney explains if the lead line is not replaced and the owner tries to sell the property, the city will withhold the dwelling certificate until the lead line is replaced. He explains the intention is to protect future children who may live in the home.
The Mayor adds that this is projected to affect a small percentage of Clifton homeowners, as 99% will want the lead replaced for free.
The request for a report on the Fire Department overtime is discussed to clarify what is needed in the report. The overtime has increased from $500K the prior year to $1.3 million. The report was done only for brass. Councilman Gibson explains that they need the full report on the overtime for the entire department, not just brass, to understand why it increased. He continues that there were factors last year including the pandemic and IDA that may be responsible for the overtime, but they need to understand that. The CM asks to clarify, should the report list the figures of overtime by rank, or establish the causes of the overtime? Gibson said they need to understand what causes overtime with a breakdown by position. The Mayor ads that if the overtime was due to the pandemic, it can be paid for with the Covid grant money.
Councilwoman Murphy presents a city proclamation to Dorothy Adlon for Black Balloon Day, March 6th, hosted by CASA. Councilwoman Murphy reads the proclamation which explains the issue of drug overdose in the country and intention of the Black Balloon Day, to raise awareness for those who have suffered or struggling with drug addiction and the family and friends that have lost a loved one to drug overdose.
Dorothy Adlon speaks further during public comments to share her personal history with a drug overdose loss and the emergency society faces in dealing with the opioid epidemic, which is dramatically increasing the rates of drug addiction and overdose deaths. She explains the significance of the Black Balloon Day in raising awareness and honoring those that have been lost.
Chris D’Amato speaks to discuss the results of the Cannabis Sub Committee and explains the results of it did not go the way he had hoped and debated in the past months if he should let the issue go. He said the way the issue was handled is related to other concerns he has about the functioning of the City Council members. He explains after Councilwoman Pino gave her committee report, he OPRA’d the report so he could review it in its entirety. He states he wants to know from the Council why the vote was done immediately after the presentation without a discussion? It gave the appearance that the issue wasn’t really up for consideration.
To watch the 2-hour meeting in it's entirety, click here.