Delivered to 15,000 Plainfield "doorsteps" Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Council a NASCAR team?

Is the Council trying out as a NASCAR team?

You might be forgiven for thinking so if you noticed last night's agenda-setting was over in less than 30 minutes. Including discussing the firefighter's contract.

PT was reminded of the old saw "Be careful what you pray for, you might get it."

I can remember suffering through sessions that went on past midnight back in the 'good old days' and praying that we could have meetings where every jot and tittle was not cause for wrangling.

Well, we got it -- with a vengeance.

Take last night, for example.

Among the juicies were the arbitration award for the firefighters, which needs to be memorialized with an ordinance; amendment of the PILOT for Plainfield Towers West; the purchase of a 44-seat bus for the Rec Division; and proposed changes in the municipal land use ordinance.


Ladies and gentlemen, this is a DIRECTED and binding settlement, decided by an arbitrator. Councilman Gibson announced that he was unhappy with the provision that firefighters work 24 hours on, 72 hours off. The comment, he said, would explain in advance his vote on Wednesday evening. PT's jaw dropped, as did that of the person sitting next to me, who grew up in New York and knows as do I that this is New York's SOP (standard operating procedure). Should you not want to take PT's word for it, check out the following --

"Often firefighters and rescue personnel work 24 hour shifts ..."
--From Overtime Scams, a website for fire, police and EMT employees dedicated to exposing employers' overtime scam tactics.


Ah, PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes). We have been over this ground before. The state requires them for a term on certain -- mostly non-profit -- projects. AFTER that term, they are supposed to go on the tax rolls. I leave it to you, dear reader, to figure out if that ever happens.

The knock on PILOTs is not that the City doesn't make out -- often it is close to or even slightly more than what the City would get in taxes. The issue is that those making PILOT payments contribute
NOTHING to the MAJOR TAX BURDEN of the community -- THE SCHOOLS.

That aside, Mr. Dashield was singularly unprepared to answer Councilor Storch's question about its nonprofit status.

Plainfield Towers West is operated by Presbyterian Homes of New Jersey, which bills itself as a "not-for-profit, non-sectarian corporation" providing a spectrum of senior living options in 27 facilities throughout the state.

PT cannot imagine previous City Administrators Norton Bonaparte or Tom Morrison being unprepared to answer this question. At the same time, PT was puzzled that Councilors Gibson, Burney and Davis -- who represent the area in which the facility resides -- didn't spring to assist Dashield with their superior knowledge. Unless, of course, they didn't know. This seems to be what now passes for due diligence.

But PT has another question about the PILOT.

The facility has been here longer than I have (24 years), and I was surprised to hear that they were only paying at 7%, and would go up to 9% with the requested extension. PT always thought that 9% was the cap and that it was to be reached at the end of the first ten years of a PILOT (which usually has a lifespan in the 28-30 year range). If that is so, why are they only at 7% now? If the money was properly owed to the City, how much revenue have we foregone?

And 7% or 9% of what? It was never mentioned. Should we assume the Council understood the basis for the calculation? And who is explaining to the general public?

(Aside: Any news on the PILOT for the Park-Madison complex? Has it even started yet?)


A 44-passenger bus -- with a "Maxx Force 7 Engine (200 HP) -- to transport summer youth employees? And the only question the Council had was whether the Rec Division had a driver (the answer, according to Director Dave Wynn, was 'yes')?

Councilor Storch said he would prefer that when the Administration comes forward with capital purchases such as this, they should refer to the relevant section of the Capital Budget when doing so. An entirely reasonable request.

What struck PT was that this sailed through -- in contrast to the purchase of a bus for the Senior Center a few years ago, which took agonizingly detailed discussions over many meetings.

PT realizes that capital expenditures and operational budgets are apples and oranges, but at the same time I am puzzled that we are laying off employees and buying a bus. A bus that costs as much as two employees. Anyone with me?


Planning Director Bill Nierstedt was invited to the table to give a brief overview of proposed changes to the municipal land use ordinance. This could be good news, but you'll have to check it out at the Planning Division or by following the Planning Board in its deliberations.

PT is pleased the proposed changes will address DENSITY issues, on which I have been something of a contrarian -- thinking that densities in the 80s range per acre may not be unreasonable, providing boundaries and parking requirements are STRICTLY enforced, which is ALWAYS the spoiler.

Mark your calendar for Wednesday night's Council business session: 8 PM at the Courthouse. Don't be late, though. They may be done in five minutes, the way things are going.

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.