Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Council works with Administration. Is this news?

The only business to actually be transacted by the Plainfield City Council last night showed the Council working with the Administration, as it does MOST OF THE TIME -- a point made by Councilor Storch over and over amid the campaign noise about a 'dysfunctional' relationship.

The Special Meeting called by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs contained four action items --

  • Resolution approving end-of-year fund transfers;
  • Resolution authorizing execution of a contract with Jersey Professional Management;
  • Resolution authorizing application to the state to change to Calendar Year;
  • Ordinance to revert to Calendar Year.
Though scheduled for 7:30 PM, which was also the starting time of the regular agenda-setting session, the Special Meeting did not get under way until 9:05 PM, after Councilors Greaves, Mapp and Williams arrived from the Union County Dem Committee reorganization.

The Council UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED both the Robinson-Briggs administration's resolution to apply to the state for the change to a Calendar Year, AND the first reading of an ordinance for Plainfield to revert to a Calendar Year (which the city been on previous to, I think, 1991).

The Concil also
UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED the contract with Jersey Professional Management, under which its associate David Kochel assumes the responsibilities of Acting City Administrator.

As for the end-of-year fund transfers, a quick scan by the Councilors (as well as myself and Bernice) noted that the details of 'From' and 'To' were different from the Resolution presented to the Council last month (Recreation, which was originally slated by the Robinson-Briggs administration to LOSE FUNDS, is now proposed to RECEIVE FUNDS; would it be fair to assume there are some questions that need answering?). Chairman Mapp proposed instead only taking up the transfer of $20,000 at this time to cover expenses associated with the Acting City Administrator, and that action was also

Dysfunctionistas take note!

The earlier portion of the meeting was taken up by discussion items that ran well over their allotted time, including --

  • An update from the ShotSpotter technology salesperson on a proposed LEASE -- rather than PURCHASE -- option. With only four Councilors participating (McWilliams, Storch, Reid and Rivers, who was once again on a phone-in), Reid was highly critical of the cost of the initiative, saying he was in favor of having more cops on the street instead. Storch was more supportive, but cited the need of the Administration to provide the Council with INDEPENDENT (that is, not from the Vendor) data on the program's effectiveness.

  • And yet another discussion on the Armory by the Robinson-Briggs administration -- short on facts, long on rosy prose -- citing once again the 'urgency' of acting so the state's 'deadline' doesn't run out. Storch was not impressed, noting the State was in a tough market and not likely to have a buyer in the current circumstances and urging the Administration to hang tough.
At the risk of boring folks with facts, proposals involving the Armory have a long history, going back to 2005 (see a Ledger item here, and two Courier stories here, and here), and see my 2008 overview (here), including threats by the State that its offer of the property would 'time out'.

As an aside, I spoke with my brother-in-law while in Connecticut yesterday (he is in HVAC) and he guesstimated installing an HVAC in the Armory (my estimate is it's a 30,000 square-foot building) at $300,000 at the minimum. So, folks, we are talking REAL MONEY here, and that doesn't include updating electrical, plumbing, roof/insulation, asbestos and/or possible underground fuel remediations, or ADA-compliant building adaptations.

The Council is wise to be chary of this project.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...


According to the Courier-News, the building is about 18,000 square feet--the property as a whole might come up to 30,000 square feet. Even so, 18,000 square feet of HVAC costs is a lot.

Nat Singleton said...

Shot Spotter Redux:
On 09/29/2010 I posted on my blog, Dumbed Down America, comments about Shot Spotter outlining the issues, steps to ameliorate those issues and how to go forward, if one were interested in the implementation of Shot Spotter. ( Caution, in my opinion there are numerous low cost things the city can proactively do to reduce crime before it ever entertains an after the fact system such as Shot Spotter which in my opinion will not work to cost effectively reduce the crime rate in Plainfield and only serves to line somebody's pockets with taxpayer dollars.) It seems to me the comments I made have fallen on deaf ears, both the cities and the council, and we are again at ground zero.
Below are excerpts from my post:

‘Now I have one quibble with the administration and the council and that is that the devil is in the details. I have been in technology for over 40 years and have seen many systems go down the tubes and it happens for several reasons:
1. The vendor over promises and under-delivers.
2. The people making the decision don't have the technical expertise.
3. The vendor provides only anecdotal evidence and no verifiable hard scientific facts to verify the performance claims of their solution.
4. Positive references provided by the vendor were paid for.
5. Lack of customer expertise to administer the system after the vendor leaves.
6. Lack of buy-in from the people using the system, even if they have the expertise.
7. Lack of buy-in from the stakeholders. In this case the community that is to be the supposed beneficiary of the solution..
8. Lack of written and monitoring of performance guarantees from the people charged with administering the system. Example, can you guarantee the arrival of a Police car within 3 minutes of the shots being fired?
Now even if you get all of these things done, it just gets you to the point of having a functional system.

The next phase should be a go/no-go pilot to verify that the solution can actually meet the promised deliverables (in this case a reduction in crime that justifies the cost of the project). If it's a go, there should be a phased implementation. If it's a no-go, can adjustments be made to improve the pilot?
If yes, implement the improvements, restart the pilot and go through the cycle again. If no, close the project down and get your money back. Better still hold the monies in an escrow account and if no-go take your money out and close the account. If a go, pay them in stages with the final payment going to them six months after the successful completion of the project.’

TREEeditor said...

dan, the armory would have to be prevailing wage so the HVAC costs would roughly be around $15/sf to 20/sf according to what needs to be done. If 18,000 sf then $300k would be close. If 30,000 sf looks like around half mill, incl mech demo, excl asbestos. Non-union you may get away with $11-12/sf. All rough figures.