The needler in the haystack.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sometimes Council news is found between the lines

Sculptor Joyce Kohl's 'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back'
neatly captures the metaphor. (See more on the artist here, and here.)
Sometimes even the apparently innocuous and routine business of the Plainfield City Council reveals the 'one step forward, two steps back' situation that prevails with the Robinson-Briggs administration.

Despite the fact that the Robinson-Briggs administration continues to limp along with a make-do temporary CFO, Director of Administration and Finance Al Restaino assured the Council in January that the administration would be introducing the proposed CY2013 budget in March.

When the March 4 agenda was published, Olddoc opined that a resolution to provide for another month's temporary budget appropriation implied that that the budget would not be forthcoming until April (see his post here), if then.

Sure enough, during the discussion at Monday's Council meeting, Mr. Restaino answered a query from the Council by saying that there had been 'a meeting on the funding process' the previous Monday, and that 'we have begun preparing documents for division-by-division review'.

When I was still working for the city, we used the bottom-up process, where each division constructed its proposal for the next year -- in DETAIL mind you, none of this 'OTHER' baloney -- which was gotten to the Department Directors on a schedule that allowed for assembly and timely introduction of the proposed budget. That does not seem to be the method the Robinson-Briggs administration is using.

All we got from Mr. Restaino this past Monday was that the Robinson-Briggs administration is 'shooting' for an April introduction.

So, the great step forward in moving to a Calendar Year budget has been squandered. Already.

Then there were the four items WITHDRAWN by the Robinson-Briggs administration from the agenda.

Attention may have been deflected somewhat because the items were not all consecutive, and it was only as I went over my notes from the meeting that I noticed a pattern.

Consider the withdrawn items --

(D) was a resolution to reject the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the 'Cushing Road Retention Basin and Robinson Park Improvement Project'. Leaving aside the fact that there is no 'Robinson Park' but rather the Robinson Brook, which flows out of the retention basin area and is one of the headwaters of the Rahway River, the Robinson-Briggs administration cited 'flaws in the RFP' as the reason for withdrawing it.

(N) was a resolution to award a $115,000 contract to the RBA Group (see their website here) because of 'concerns with the bidding process' Mr. Restaino said. He further explained to residents' inquiries that the Robinson-Briggs administration is 'looking for "more responsible" bidders'. Now, looking at the RBA Group's website, it is clear this is no nickel-and-dime outfit; it has quite a track record. So, is this an attempt by the Robinson-Briggs administration to rig the bidding in favor of a pre-determined vendor? One wonders.

(O) was a resolution to award a $190,000 contract for Phase 1 repairs to the City Hall cupola, withdrawn over unspecified problems with the bidding process; and

IX. [MC 2013-01] an amendment to the City's parking ordinance, prohibiting parking at all times on certain streets. The reason for withdrawal was not specified.
The first thing to be noted is that Mr. Restaino was filling in for City Administrator Eric Berry, who really should be answering the questions.

Nevertheless, three of the four withdrawn items fall under Restaino's bailiwick and are centered in work done by the Purchasing Agent in framing RFPs and bid proposals and overseeing the bid awards process.

It was only at the January 14 agenda-setting session of the Council that the public was made aware Robinson-Briggs had appointed a new Purchasing Agent.

And yet just a few weeks later we have three items for which the Purchasing Agent is responsible being withdrawn for reasons that may bear more looking into.

Is this a question of 'one step forward and two steps back'?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Bob said...

It seems that Sharon is continually giving voters reasons to stay away from her on the ballot. I can't understand why we even have to wait until March for a budget. February gives the administration plenty of time. Most towns I know of have departments submit their budgets and the administration adjusts them as needed and a budget is accomplished in short term. Nothing Shady Sharonda is done in a timely manner or in a correct manner. I am the head of the accounting department at a large school and if my students acted like this on their exams, they would flunk (F). Why do we have to put up with this every year. I don't think Robinson-Briggs has brought a budget forward on time ever. We really need someone who has a clue. Sharon doesn't and she keeps proving it. Don't trust her, as she is a very shady politician.

Anonymous said...

Ah, once again we get games, games, and more games.