The needler in the haystack.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Council president promises temp budget by March 31

March 31 deadline is fast approaching.

Plainfield City Council unanimity on 49 of 50 resolutions on the agenda for Thursday evening's meeting was striking. But the flap over the 50th item was a doozy, making up for the serenity of the rest of the evening.

With only six members present (Councilor Brown was absent), the meeting got under way a bit late owing to the City Administrator, the mayor and some staff being at the earlier budget presentation at the Senior Center.

Except that the City seems to be parceling out legal work to an inordinate number of lawyers, most of the business was of a routine nature.

The public hearing on Comcast's franchise renewal was perfunctory, with resident Alan Goldstein commenting on the issue of dangling wires throughout the city still not resolved from the damaging Sandy storm well over a year ago. Lamar Mackson, PCTV employee and chair of the Cable TV Advisory Commission explained why the city had missed an earlier 'ascertainment' reporting deadline. (Later in the meeting, resident Ora Bailey-Hill came to the mike to plead for a special, lower rate at lower Internet access speeds for residents who couldn't afford the cost of full Comcast service, but her remarks were not part of the official hearing.)

Even the new items -- which must be added to the agenda by a minimum of five votes -- went swimmingly. Until the fateful Resolution 121-14, the Mapp administration's proposal of a six-month temporry budget appropriation.

Council was having none of it, and councilors Greaves, Taylor, Reid and Rivers voted against putting it on the agenda (only Storch and Williams voted 'yes').

Some discussion ensued, with Councilor Storch pressing for details on how the issue would be resolved before the city would be shut down if temporary appropriations were not set.

Council President Bridget Rivers and finance committee chair Bill Reid proposed that the committee (which includes councilors Storch and Taylor) meet with the just-appointed budget consultant to the Council and the Mapp administration to work out a 'fair' (Councilor Rivers' term) proposal for the Council, after which Rivers would set the date and time for a special Council meeting to adopt the temporary appropriation that would keep City Hall open and running.

In response to my questions from the mike, Council President Rivers -- while not setting a date -- promised that all would be attended to before the M<arch 31 deadline.

With two big public meetings already scheduled for Wednesday (on signing up for Obamacare) and Thursday (the first public hearing on Muhlenberg's future), the opportunities for doing this in a way that is fair to the public (to borrow Council President's term) are limited.

Meanwhile, the Council eagerly took up the Mapp administration's budget proposal for CY2014 (Resolution 122-14) in a unanimous vote.

Habitually presented months late during the years of the Robinson-Briggs administration, Mapp's team was able -- even with a late start and no setup from the previous administration -- to present a budget within days of the state deadline for introduction. The administration's celerity earned praise even from Councilor Bill Reid, no fan of either Mayor Mapp or Director of Administration and Finance Ron West.

The Council now must show it can do its part by meeting the state's deadline of April 25 for final adoption. This will be quite a push, considering we have not heard a word yet about the schedule for public budget hearings nor the appointment of the members of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, the citizen volunteers who shadow the budget process.

Hopefully, Council President Rivers will add these items to the special meeting's agenda to avoid any unseemly delays in the budget process.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Pat Turner Kavanaugh said...

Dan: City Hall I can live without...police and fire, not so much...would this mean no police and fire protection? thank you