Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Outsourcing plan panned by public

The search for 'just and capable' continues...
The Mapp administration's plan to outsource Plainfield's Planning Division was panned by the public in comments at Monday evening's agenda setting session.

The administration is arguing that the outsourcing, for which bids have been received from an RFP, would result in cost savings and increased efficiency.

The public, including longtime supporters of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, was not buying it.

Council President Bridget Rivers gave the hour alloted to pubic comment before the agenda-setting over to speakers from the audience who almost universally questioned the proposed changes.

After the courtesy of giving Planning Division Director Bill Nierstedt twelve minutes to read a written presentation on behalf of the division's staff, most of the rest of the speakers were limited to one buzzer's worth of comment.

Among those speaking were professionals (a land use attorney and two engineers), property owners who have had dealings with the Division, ordinary residents, and several people who make their living either as consultants or as employees of firms which are.

To a person they doubted the estimated savings and improved efficiency, contending that bidders lowball to get a foot in the door and then the costs go up.

Engineer Jeff Morrison said, "We [consultants] are in business to make money; the Planning Division [exists] to improve the city."

Land use attorney Daniel Bernstein, who has come before Plainfield's land use boards often in the past, said, "At the first meeting, you get the experienced professional . . . then they send in the kid," referring to the unlicenced junior planner who will be on site one day a week.

Historic Preservation Commission chairperson Bill Michelson, who said in an aside that he may be Plainfield's next Assemblyman, remarked, "You're [the City] never going to get the same level of attention . . . or knowledge" as with an in-house team.

Only two speakers complained about the Planning Division.

One was the now-infamous André Yates (he of the North Avenue demolition fiasco) who has tangled with Nierstedt over a boarding house he owns across from City Hall. Among the several properties he owns and mentioned, he did not bring up his ownership of the former Abbott Nursing Home property on Central Avenue. Yates claimed the Division had made his life "a living hell".

The other negative commenter was a woman who indetified herself as the owner of 1080 Rahway Road, the home on the corner of Crabapple Lane, which has been a cause of comment because of a landscaping job that has caused Crabapple Lane to be impassable every time it rains.

Council moved the proposed layoff plan to next Tuesday's agenda (Monday is Columbus Day) with Rivers, Greaves, Toliver and Brown in favor; and Storch and Williams not in favor. Councilor Taylor was not present at the meeting.

The Council still wants further analysis of the projected savings before approving the outsourcing.

Plainfield City Council meets next Tuesday at 8:00 PM at the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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