JERSEY CITY – After hearing from dozens of speakers, and at the urging of Hudson County Freeholder William O’Dea, the City Council on Wednesday night voted to table a controversial measure to eliminate the Jersey City Incinerator Authority (JCIA).
O’Dea and other members of the public who do not work for the JCIA also harangued the council for a perceived lack of understanding regarding the many reports, studies, and other analyses that have been done over the years on the possible consolidation of the JCIA and the Department of Public Works.
The city has for years weighed the possibility of somehow merging the functions of the JCIA and the DPW into one department and since 2007 has commissioned various reports and studies to look at how such a consolidation might be accomplished.
The council began taking initial steps to eliminate the JCIA a year ago. By a split vote the governing body introduced the ordinance to eliminate the JCIA on April 11.
City Councilman Steven Fulop, who introduced the ordinance to eliminate the JCIA, tried to defend the measure by telling the standing room only crowd at City Hall Wednesday that the ordinance would “protect the rank and file workers like you. The idea is to cut management and duplicative professional services from the top.”
Fulop said his vision is to eliminate the JCIA, cut the agency’s top directors, then transfer many of the rank and file JCIA workers over to the DPW. Alternative consolidation plans favored by Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy and others on the council, he said, would likely cut low-level employees and retain top managers. Under his plan, Fulop said, more low-level employees, in both the JCIA and the DPW, would keep their jobs.
But O’Dea, JCIA Director Oren Dabney, and others noted that since the DPW is a department that has civil service protections, it would be impossible to simply absorb JCIA workers in to the DPW. Under civil service rules, workers with seniority who are slated to be laid off can “bump” employees with less seniority. Any cuts made at the DPW to make way for JCIA workers would directly affect employees working at the bottom of the two agencies, several people argued Wednesday.
After hearing hours of comments from the public regarding the ordinance, the council unanimously voted to table the measure so more details in the consolidation plan can be examined and resolved.
For more on Wednesday night’s vote, don’t miss this weekend’s edition of the Jersey City Reporter. – E. Assata Wright