The first order of business of the July 22 meeting of the Town Council was to make Secaucus safer, beginning with a swearing-in ceremony for five new policemen and two members of the Fire Department.
Taking the oath as probationary police officers were Taylor Ensmann, Joseph Fuardo, Stephen Hurtuk, Salvatore Manente Jr., and Tyler Pein. Accepted as a probationary member of Engine Co. 1 and a probationary member of the Secaucus Fire Department was Kevin Rodrigo, with Matthew Mottola accepted as a member of Washington Hook & Ladder.
Family members stood by them as they took the oath and accepted the congratulations of the mayor, Town Council, and Deputy Police Chief John Cerny.
The new police officers attended orientation on July 25 and entered the police academy last week for training. Their induction brings the total to 64 police in town, the highest level in a long time, according to Councilman Gary Jeffas, with “a lot of young officers. They’re very tech savvy, so there are a lot of advantages to that.”
Jeffas also spoke about the successful Coffee with a Cop event held at Natoli’s Deli on July 16. The goal of the event was to provide an opportunity for the public to meet the police and ask questions.
“I always say Secaucus is about location, location, and location. This is probably one of the best places in the state to do business.” – Michael Gonnelli
Councilman Robert Costantino spoke about the Meadowlands Intermunicipal Tax Sharing Program. Established in 1972, the program required seven municipalities within the Meadowlands region to pay a total of $7.3 million into a fund annually, while seven other municipalities that could not develop land in their towns due to environmental concerns withdrew money from the fund. Secaucus was the largest contributor into the fund, a source of consternation for various mayors.
This year, thanks to ongoing efforts by Mayor Michael Gonnelli and Speaker of the Assembly Vincent Prieto, the state of New Jersey will be picking up the entire cost for the first time, saving Secaucus more than $2.9 million.
The payment was a one-time agreement for this year only. Last year the state paid about 75 percent of the payment. Prieto is working on a permanent funding solution that would eliminate the need for Secaucus to pay on an annual basis in the future.
“Next year we’ll hopefully be able to keep taxes exactly where they are today, which is zero percent increase,” said Costantino. “And hopefully more hard work will make this a permanent fixture and then we can find different ways to utilize that money moving forward, with flood projects, stabilizing the taxes, paying down debt, fully funding infrastructure programs, and keeping things where they are. It’s a good, good day for Secaucus.”
Secaucus also received a first installment payment of $7,000 from the dinosaur park for environmental fees, Costantino announced. It was early in the season and the park was only open on weekends so far, so the number would increase later in the year. “I think in years past we collected around $180,000,” he said.
Councilman James Clancy reported that fire inspectors brought in more than $155,000 in fees for permits from new businesses in the fiscal year ending in July, above the $154,000 estimated amount.
More business, jobs in town
The state of New Jersey has offered tax incentives of $5.3 million to three companies to relocate or expand the activities in Secaucus, according to Councilman Jeffas. “Jacmel Jewelry was given incentive to open up an operations and distribution center here in Secaucus,” he said. That is projected to bring 75 new jobs to the area. “The second company is Frontage Laboratories, and that’s to expand clinical testing operations in Secaucus. They indicate that should create 50 new high-paying jobs.”
The third company is Rent the Runway, which is already located in Secaucus. “They were given money to expand their distribution center to a larger space,” said Jeffas. “They expect to create 277 new jobs and retain 93 jobs that were at risk of leaving the state.”
Mayor Gonnelli added that Cosco Shipping may be putting up a large facility in Secaucus. Recently online consignment company The RealReal leased 128,000 square feet in Secaucus and will be moving to town.
“We’re seeing a lot of new commercial development,” said Gonnelli. “People are starting to come out of the recession when things really slowed down and I think we’ll see a lot of new ratables coming in this year and next year. We appreciate the state enticing people to come here. I always say Secaucus is about location, location, and location. This is probably one of the best places in the state to do business.”
Gonnelli also spoke about the many flood control projects underway in town. New storm lines have been completed as well as a new pump station. A concrete barrier was being constructed near the high school, to be 1,000 feet long and four feet high.
Representatives from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Rebuild by Design will visit in August. The Rebuild by Design project for the Meadowlands was granted $150 million for flood remediation. “I think that once HUD sees what we’re doing and where we’re going, hopefully some funding will shortly be coming in our direction out of that,” said Gonnelli.
Secaucus has hired a company to recoup storm recovery money from the Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA). “That money’s been coming in very slowly not only to Secaucus but to the entire state of New Jersey,” said Gonnelli. The company will receive a percentage of any money they bring to the town. “They’ve already increased our claim by over $200K,” he said.
Also, “We received an additional grant of $100K to get us to where we need to be with the generator at the OEM [Office of Emergency Management] and the public library,” said Gonnelli, “which will allow us to get that project completed. That came from the state.”
Pool and celebrations
“As everybody knows, the Fourth of July celebration was canceled due to the weather,’” said Councilman William McKeever, announcing the rescheduled date. “That’s going to be held on Aug. 6 at 4 p.m. at the swim center featuring the exciting island band called Alotta Colada.”
This year the town pool was available to residents and guests only. “Last year we had 384 total families registered,” said Gonnelli. Out of that number, 324 were Secaucus residents. “This year I’m happy to say we have 466 families. So it’s an increase of 188 local families.”
Total revenue was down because day passes to out-of-towners were eliminated. Available for the first time this year are midseason passes. “An individual membership is $90 from now until the end of the summer,” said Gonnelli. “A household of two is $180, with an additional $30 per child.”
Animal shelter fundraisers
Councilwoman Susan Pirro reported on two upcoming fundraisers for the Animal Shelter. On Aug. 9 from 10 a.m. to midnight the Dunkin Donuts on Meadowlands Parkway will be contributing 15 percent of their proceeds to the shelter. Kittens will be available for adoption and free pet food samples and treats will be given out to residents. And on Sunday, Aug. 17 from 5 to 9 p.m., Uncle D’s Ice Cream at 1540 Paterson Plank Road will donate 20 percent of their proceeds to the shelter. Free frozen yogurt for dogs will be provided.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.