The Hoboken City Council voted 8-0 Wednesday to authorize special emergency appropriations and notes in the sum of $4.2 million for damage incurred from Hurricane Sandy. The 8-0 vote represents a unanimous one, as James Doyle was recently removed from the council until further notice, leaving a vacant seat in the interim.
After Doyle’s removal, a deadlock of votes has been anticipated, since the council now has four members allied with Mayor Dawn Zimmer and four against.
Two months ago, Councilwoman Carol Marsh, an ally of Zimmer, resigned suddenly. The council voted for Doyle to take the spot, but the mayor’s four opponents on the council were able to get him legally removed. The spot remains empty.
City Council focused on how to better boost business in Hoboken going forward.
The council also discussed how to better boost business in Hoboken going forward.
The expense of Sandy
After the city approved the $4.2 million in storm-related expenses, Business Administrator Quentin Wiest said that the city will apply for reimbursement through both FEMA and the insurance company.
Weist said that FEMA will cover the cost of overtime for workers, tipping fees, carting fees, etc. Insurance will probably cover building and equipment losses.
“I expect a one to two year cycle time for reimbursement from the insurance side,” said Weist. “I have heard different things from people with regard to FEMA.”
Councilman Michael Russo took a stand on an outstanding payment to outside legal counsel relating to the bankruptcy filings involving Hoboken University Medical Center. A resolution on the agenda sought to amend a contract with Okin, Hollander & DeLuca, LLP for another $13,000 in addition to the high sums already paid.
Corporation counsel Mellissa Longo explained, “This was a very complex bankruptcy matter. To say in the eleventh hour that we are pulling them out and going to verse someone else on everything would have cost more money.”
“This is not in the eleventh hour for me,” Russo said. “I have been saying this for a year. There are things that are routine that could have been handled by your office and at a much lower rate per hour.”
The contested balance of $13,000 was for work already done by the firm, more specifically, for motions where the city was successfully represented, Longo said.
Russo was not convinced. At a $500 rate per hour, Russo wanted to halt any more work by this firm.
“I cannot sit here and guarantee there won’t be anymore work done, but I don’t foresee it,” said Longo.
“I am asking corporation counsel to say no, we are done. I am asking everyone to take a stand and say no. Vendors need to be held to the contracts that they sign,” Russo said.
The measure was tabled until the next meeting.
Carpe per diem
Another controversial payment was a claim to cover expenses and per diems for former transportation and parking director Ian Sacs, who left the job when his family moved to Europe in October. The expenses covered Sacs’ trip to San Diego last February for a conference. The total amount reimbursed to Sacs was $852.24, which covered airfare, hotel, transportation, and meals. Some council members felt they were not properly advised of the conference, nor the reimbursements associated with it.
“When a director goes to a conference,” said Councilman Tim Occhipinti, “the council should have a resolution in front of them and agree to fund it, instead of eight months later. We don’t even know what he went for or what he came back with.”
“The reimbursement was delayed so that policies could be established for per diems, as opposed to each exact bill for meals, etc,” said Weist.
Councilman David Mello focused largely on planning for the future. He talked about planning for emergencies and about giving an economic boost to town. Mello suggested budgeting for a sign at the corner where many tourists line up to visit famed Carlos Bakery. The idea was well received by council members as a way to promote Hoboken. Most felt that many out-of-towners drive in to see “The Cake Boss,” and then turn around and leave.
Councilwoman Theresa Castellano suggested an extension of free parking as a way to promote Hoboken shopping this month. Traditionally, the city provides meter-free parking for the weeks prior to Christmas. Castellano suggested suspended parking regulations for the entire month of December. Some council members were unsure if this might help or hurt, since there would be no turnover of parking if people were not on a two hour maximum.
The City Council plans to meet again Wednesday, Dec. 5 and this matter will be re-introduced.
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.