Why did phone bill rise nearly $700K in county department?
Jun 06, 2013 | 4096 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print

HUDSON COUNTY -- The Hudson County freeholders had many questions for heads of county departments at a hearing on Wednesday night in Secaucus designed to look at possible cuts in the county's proposed $304 million budget.

The Hudson County Board of Freeholders introduced the budget last month. It will cause county taxes to rise in Hoboken, Weehawken, and Secaucus, so several county departments came to the meetings to talk about how to save money. The final vote on the budget is scheduled for June 20.

Another hearing was set to be held in Hoboken Thursday night.

The freeholders had some pointed questions for the heads of county departments. For instance, they asked why the cost of employee phone calls climbed by $700,000, and why certain county employees get their own taxpayer funded cars.

Freeholder William O’Dea asked Harold Demellier Jr. of the Department of Roads and Public Property, Engineering & Transportation, why a department telephone bill of $1 million in 2012 went up to almost $1.7 million.

“We have to question if people are making long-distance phone calls when they shouldn’t, if the phone is connected to the internet,” he said. “We need to understand why a line item would increase by more than 50 percent in a given year."

Freeholder Albert Cifelli questioned why no alarm went off when the phone bill went up so much.

“There’s no blip on the radar, no smoking gun, no red flag?” he said.

Demellier pledged to get back to them with an answer.

O’Dea also asked about Demellier’s 270 employees, and if all the current job vacancies have to be refilled. Demellier said there are various collective bargaining agreements that would be a factor if changes are made.

The freeholders also asked why various officials in the law department get county cars to use.

For a longer, more detailed story, see this weekend's print edition.

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