The North Bergen government’s transparency will increase following an announcement at a Board of Commissioners meeting last Wednesday.
During the meeting, Business Administrator Chris Pianese said that itemized agendas will now be provided on the township website “the day before the meeting.”
The move comes after repeated criticism from several parties, including longtime meeting attendee Herb Shaw, as well as Mario Blanch, a local attorney who has frequently complained and threatened lawsuits regarding the Open Public Meetings Act.
Also dubbed the “Sunshine Laws,” the act requires that public bodies make available an agenda – to the extent that it is known – of the meeting at least 48 hours before it takes place. According to the law: “A 48-hour written notice must also be given for any regular, special, adjourned or unscheduled meeting giving the time, date, location and as complete an agenda as known at time of notice.”
“It’s just a really good team effort here.” – Mayor Nicholas Sacco
“I don’t understand where the compliance with the Sunshine Law is,” Blanch said at a meeting in January.
“Our procedures are fully in accord with the Sunshine Law,” said Herb Klitzner, town attorney, at the meeting. “Regularly scheduled meetings require no specific agenda.”
Mayor Nicholas Sacco had also said at that meeting that the town was “working on putting these things on the website,” and that it would take “a couple of months.”
Blanch represented the “Citizens for Change” mayor/commissioner ticket in their unsuccessful election bid against Sacco’s team last year. He also represents a former town employee who filed a state ethics complaint against Sacco in December.
After making the announcement of the new changes, Shaw asked if the online agendas would include a monetary value.
“If the money is important for the resolution, it will be part of the agenda,” said Pianese.
“My efforts have not been in vain,” said Shaw.
After the meeting, Sacco said that the administration had been waiting for the website – which was renovated in October – to be fully ready to handle the agendas before it was actually posted.
“Chris Pianese reported to me today that he feels our website can now handle it,” said Sacco, also adding that the township now has the necessary “manpower” to do so.
“We’ll see how it operates.”
During the meeting, Sacco and the commissioners also honored the victims of the Broadway fire in January, which displaced 12 families. Checks were made out to several victims in the amount of $1,004 dollars following various fund-raisers from the police and fire departments as well as other community efforts.
Also present during the presentation was North Bergen resident Aimee Focaraccio, who organized clothing drives and other efforts to help the victims.
“As you know we had a horrendous fire on Broadway,” said Sacco, who also commended the schools, community leaders, and public safety departments for their role in raising money. “It’s just a really good team effort here.”
An ordinance was adopted to exceed the municipal budget appropriation limit of 2.5 percent by an additional one percent. Sacco said that the additional $1,871,005 will help the township in case of an emerging condition.
“We don’t plan to do it, we’d rather not,” said Sacco. “If you don’t do something like this and you run into an emergency, you have a tragedy.”
Shaw complained about a perceived excess burden to the taxpayers caused by the ordinance.
“We do it every year and we’ve never utilized it in the last five years,” said Pianese.
“The tax rate is what it is,” said Sacco. “[This is] not changing the tax rate.”
A resolution was adopted awarding a $1,040 contract to T.M. Brennan Contractors, Inc. for repairing a failed heating system at the Little League Building at 1212 76th St.
An ordinance was also adopted to place stop signs at 72nd Street and Durham Avenue, as well as 72nd Street and Newkirk Avenue. According to the ordinance, the intersections were deemed to be “of particular hazard.”
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.