The usually short meeting stretched to more than two hours, as residents and others questioned several agenda items and administration decisions.
In the initial public portion of the agenda, former council candidate Washington Flores questioned why Jeff Meyer of Burlington County was doing public-relations work for the city and whether he was an actual city employee. Business Administrator Joseph DeMarco and Council President Sharon Nadrowski said that Meyer was not a paid employee of Bayonne.
Immediately following the public portion, the ordinance seeking a tax exemption for an urban renewal projection at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, Harbor Station North, drew the ire of several audience members who questioned giving a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), or 30-year tax abatement, to developers of the project. The area discussed has been the subject of a suit against the city by the Fidelco Company, city officials said.
Stan Marko, former council candidate Leonard Kantor, former Anthony Zanowic for Mayor campaign manager Peter Franco, resident John Sebik, and former Mayor Richard Rutkowski questioned either the awarding of the tax exemption or other parts of the agreement.
City attorney Jay Coffey and DeMarco answered many of the residents’ questions, for the most part saying that much of the agreement was made to settle the suit begun under the administration of former mayor Mark Smith.
Kantor questioned the residential development, as he has in the past, saying the city should not be adding thousands of residences, predicting it would be a strain on the city’s infrastructure, such as on schools and municipal services.
“What we need down there is commercial property, to bring money in,” he said. “We’re increasing population and ever increasing our schools. You’re going to implode our schools.”
“We do agree with you, but this is not a sale made under this administration,” Nadrowski said. “It was made under the previous administration.”
The council decided to only discuss the ordinance at the session, and not move on it until the next council meeting on Oct. 15.
Flores then questioned a measure that would effectively transfer municipal construction board appeals to the county board. Administration officials said the move was being made because the city could not find enough residents to serve on the local board and that appeals were being delayed. Third Ward Councilman Gary La Pelusa said that he was also against the measure, wanting to keep the board a municipal one.
An audience member questioned if the city was still paying rent on a Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority office on Broadway, and if so, how much per month. Chief Financial Officer Terrence Malloy said the city was still renting the space, at between $1,200 to $1,500 a month. It is currently being used to store BLRA records, and Malloy said that once an audit is completed, the city “should be able” to move those records and no longer rent the office.
Two appointments announced at the meeting via resolution, one naming John Budnik as the city’s municipal recycling coordinator, and the other elevating Robert Wondolowski from acting director of municipal services to permanent director also were questioned.
Franco asked if Budnik has the qualifications for that position. DeMarco said Budnik currently did not, but has agreed to take the necessary certification courses to meet its requirements. He also said there is currently an employee in the department with the necessary experience, so there would be no void in coverage.
Wondolowski was appointed to his post by a 5-0 vote, but with a caveat.
“Occasionally I have a question for Mr. Wondolowski,” said La Pelusa. “I’d like to ask him to come to the meetings more often.”
An add-on to the agenda, the council requested an additional $35,000 for the additional services by RSAC Architects for the construction of the new fire station at the peninsula. When questioned by a resident about the station’s completion date, Fire Chief Gregory Rogers, who was at the meeting, said the firehouse “should be up and running by mid-October.”
Earlier in the public portion of the meeting, resident Kevin Hennings said he believed speed limits were not being enforced in town and asked for the council’s help on “this quality of life issue.”