ORANGE - The Orange City Council intends to settle the 2014 Calendar Year Municipal Budget's departmental allocations and approve an $8.7 million bond issue at a special meeting set for City Hall here at 7 p.m. June 26.
Council's resolving the budget before July 1 cannot come soon enough for the Orange Fire Department, Orange Police Department, Department of Public Works and the Orange Public Library.
All four departments, like other municipal functions, have been operating on monthly temporary or emergency appropriations since Jan. 1 while Mayor Dwayne Warren's administrators and the council resolve a final budget. All four department heads, who made their own presentations last month, have been lobbying the council for either the bond issue's passage or for an increased allocation.
Respective OFD Fire Director Michael Dowd, OPD Director Hakim Sims and DPW, Engineering and Planning Director Marty Mays were in the City Hall Council Chamber June 17, joining two public speakers in passing the bond issue.
Dowd and Sims left, however, after the council voted to table the bond ordinance for eight more days at 10:35 p.m. Mays, representing the Warren Administration, stayed until the meeting's 11:30 p.m. adjournment. The council, in a 4-2 split vote, decided to table the ordinance again until the city's bond counsel can weigh in on June 26.
OPL Director Timur Davis, while not at June 17's meeting, is also pressing the council to increase its library line item allocation to beyond the state formulated $503,000 minimum. Davis, speaking at the OPL Board of Trustees' monthly meeting June 12, is concerned that the library may have to close on 82-plus degree days should a High Volume Air Conditioning chiller unit is not replaced.
"We have had old estimates of $81,000 to replace the chiller," said Davis June 12. "Air conditioning is one of the reasons people come to the library. If we don't get that replaced, we may have to close the library on days when the temperature goes above 82 degrees by state law."
Davis, in his monthly report, praised the library staff for their efforts and programs since OPL's Jan. 14 reopening. He listed getting appropriate computer software soon so the library can retrieve payroll and accounting from the city government.
Davis noted, however, that the $503,000 proposed minimum would prevent the library from replacing the chiller or to hire additional needed staff. The director added that there appears to be a communication gap between library leaders and council members.
"We gave them every document they requested," said Davis, "except one; that was a personnel item."
Davis and the four trustee meanwhile agreed that he should make a new round of chiller replacement cost estimates; the $81,000 quote goes back to 2011.
A Warren administrator meanwhile provided a two-sided "2014 Bond - Anticipated Use" document in the council chamber's fourth floor lobby.
Dowd, on one side, listed $1,475,500 worth of "right-now" vehicle and equipment replacement. The breakdown comes out to $950,000 to replace the 1991 Pierce Ladder One truck, $475,000 to replace the 1990 Pierce Engine Three and $50,000 worth of high-pressure fire hose.
"The (1990 Pierce) engine is serving as a front line piece and is over the 15-year National Fire Protection Association replacement recommendation by eight years," stated the handout. "The 40-gal, gas tank has been replaced on numerous occasions; the 750-gal. water tank was welded in numerous spots to slow the water leaks. There is body and frame rust throughout the entire apparatus.
"This' the department's only Ladder Company with no spare," said the statement of the 1991 Pierce ladder truck. "The city doesn't have the ability of reaching heights above three stories. (It) is over the NFPA replacement recommendation by seven years. The body, frame and most importantly the stabilizers/outriggers've obvious signs of rust throughout."
Sims, on the other side, lists $1,000,682 worth of vehicles and equipment. That "Vehicles and Critical Accessories" amount includes 14 Ford SUV Patrol vehicles at $36,549 for $511,683, a $38,335 Ford F-250, 15 radios at $13,950 for $209,250, 15 touchpad in-car laptop computers for $68,368 and 15 dash camera systems at $173,046. The $294,411 worth of "Communication Systems and Equipment includes $88,567 for portable radios.
"What I've allocated in the bond issue is what's necessary," said Sims in response to North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason's questions on speed radar guns. "We can get the radar units through other means."
Mays, as DPW Director, wants four vehicles for $460,000. That breaks down to two street sweepers at $180,000 each and two $50,000 senior buses.
"We've gone over many iterations of this bond issue and its line items," said Mays. "We've answered all questions that have been brought to us and we received unanimous approval from the (state) Local Finance Board. I've had residents come to us over the winter saying their streets haven't been plowed; that's because we're at the limit of our equipment and we would've to outsource."
William Hathaway, speaking as a DPW employee, also urged bond passage. Hathaway opined that the equipment is needed in all departments, "even with the TV 35 equipment."
TV 35 has carried live-only council meetings for almost two years. Technical difficulties left only the camera facing the public speaker lectern throughout the scheduled 4.5-hour session. Live viewers were otherwise treated to the "Local Talk" reporter taking notes on screen for two hours.
Mays was referring to the June 11 New Jersey Department of Community Affairs' board hearing on the $8,772,000 bond, including $8,333,400 worth of notes. The LFB approved the bond issue before Warren, Mays, Finance Director Adrian Mapp and Chief Financial Officer Joy Liscari. Council Budget Consultant Deitier Lerch sent a letter of recommendation to the LFB.
Mays was also responding to an alternative to bonding presented by resident Katherine Gordon. Gordon, citing the $439,100 in interest the city would have to pay bankers, suggested paying for the said equipment through a capital spending schedule.
"Just think of what that $400,000 can be put to instead of interest," said Gordon during the public hearing's public speaker portion. "It could mean getting that fire engine in a year or the ladder truck every other year."
What prompted a majority of the council to table the bond issue one more time, however, is the lack of a bonding document as indicated by hardware store owner Jeffery Feld.
"I want to know what the bond counsel says about this," said Feld. "I don't know if the bonds are going to be privately sold to a bank or the state - or offered to the public. The last time we had a bond issue, in 2009, it started as a private sale to a bank but the state bought the bonds at a lower interest rate."
Council President Donna K. Williams suggested tabling the ordinance until the bond counsel appears June 26. At-Large Councilwoman April Gaunt-Butler moved for tabling, which outgoing East Ward colleague Linda Jones-Bell seconded.
Gaunt-Butler, Jones-Bell, Williams and at-large Councilman Elroy Corbitt voted to table. Eason and outgoing South Ward Councilman Edward Marable, Jr. voted against tabling. Outgoing West Ward Councilman Hassan Abdul-Rasheed was absent from his last scheduled council meeting.