When Politicians Build It

By John Bury | August 29, 2014

According to one news source this month:

After 23 health violations were found at the [Linden] animal shelter and countless complaints lodged by the public, officials decided to shut down the facility by the end of the year and build a new one in 2015.

Another source reported:

Recommendations by [Linden's] ad hoc Animal Control Committee were presented at a caucus meeting Monday and were scheduled to be presented at Tuesday night’s council meeting. The recommendations include plans to build a new facility that would be financed mostly by donations and private funding, as available, rather than with taxpayer dollars.

What struck me was the ‘financed mostly by donations’ part.  You see the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) during the years 2006 through 2010 spent over $215,000 under the heading “Union County Animal Shelter” according to the available UCIA Bills Lists (which did not go before 2009 on the UCIA website so it could have been more).  This money went to DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole ($54,022) and Harbor Consultants ($161,720) apparently to study whether an Animal Shelter should be built.  UCIA meeting minutes show no discussion on the topic (which is not unusual since UCIA meeting minutes show no discussion on any topic, only resolutions and votes) so we can only speculate that after all this study they abandoned the project.

Now fast forward to mid-December outside the Linden Shop-Rite and three pre-teens with donation cans and pictures of abandoned dogs and cats behind them asking shoppers for money to build a facility to shelter these poor animals and keep them from being destroyed.  How much would people  drop into those cans if they realized that the first $215,000 of whatever they put in would be going to connected political operatives?  How much would you?  And yet that’s exactly what you did and are continuing to do every time some politician convinces you (or more accurately goes ahead without your permission or knowledge) that there is something (a banquet center, a courthouse, solar panels) that you need built and they have a plan for how to get it built.

 

Rahway Downtown Revitalized?

By John Bury | August 27, 2014

Add $9 million of county money to what Rahway has sunk into the Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC) and environs since 2004 and you may have a couple more slices of pizza sold some weeks to show for it.

Now it is reported that Carteret wants to join Rahway on the ‘Arts District’ bandwagon to bankruptcy and they have former Rahway mayor and current UCUA rubber-stamper Jim Kennedy to advise them.
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Union County spent $6.1 million to buy the UCPAC and, according to the check registries, sunk  over $3 million more into it since 2004 (and I may have missed some stuff that was hidden in those registries) for things like renovating the stage and fixing an organ.  All while taxes are skyrocketing, debt is at record levels, and pensions are about to be defaulted on.  ‘No brainer’ just about sums it up.

Freeholders Act – For Illegal Immigrants

By John Bury | August 24, 2014

For 99.99% of Union County residents were they to express their primary desire to the Union County freeholders it would be for lower taxes.  However, within the pay-to-play system the county maintains that is an impossibility.  Anything else they can do for you?  As it turns out one group did have a request that the freeholders honored.

Continue reading “Freeholders Act – For Illegal Immigrants”

Who got the HEART Grant Money

By John Bury | August 22, 2014

Union County awarded 2014 HEART Grants at the last freeholder meeting and following up on this resolution and exchange it might be interesting to see who has gotten these grants since 2004:

2014-642 Authorizing the County Manager, through the Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs, to execute any and all agreements for the 2014 HEART Grant in an amount not to exceed $75,000.


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Pulling out only those items described as ‘HEART Grants’ (which may not be all of them) form the check registries and putting them into a spreadsheet (note there are two sheets here – the first summarized by recipient and the second sheet totaled by date) we find $697,256 paid out since 2004 to mostly the same entities every year including payments to:

  • Municipalities directly (Fanwood, N. Providence, Rahway, Roselle Park, Summit, Springfield)
  • Vendors (Brand New Day, Center for Hope, Frank Sandra)
  • Housing Authorities/Boards (Elizabeth, Cranford)
  • Historical Societies (Clark, Cranford, Plainfield, Kenilworth, Westfield)
  • Libraries (Berkeley Heights, Hillside, Plainfield, Roselle, Springfield, Summit, Union)
  • Garden Clubs (Cranford, Rake and Hoe)
  • Lots of churches, temples, and ministries
  • Schools (Mother Seton, St. Genevieve)
  • Lots of individuals including those who the county pays for performances separately
  • Merchants & Drovers Tavern
  • Evergreen Cemetary
  • Humpty Dumpty Memorial
  • Newark Museum
  • Women in Conversation

 

UCCF 8/14/14: Resolutions Miscellany

By John Bury | August 19, 2014

2014-690 Amending Resolution 2014-13, designating official newspapers of the County of Union, to reflect a change in name from the “Star Ledger” to “NJ Advanced Media.”
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2014-661 Resolution modifying the 2014 Budget in the amount of $165,000 as a result of notification received from the State of New jersey, Department of Labor and Workforce Deve1opment for a program entitled: Workforce Learning Link Program
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2014-681 Authorizing the County Manager to utilize 51.300,000.00 in Federal Workforce Investment Act Grant funding from the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development in the form of Individual Training Contracts, as stipulated in the grant agreement, for the period of July 1 2014 through June 30, 2015. The training providers will be taken from the NJ Eligible Training Provider List. The One-Stop Career Center will determine part1c1pant eligibility for training services and execute Individual Training Contracts appropriate for eligible individuals.
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2014-689 Authorizing the County Manager to execute a Memorandum of Understanding with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension c/o Cook College of New Brunswick, NJ for the purposes of utilizing the educational services of certain members of the Rutgers faculty and staff of Cook College for the period of January 1, 2014 to December 31,2014 in the amount of $91,078.
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2014-685 Resolution concurring with the Township of Cranford ratifying the approval given to close Spnngfield Avenue between North Avenue and North Union Avenue on Tuesday, August 5, 2014, from 5:00p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for the Cranford National Night Out Celebration Event.
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2014-670 Authorizing the County Manager to enter into an agreement with Purple Forge, Ontario, Canada, to develop, maintain and support an election application for smart phones as a way of imparting important election information to voters for the contract period August 15, 2014 through August 14, 2016 in the amount not to exceed $35,000.
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2014-665 Amending Resolution Number 2013-1058, to reflect an increase to the contract amount awarded to Pit1o Consulting Group,
West Windsor, New Jersey, in the sum of $16,000 for consulting services for the preparation of Indirect Cost Plan and Medicare and Medicaid Cost Reports for Runnells Hospital for new sum not to exceed $96,000.
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2014-669 Authorizing the County Manager to adjust and/ or change his Internal Position Control schedules.
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2014-678 Authorizing the County Manager to award a contract to the John J. Heldrich Center, New Brunswick, New Jersey, for Workforce Development at Rutgers University to work with the Union County Workforce Investment Board to conduct a qualitative evaluation of the Ut1ion County public workforce system, including the primary One-Stop Career Centers in Elizabeth and Plainfield, in the a1nount of $23,103. (Federal & State Grant Funded)
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2014-673 Authorizing the County Manager to award a professional engineering contract to CME Associates, Howell, New Jersey, to provide professional planning and design services for the preparation and development of the Watchung Reservation Trails Plan in an amount not to exceed $43,000. (Union County Engineering Project Number 2014-024)
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2014-642 Authorizing the County Manager, through the Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs, to execute any and all agreements for the 2014 HEART Grant in an amount not to exceed $75,000.
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2014-674 Authorizi11g the County Manager to award the proposed contract obtained through advertised public bidding in accordance with the Local Public Contracts Law. Department of Economic Development, Division of Engineering: Rich Picerno Builders. LLC of Kenilworth. New Jersey, for the purpose of providing Briant Park Improvements, in the amount of $308,294. (Union County Engineering Project Number 2013-021)
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UCCF 8/14/14: Sinking Money Into Rinks

By John Bury | August 18, 2014

2014-677: Authorizing the County Manager to award a Professional Architectural/Engineering Service Contract to Netta Architects, Mountainside, New Jersey, to provide architectural and engineering design services and construction administration and inspection services for the Warinanco Park Ice Rink – New Clubhouse Improvement Project, Roselle, New Jersey in an amount not to exceed $381,000. (Union County Engineering Project No. 2014-021).

In 2012 the talk was about building ice rinks at Oak Ridge costing $8.8 million.   Does upgrading the Warinanco rink mean that these plans are on ice?
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UCCF 8/14/14: Stipend Scandal Update

By John Bury | August 18, 2014

Questions asked; suggestions offered.

No answers provided, no suggestions accepted:
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UCCF 8/14/14: Baby Boomers Bolting Union County

By John Bury | August 16, 2014

Kean University held a panel looking for solutions to the problem of retirees leaving the state of New Jersey (and Union County especially) in droves but one freeholder sees that as good news:
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UCCF 8/14/14: Bond Ordinance – $6,742,000

By John Bury | August 15, 2014

758-2014: BOND ORDINANCE TO AUTHORIZE THE MAKING OF VARIOUS PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS IN, BY AND FOR THE COUNTY OF UNION TO APPROPRIATE THE SUM OF $6,742,000
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Take 1:
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Take 2:
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What Will Union County Self-Report to the SEC?

By John Bury | August 14, 2014

Is there anything Union County wants to straighten out with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding past bond disclosures?
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Freeholder Kowalski cited the ratings agencies support of the county debt:
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But ratings agencies are not the SEC which cannot be bought off with over $500,000 in fees since 2004 to buy ratings.

Freeholder Bergen calls anyone taking this response to the SEC program as anything other than good fiscal policy a liar:
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Yet look at excerpts from Local Finance Notice 2014-9 issued on July 23, 2014:

Recently, the SEC and the financial community have focused attention on what is alleged to be a widespread failure of local government issuers across the nation to meet their continuing disclosure obligations. They maintain that local government issuers of debt frequently fail to meet their continuing disclosure obligations and misrepresent (sometimes innocently or inadvertently and other times fraudulently) their past compliance when issuing new debt.

Earlier this year, the SEC adopted a program to encourage local government issuers to self-identify past noncompliance and improve timely continuing disclosure in the future. Their program, known as the “Municipalities Continuing Disclosure Cooperation Initiative” essentially establishes lesser enforcement actions provided local government issuers (and others) self-identify past noncompliance and agree to a plan designed to prevent future noncompliance.

You should also ensure that past official statements — or similar documents issued with respect to new issuances of debt — have accurately reported your past compliance with continuing disclosure requirements. While not required, the Chief Financial Officer is encouraged to seek the assistance of an experienced professional to assist or undertake such self-assessment.

At this stage a competent outside professional is the last thing Union County officials what to see looking over the junk they have been slinging to get suckers to buy their bonds.