Tag Archives: New Jersey

State is walking away from potential development at Liberty State Park, DEP commissioner says

Source: Patrick Villanova, NJ.com, May 12, 2016

The head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said today that he is no longer looking into ways to bring development to the park, adding that state officials never had concrete plans for the park privatization in the first place. … Martin’s comments come six months after the DEP released an 18-page report outlining potential development projects — which included a hotel, amusement park and amphitheater — to be built on 38 of Liberty State Park’s 1,200 acres. … His decision to walk away from potential development at the waterfront park comes on the heels of an aggressive and creative campaign by advocates and elected officials to put the kibosh on any potential plans for development. Those efforts included a “picnic protest” at the park last spring, as well as a photo from a February protest that Pesin’s group sent to Gov. Chris Christie. …

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Opinion: New Jersey Future report shows DEP trying to sell LSP to highest bidder
Source: Jeff Tittel, Jersey Journal, December 6, 2015

On Friday night after the Thanksgiving holiday, the NJDEP sneaked out the anticipated report conducted by New Jersey Future to privatize Liberty State Park. The Christie Administration hired New Jersey Future to consult the report and the plan was deliberately kept secret up until a lawsuit forced DEP to release the documents. … This report shows the DEP is trying to sell Liberty State Park to the highest bidder. The report calls for developments within the park that would be broken down into zones. Near the terminal building it calls for an event and conference center, hotel, catering hall, and shopping center. … With this report, it is clear that the Christie Administration would rather limit the public access and turn it over to private vendors that will over charge the public rather than actually run the park like it should run for the people of New Jersey.  Governor Christie is following in lock step their plan to privatize state parklands.

N.J. moving ahead with plans to create wetlands at Liberty State Park
Source: Scott Fallon, NorthJersey.com, October 23, 2015

Proposals for the project were due from contractors Friday to excavate contamination and eventually build an area capable of sustaining a freshwater ecosystem near Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. Although a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman was unable to estimate the project’s cost, a park advocate said it was roughly $6 million. … Park advocates said those moves signal that the administration wants to bring in large development to the park, which they oppose. What kind of development the state is considering remains a mystery: the DEP has refused to make its contractor’s report on Liberty State public and did not participate in a Senate hearing this week on the issue.

Seeking a greater public role in LSP’s future
Source: Edward Colimore, philly.com, August 5, 2015

Liberty State Park advocates have called on Gov. Christie and the commissioner of environmental protection to hold at least two hearings at the park on any proposed development there, instead of one, as required by legislation signed into law in July. … Gov. Christie signed legislation in July that provided new protections against development at Liberty State Park but did not meet the expectations of park advocates, who still say the site is “very vulnerable.” The law requires at least one hearing at the park for any proposed project there, and gives the DEP commissioner the right of final approval. An earlier version – which opponents feared would open the door to the park’s privatization and commercialization – was signed by the governor in February, then revised to offer protections to the site, a popular gateway to the Statue of Liberty.

Christie signs Liberty State Park bill; park enthusiasts, environmentalists concerned
Source: Dustin Racioppi and Scott Fallon, NorthJersey.com, July 6, 2015

Governor Christie signed into law Monday night a bill intended to quell concerns over the future of Liberty State Park – but his signature did anything but that. Instead, environmentalists and park enthusiasts say, the so-called cleanup bill would plot a course toward private development of the state’s most-visited park, despite its many changes the last several weeks. The sprawling park along the Hudson River has been eyed over four decades for private development but each proposal has been fended off by advocates. … The law would allow the NJ Sports & Exposition Authority to review and possibly finance private development at Liberty State Park — a goal of the Christie administration, which has long seen the park, its 5 million annual visitors and its spectacular views of Manhattan as an untapped revenue source. The bill would give the final decision to the Department of Environmental Protection commissioner, who oversees state parks. … The bill’s recent changes were a sharp departure from only a few months ago when Senate President Stephen Sweeney introduced a bill intended to keep the authority out of all park matters. But in late June, the Senate changed the bill again keeping the authority involved. … Sweeney’s reversal still angered advocates who fear the administration intends to bring in large private development to Liberty and have the sports authority issue bonds to support it. Last year the administration paid contractors $120,000 to produce a report on the park’s development possibilities, which it has refused to make public.
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Hundreds attend N.J. school district meeting to fight outsourcing

Source: Brittany M. Wehner, NJ.com, April 29, 2016

A South Jersey school district has decided to seek bids for services that could replace staff, school board officials said Thursday night. Due to a deficit in the budget, Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District administration is being forced to find a way to fill the gaps. One possibility is job cuts, then outsourcing, or bringing outside services into the district. Woodstown-Pilesgrove faced a $1.4 million deficit in the budget in May 2015, which also brought layoffs. However, the budget is still at a deficit of $333,223, according to District Business Administrator Frank Rizzo. Since 2010, the district has already cut more than 30 staff positions. The district now faces possible cuts in class-three maintenance, custodial, cafeteria, and paraprofessional staff. … When it came down to the vote granting administration permission to research costs for outsourcing, the board was split. It passed with a 4 to 3 vote with one abstention. … However, hundreds of parents, teachers, and staff turned out for the board meeting and made their voices and concerns heard, claiming outsourcing is not the way to go.

A.C. captain, councilman cite in-house towing’s benefits

Source: Michelle Brunetti Post, Press of Atlantic City, April 27, 2016

Pressure has been mounting on Atlantic City to find ways to cut its budget, including through privatization of city services. And the towing operation has been on the state’s radar for privatization for at least 20 years. … But police Capt. Chris Kammerman said he is in favor of keeping the towing operation in-house. Kammerman compiled a report on the tow operation’s expenses and revenues at the request of Council President Marty Small, to be shared with The Press of Atlantic City. Average tow truck response time now is less than 10 minutes, he said. That saves valuable patrol time, especially for police out on the road in the middle of the night waiting for a tow truck after an accident or crime, Kammerman said. …

Atlantic County Special Services School aides protest plan to privatize

Source: Diane D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City, April 26, 2016

Parents and staff packed the Atlantic County Special Services School Board meeting Monday to protest plans to privatize the services of personal aides assigned to students. … More than 40 aides were notified at the meeting that personal aid positions will be eliminated effective June. 30. School superintendent Philip Guenther said they will continue to work with the union to see if they can work out a solution, but by law they had to notify affected staff of possible layoffs by May 15. … The average budgeted cost to educate a student this year at the school is almost $53,000 according to the state Taxpayer Guide to Education Spending, though the actual tuition cost varies based on individual student needs. Transportation can add another $18,000 or so to the cost. Kathleen Huenke, chairwoman of the school Education Association’s negotiating committee said after the meeting that she is confident they can reach an alternative to privatization, but it will likely take concessions from members. She said three years ago the aides agreed to cut their hours by 15 minutes per day, and there have been no raises in three years. She said the average aide makes about $22,000 a year, but also gets benefits, which can raise the total cost to the $48,000 mentioned by Guenther. She said aides would not be willing to stay if they had to totally give up their benefits.

Spotswood EMS outsourcing plan comes under fire

Source: Susan Loyer, My Central Jersey, January 27, 2016

The fate of the borough’s EMS remains in limbo after a second reading and possible vote on a proposed ordinance that would abolish the borough’s EMS and outsource it to a private paid service was tabled until Feb. 17. … According to the proposed ordinance, the borough conducted a feasibility study with regard to the viability of retaining the EMS Ambulance Division as an in-house function and determined that for reasons of economy and health, safety and welfare of residents, the borough should contract with an outside vendor for EMS services. The proposed change also would impact Helmetta residents, who use the service and is now contracting with Spotswood to use the service on a month-to-month basis, officials said. … Last year, the borough put out a request for proposals (RFPs). Two bidders, Robert Wood Johnson and MONOC, responded. Robert Wood would provide services for $301,000 a year, with no increases for five years, Stollen said, and MONOC came in with a bid of $250,200 for the first year that would increase to $261,000 in year five.

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Spotswood votes to outsource medical services
Source: Michael Nunes, Sentinel, October 1, 2015

Spotswood is keeping its options open when it comes to an EMS provider. During the Sept. 21 meeting, Borough Council members voted in favor of going out to bid for emergency medical services. … According to Stollen, it has become necessary to look for an outside service to replace the Spotswood Emergency Medical Services squad due to changes brought by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). … Another major contributing factor is that the borough would have to provide benefits for EMS employees who log over 30 hours a week. … For 2015, the municipal budget allots $424,007 for EMS, with salaries totaling $348,000. Stollen said the squad has around 20 members, none of whom are full-time, and two ambulances. Spotswood EMS Director Miriam Barbarise said she could not comment. The process of outsourcing EMS services began at the June 3 meeting when council members voted unanimously to look at other options.

Barnegat considers outsourcing police dispatch

Source: Amanda Oglesby, Asbury Park Press, January 13, 2016

The jobs of seven police dispatchers will end if the Township Committee agrees to outsource dispatch duties to the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department. The committee, in an effort to control costs, is considering an agreement that Mayor John Novak said would save the township as much as $400,000 to $500,000 per year. … Barnegat Police Chief Arthur P. Drexler said there was not enough money in the police department’s budget to fully staff the dispatch unit. Township officials said some employees in the unit have incurred six-figure salaries because of overtime. … “Our highest dispatcher’s salary is $51,164, having 16 years of experience; our lowest is $41,368, having 9 years of experience.  Starting salary is $31,040,” he wrote in an email to the Asbury Park press. The union has urged township officials to hire additional dispatchers to cut overtime expenses. … If Barnegat were to agree to outsource dispatch to the Sheriff’s Department, it would become the largest municipality in terms of year round population to have its police calls handled by Ocean County dispatchers. Sheriff Michael Mastronardy said most of the 11 towns his staff services – towns like Plumsted, Island Heights, Bay Head and Pine Beach – have smaller populations and police departments. Only Seaside Park and Seaside Heights have more officers and greater populations, and only during the summer months when the boroughs swells with tourists and vacationers.

North Jersey towns reassess tax-exempt status for hospitals after key ruling

Source: Lindy Washburn, NorthJersey.com, November 23, 2015

Around North Jersey, more than $700 million worth of property goes untaxed because it is owned by non-profit hospitals. That includes hospital campuses on nearly 90 acres in Ridgewood, Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood, Paterson and Wayne. And it also includes hospital-related properties, such as portions of medical office buildings in Wayne and Paramus, parking garages in Hackensack and an assortment of lots in Paterson. That property, and the potential revenue it could produce if it were assessed property taxes, is getting a close look by leaders of the state and local governments after a precedent-setting Tax Court decision and recent settlement in a case between Morristown and the non-profit Morristown Medical Center. … Morristown Medical, he said, was not entitled to its property tax exemption. It was up to the Legislature to update the 1913 tax law to spell out the conditions that a modern hospital must meet to maintain its exemption, his opinion said. The Legislature appears poised to take up the challenge, possibly before the end of the year. Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Sen. Joseph Vitale, chairman of the Health Committee, are among those who say they are working on legislation to address the issue.

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Not-for-profit hospital will pay up in tax dispute as exemptions draw widespread heat
Source: Lisa Schencker, Modern Healthcare, November 11, 2015

In a closely watched case, a New Jersey hospital has agreed to pay $26 million to the town where it’s located to end a dispute over the hospital’s property tax exemption. The settlement between Atlantic Health System, which owns Morristown Medical Center, and the municipality of Morristown comes after a New Jersey tax judge ruled in June that the hospital should not be exempt, concluding that if all hospitals operate the same way, “then for purposes of the property-tax exemption, modern nonprofit hospitals are essentially legal fictions.” … Under the agreement approved by the town’s council on Tuesday, Morristown Medical Center will pay the town $15.5 million, including $5.5 million in penalties and interest over the next 10 years. Also, starting next year, the medical center will start paying about $1 million in annual taxes on 24% of its property, for the next 10 years.

Trenton schools postpones vote on outsourcing home instruction after union bashes proposal

Source: David Foster, The Trentonian, November 16, 2015

The thought of outsourcing another function of Trenton public schools has union leaders again up in arms. At Monday’s school board meeting, the body was set to vote on awarding a $500,000 home instruction services contract to Inspire Educational Group, Inc. But the board ultimately decided against taking up the measure after hearing concerns from the teachers union, Trenton Education Association (TEA). … Home instruction is currently provided to students by the district’s teachers, Johnson-Lafleur said. Generally, 30 to 40 teachers will earn extra pay as compensation for the home instruction, the union president said. … Privatizing and outsourcing is always a strongly contested issue in Trenton. Faced with massive layoffs due to a $17-million budget shortfall, the district decided to outsource one-on-one paraprofessionals for the current school year. At the time, Mayor Eric Jackson opposed the move.

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Trenton schools to eliminate 226 positions, privatize one-on-ones
Source: David Foster, The Trentonian, March 19, 2015

Like picking between a bad and worse situation, the capital city’s school district has decided how to close a $17.3-million budget gap. At the district’s offices on Thursday, Superintendent Francisco Duran outlined that 226 positions will be eliminated, one-on-one paraprofessionals will be privatized and Monument Elementary School will be closed…. Though positions are being eliminated, Duran said the district would not know the final layoff numbers until May 6 due to attrition through retirements and resignations. At that date, a reappointment list will be produced, the superintendent said. Custodians cut by nearly 1/3 Bearing the brunt of the position eliminations are the custodians. Out of the current 114 positions, 33 will be eliminated. The district had considered privatizing all of the schools’ cleaners, but the custodial union presented a plan, Duran said…. One-on-one paraprofessionals privatized Two years ago, one-on-one paraprofessionals were privatized. This year, the staff members assigned to work with students suffering from behavioral and health issues, were hired back by the district…. “We have a shortfall because of charter schools,” Howard said, noting the district’s payment to charter schools increased $16 million from 2013-14 to 2015-16. “We can control what we can control, and we do a very good job, but now we have to figure out how we can keep more students in district. That’s our No. 1 goal.”…

Tax contractor got inside information: emails

Source: Susanne Cervenka, Asbury Park Press, November 22, 2015

The government emails sought by a grand jury investigating Monmouth County’s new tax program show that confidential internal communications were shared with a private vendor before it won a major contract, an Asbury Park Press investigation found. Months before Realty Appraisal Co. won a $560,000 revaluation contract with Ocean Township, a key member in the private company received emails from Monmouth County Tax Administrator Matthew S. Clark about the township’s preparations for the work, according to the government emails obtained by the Press. … The 284 pages of emails reveal a relationship between Clark and Rubenstein, whose company in recent years has won nearly nine out of 10 municipal contracts to appraise properties in Monmouth County even before the new Assessment Demonstration Program, or ADP, began.

Passaic ends city ambulance service, opts for privatization

Source: Richard Cohen, NorthJersey.com, October 1, 2015

The city on Thursday quietly disbanded its ambulance squad, laying off 30 workers and handing over emergency medical services to MONOC, an Ocean County-based non-profit. The changeover from municipal ambulance squad to a private, out-of-town carrier happened without fanfare. None of the city’s elected officials, or the public safety director, Richard Diaz, was on hand when a crew from the Fire Department arrived at the EMS building on Grove Street shortly before midnight on Wednesday and took possession of the squad’s two ambulances. In their place stand rigs run by MONOC. … The privatizing of ambulance services has cost 30 EMS workers their jobs, but the change was done with no public discussion prior to the council vote and there has been little since. Details of the agreement remain sketchy; although MONOC took over on Thursday, the city has yet to put the agreement in writing. … It appears that the switch to a private ambulance squad will cost residents more. Scott A Matin, the vice president for MONOC, said the company plans to charge $775 per call. Picciano said the city charged $650.