2nd ward councilman Marc Caswell raised some questions during the September 1st Mayor & Council meeting regarding resolution 177-11 which was titled ‘Authorizing Mutual Aid Agreement for Services Between the County of Union and the Borough of Roselle Park In Response To Hurricane Irene’ after pulling it off of consent in order to discuss it.
“I just don’t feel comfortable with what little information I have,” the councilman began, stating that he did not have a copy of the agreement referred to in the resolution. He added, “My concern here is that where we may not need much services, are our resources going to be taken from our town at their direction over our objection to go work in other towns at the expense of our residents?”
“I have a lot of questions as to how this is being structured,” Councilman Caswell continued, “Who’s running it, whose authority it is, and what say we have to protect our residents ahead of those of other towns.”
Mayor Joseph Accardi asked that the Borough Clerk read the entire contents of the agreement (video below). He apologized for everyone who did not have a copy of the agreement.
After a quick discussion it was agreed that the matter be put aside and the resolution tabled temporarily until after the governing body returned from closed session.
When the meeting opened again Councilman Caswell remarked, “I don’t feel that this agreement is necessary for the Borough of Roselle Park. While they’re [the County] providing services that I believe are redundant, that we have taken care of, I am somewhat concerned about the fact that it’s couched in the terms of Irene hurricane clean-up but yet the agreement goes on … where both parties decided to terminate at such future time. I don’t understand why it wouldn’t just terminate within, say 30 days, if it just was Irene Hurricane.”
“I believe that this is a back door way to get services that would increase our tax base and our tax liability to the county in the future,” the councilman continued, “I don’t believe that any government given broad, free, supposedly free, services will ever turn around and say we don’t want them anymore. Nothing in government is free. It always comes back around to being taxed to the people. I believe that that’s something that should rest with the local government who are then held responsible by the local people. I do not believe giving the county the power to tax our people gives our people adequate representation to contest those tax increases and I am against this resolution.”
Mayor Accardi commented on Councilman Caswell’s remark regarding the termination clause of the agreement and asked Doreen Cali to re-read the section regarding termination. The Borough Clerk confirmed by stating that either party could terminate the agreement at any time upon giving five (5) days written notice to the other party.
The mayor then made a formal request, “I would ask Madame Clerk that you set this matter for our next council meeting if we decide that we no longer need these services or for the first council meeting in October if we decide we no longer need these services for a vote if we wish to discontinue the service, at least then we’ll provide notice that we wish to discontinue service if it is approved tonight.”
Councilman Caswell concluded by asking the clerk to e-mail a copy of the agreement to all members of the governing body.
When the resolution came up for a vote Councilman Caswell voted ‘no’ while Councilmen Michael Yakubov and Modesto Miranda abstained. Councilman Yakubov stated to Councilman Caswell after his abstention, “You piqued my interest.”
The three (3) remaining council members all voted ‘yes’.
In reaching councilman Miranda, he stated regarding his abstention, “I just want to wait and see what happens.”
Councilman Yakubov, when reached for comment, stated, “Councilman Caswell brought up the point saying that if it is for Hurricane Irene it should have a finishing time for the service – 30 days out or 60 days out after the hurricane and if we need to re-instate it again for the future, we can then do it but not do it on a permanent basis.”
“His reservation, and I understand it,” Councilman Yakubov commented, “was not to oppose the shared service idea – and I don’t oppose it either – but I think it was the fact that he was feeling that the county was getting involved in so many things in Roselle Park that it was kind of taking away a little bit from our identity and that’s kind of what piqued my interest. I abstained because I wanted to show him that he made a valid point.”
The next mayor & council meeting is scheduled for September 15, 2011.