Fallen worker, crane accident lead to new rules Council also tables ordinance for judges’ salary raises

The City Council, at its Wednesday meeting, approved 8-0 an ordinance to implement a citywide safety manual that lays down construction regulations for builders to insure workers’ safety.

The manual was drafted in the aftermath of several accidents that have taken place on construction sites in Jersey City this year, including the fatal death in March of a 31-year-old worker who died after falling 14 stories from 77 Hudson St.

The council also tabled, or postponed voting on, an ordinance to increase the salaries of municipal court judges, saying that approval has to come from the state’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA) before they can vote.

Wednesday’s council meeting took place at the Mary McLeod Bethune Center on Martin Luther King Drive. Council meetings usually take place in City Hall, but have been held in various locations across the city since late last year, when the City Council Chambers was closed for renovations.

However, City Clerk Robert Byrne announced during the council meeting that the chambers should be open sometime in November.

The next council meeting will take place on Aug. 20 at 10 a.m. at Public School 7, 222 Laidlaw Ave.New rules for construction

The manual is a first in the city’s history, and it will not only set rules for construction companies to follow, but also will give Construction Code Official Ray Meyer the power necessary to enforce the rules. If necessary, he can shut down a work site. Meyer drafted the manual.

The manual mandates the following:
* Any structure four stories or higher must have a standpipe that allows water to be pumped to upper floors.
* When a building reaches 150 feet, a temporary fire pump must be installed.
* Rules for preventing materials from becoming airborne in the event of high winds.

With the tower crane accidents in the past year in Manhattan in mind, the manual also spells out guidelines for the use of tower cranes:
* A tower crane can be used on a construction site only after Meyer is shown a plan on placement.
* There are operating procedures under windy conditions.
* And the builders must have a report showing the soil underneath is stable enough to support the weight of a crane.

Added into the manual last week was a provision suggested by Ward F City Councilwoman Viola Richardson to insure that “all combustible liquids and gases” stored on sites follow all safety guidelines.

When longtime resident Yvonne Balcer asked about the hiring and training for construction code officials to enforce the guidelines in the new manual, City Council President Mariano Vega said the city has committed toward money toward hiring officials, and Richardson said construction code officials are receiving training to be certified by the state.

Ward A City Councilman Michael Sottolano said before voting for approval for the ordinance that “he would not be surprised to see amendments” in the future. He commented that the manual was “an excellent start.” Judges’ salaries on hold

There are 10 judges of the Jersey City Municipal Court who would be affected by salary increases considered by the council last week.

The ordinance would raise the base salary of full-time judges from $90,000 to $100,000, part-time judges from $40,000 to $45,000, and the Chief Judge of the Municipal Court from $105,000 to $110,000.

Currently, the court has six full-time judges and four part-time judges. Full-time judges work a minimum of 40 hours a week while part-time judges work a minimum of 20 hours per week.

But the ordinance was postponed for a future council meeting because the city has to wait on approval from the state’s Division of Community Affairs (DCA).

When Jersey City received $8 million in “special municipal aid” from the state in May, among the conditions put down for receiving such aid is the city imposing a hiring and salary freeze of city workers.

City officials will have to show the state justification for raising the salaries of the judges, considered employees of the city. Comments on this story can be sent to rkaulessar@hudsonreporter.com.


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