With almost no fanfare and no city employees present, the City Council voted 6 to 1 to dissolve the Jersey City Incinerator Authority (JCIA), completing a campaign promise made by Mayor Steven Fulop when he ran for office in 2013.
The move came near the end of a sparsely-attended Oct. 14 council meeting.
The duties of the JCIA, which included trash and recycling collection, will be taken over by the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW) at some point after Jan. 1. City officials said civil service issues need to be resolved. This means that some employees of the JCIA must be relocated to similar jobs in the city.
Several JCIA employees were arrested earlier this year in an apparent corruption probe.
In July, Fulop announced plans to move forward with the consolidation and introduced an ordinance for a first reading. Following that, the administration then presented to the Local Finance Board its plans for the consolidation, which were approved in August. The final step could have been the second reading in August of the ordinance to consolidate. But instead of adoption the council tabled the ordinance and kept it on the agenda for future consideration.
Councilman Richard Boggiano, who voted against the ordinance, asked why the JCIA employees were not warned of the vote so that they could attend the meeting. Council President Rolando Lavarro said that the public hearing had already taken place in August.
Councilwoman Candice Osborne said, “This is another campaign promise fulfilled.”
“For years, Jersey City taxpayers have shouldered the cost of the JCIA, which has often operated without the integrity we expect from a public agency.” – Steven Fulop
Fulop said taxpayers will save
After the vote Fulop said the consolidation will increase accountability and efficiency while saving taxpayers as much as $1.5 million annually.
“For years, Jersey City taxpayers have shouldered the cost of the JCIA, which has often operated without the integrity we expect from a public agency,” said Fulop. “As of today, we are bringing more accountability and transparency to our public works – and saving millions of taxpayer dollars in the process.”
The Jersey City Incinerator Authority provides many services similar to the Department of Public Works, including snow removal, garbage removal, and street and vehicle maintenance. Personnel and equipment are already housed in one facility so the physical consolidation into DPW was expected to be a seamless process.
“With this action, we will eliminate duplication of services and waste. We’re also creating efficiencies, making it possible for increased support for police and fire, more parks and recreation,” said Lavarro.
Examples of redundant or duplicated functions that would be consolidated through the merger include automotive and fleet management repairs and maintenance, administration (including finance, purchasing, audit, insurance, legal services), operations support, building demolition, and roll-off container services.
Part of a larger plan
The merger was part of a larger consolidation plan Fulop introduced shortly after taking office in July 2013.
The city merged the Fire Department and the Police Department into a newly-created Office of Public Safety. The city’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security will also become part of the Office of Public Safety.
The city has also dissolved the Parking Authority and absorbed its duties into the Police Department, a move that also allowed the city to relocate some of its municipal offices from rental space in Journal Square to Parking Authority offices on Central Avenue.
The city also combined the Division of Architecture and the Division of Engineering, Traffic, and Transportation into a single office within the Department of Public Works. The city then created a Division of Sanitation within the DPW to do demolition, street sweeping, snow and ice removal, solid waste collection and recycling, and graffiti removal work.
Boggiano said merging city departments has so far yielded few benefits.
“We combined all these departments and haven’t seen much improvement,” Boggiano said. “Merging the DPW with the JCIA is a bad idea.”
The final action on the merger comes after four members of the JCIA were arrested last summer on what was called “a waste for cash scheme,” further tainting the reputation of the JCIA. The authority has sometimes been seen as a patronage mill where people allegedly received jobs for working for specific elected officials’ campaigns.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.