In a 4-1 vote, the Bloomfield Council voted at last evening’s conference meeting to proceed with a feasibility study to analyze the long and short-term costs of disbanding the Bloomfield Parking Authority. Council representatives Chalet and Dunigan were absent.
The study will be performed in-house, with the participation of the township and Parking Authority auditors.
The proposal, introduced by Councilman Michael Venezia, sparked a heated exchange between Venezia and Mayor McCarthy, who accused Venezia of wanting to disband the Parking Authority “because I wouldn’t put Pete Strumolo [Chairman of the Bloomfield Democratic Party] on the board.” Venezia retorted, “Is this the same Pete Strumolo you’re begging for a county job?” – an accusation McCarthy denied. “I haven’t spoken to Pete Strumolo for six months,” he said.
Venezia explained his proposal by pointing out that Bayonne had disbanded their parking authority and Montclair is in the process of doing the same with theirs. He stated the Bloomfield Parking Authority was created “to close a budget gap” and that these authorities are created as “cash cows.” Councilman Nick Joanow agreed with proceeding with the study, citing $21 million in debt incurred by the Parking Authority as a risk to the township. He also stated that the costs should have been absorbed by the developer. Joanow said the study would give the council the information it needs to help guide the decision.
Councilman Carlos Bernard concurred as well, citing numerous complaints about overzealous enforcement of parking meter fees by the authority, a reason Mayor McCarthy dismissed as “inane.”
At the recent public meeting on the Bloomfield Center Redevelopment, Parking Authority Attorney Joe Baumann said that the Parking Authority was needed to build the parking deck that is integral to the Bloomfield Center redevelopment, as the project was “too difficult” for a developer to execute due to the unusual shape of the property. He said at the time the parking deck will be a “public asset” that will benefit generations to come.
In other actions, the council voted 4-1 to appoint two temporary Fire Captains to replace two captains who have been out for long periods. Fire Chief McCarthy explained that the New Jersey Civil Service had contacted the township warning that they do not consider “Acting Captain,” which is the current title of those who replace absent personnel, to be a legitimate position and that the township needed to revise their status. Councilman Venezia voted no.
Councilman Joanow once again sought the repeal of the sewer ordinance that mandates homeowners are responsible for blockages between their curbs and the sewer main. Mayor McCarthy pointed out that the township’s insurance does not cover that portion of the sewer system and said that this item had previously been deferred in order to await further financial information.
The council voted 4-1 to move forward with the repeal on first reading at the next council meeting, with the stipulation that at that time the financial information would be provided. DPW Director Anthony Nesto spoke, suggesting that the ordinance could be revised so that situations could be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Councilman Bernard proposed that the council work to rezone the area around Winsor Place, a street in the 3rd Ward that consists exclusively of single-family homes, although it is zoned R-2B, which allows two-family homes. Neighbors in the area spoke during the public comment period asking the council to rezone the area to prevent the building of two-family homes or the conversion of existing single family homes into multi-unit dwellings.
Community Development Director Glenn Domenick said he would work with Township Attorney Brian Aloia to analyze the tax maps and look at the total zone to understand the current makeup of the area, and would then work to draft a new zoning ordinance as appropriate.
Bernard also spoke about the problems of commercial vehicles parking on streets overnight in his ward, including taxicabs and other vehicles not regulated by the current ordinance, which differentiates the regulated vehicles by weight rather than function. Chief Goul said the ordinance could be revised to include all vehicles with both commercial and livery license plates and the council agreed that the ordinance should be examined and revised.
Also at last night’s meeting, a hearing was held for the owner of Heart Breakers go-go bar, where numerous incidents involving the police have prompted concern. An attorney for the owner, Jamdan Associates, asked that Bloomfield provide police security on Thursday evenings (as is done on Fridays and Saturdays). He said the bar owner would agree to stop serving liquor at 1 a.m. and plans to install infrared cameras outside the building. The council passed a resolution to provide the police coverage under those conditions.
The next council meeting will be on Tuesday, September 4, 2012, in the council chambers at 7 p.m.