The Bloomfield Council voted 5-1 against implementing a forensic audit of the Bloomfield Law Department at last night’s conference meeting.
Mayor Ray McCarthy, who has been questioning attorneys’ fees at recent meetings, introduced a motion to perform the audit Monday evening. During discussion, he explained the audit would apply to all attorneys in the township, including the Board of Health attorney, Ronald Ricci. He said the cost of the audit would be up to $21,500.
The Mayor that said a previous audit of the Fire Department had uncovered $250,000 in unnecessary expenditures. Councilman Carlos Bernard asked if the township had recouped any of that money as a result. McCarthy replied that although the town did not receive any direct remuneration, changes were made in the department policies that reduced future costs. He also said that the forensic audit would uncover discrepancies and payments that an ordinary annual audit would not necessarily disclose.
A forensic audit is a specific type of audit that is often initiated to uncover fraud and embezzlement, and accountants that perform this type of audit are specialists who frequently provide expert testimony during trial proceedings.
The council voted 5 to 1 against proceeding with the forensic audit, with McCarthy casting the only “yes” vote. Councilman Bernard Hamilton was absent.
The council voted 4-2 in favor of an ordinance to deed the ownership of a portion of Lion Gate Drive to the township. The maintenance of the road, which will serve the controversial townhouse development planned for the adjacent property by Somerset Development, LLC, will become the responsibility of the town. Councilmen Venezia and Joanow voted against the measure, which was being adopted on second reading.
The first time the item had come up for a vote earlier in the year, Councilwoman Dunigan had voted against it. She later realized she had misunderstood the proposed change and asked that it be placed on the agenda again. The ordinance had passed on first reading in August. It will be memorialized at the next regular council meeting.
The council voted to award a contract of $559,661 to Let It Grow, Inc., of River Edge, NJ, to construct the Butterfly Park planned for property owned by the township on Lion Gate Drive. Funding will come from the township’s Open Space Trust fund. Costs will be mitigated by utilizing the services of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Corporation and township volunteers in planting trees on the property.
Township Engineer Paul Lasek said that the information in a 2011 independent report on the condition of the Children’s Library indicating a potential for a roof collapse pertained to a side porch roof, not the main roof, and that that side entrance is currently fenced off and not open to the public. Another deteriorated porch roof is also not a danger to the public, he said, as it is not for public access. Lasek also said that the main roof has now been patched, and that the porch roofs will be taken care of when the main roof is replaced. He also pointed out that the township is committed to maintaining the building, citing the recent replacement of the boiler in the Children’s Library, which cost $362,000.
Township Administrator Ted Ehrenburg said that an RFP for roof replacements for a number of municipal buildings, including the library buildings, had gone out last year and the contract had been awarded to Remington, Vernick and Arango Engineers. Roof replacements have already been completed for the Central Communications and Central Booking buildings and for the EMS conference room. The library buildings will be the next priority.
Costs for the first three roof replacements were under the expected amount, so the council approved a change order that will release $21,276 that had originally been earmarked for that project.
Flooding on Thomas Street and Cleveland Terrace
Paul Lasek said that examination of the storm drains in the areas that had major flooding in the storm late last month showed that the storm drains are generally clear. However, he said some of the basins do need rehabilitation and they can be given a good cleaning at the same time as other work is performed. Lasek said there are grants available to clear and de-snag the streams, which may mitigate flooding. However, he said that it is hard to prevent flooding in the event of a “freak storm” such as the one the township recently experienced.
The council approved a Memorandum of Agreement with the NJDEP to allow for the review and approval of permits for water allocations for pending developments, including the Avalon Bay development at Glenwood Village, due to start construction later in the fall. The township will need to award a contract for installation of pressure reading valves at the existing Newark interconnections in order for the Avalon Bay project to move forward.
The owners of Gloria’s Bar on Broad Street came in for a brief discussion with the council regarding recent ABC violations.
The transfer of the liquor license for Heartbreakers Bar was tabled pending further discussion at the request of Councilman Michael Venezia. The bar, which was recently sold back to the previous owner at auction, has been a source of problems in the past.
During public comment, Danielle Loffredo spoke about the animal shelter, questioning why volunteers have still not been let back into the shelter. Township Administrator Ehrenburg said that some of the dogs at the shelter could cause a potential liability, and said one of the dogs had bitten two people. Loffredo said that kennel stress can cause dogs to react in that way, and that the longer they go without sufficient human interaction, the more severe the problem will become. Mayor McCarthy suggested that Loffredo meet with Ehrenburg privately to discuss options for the animal shelter.
The next meeting will be a regular meeting to be held on Monday, October 7, 2013, in the council chambers at 7 p.m. There will be no council meeting next Monday as it is the fifth Monday of the month.