UCCF 9/11/14: Bonding for Scotch Plains House

By John Bury | September 16, 2014

Among the purchases in a $38,793,236 Bond Ordinance 759-2014 was:

scotch plains house

Some obvious questions in regard to the purchase of this residential property:
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Talk About Closing the Union County Jail

By John Bury | September 14, 2014

Gloucester County closed their Jail as of July 1, 2013 and they say it’s a success:

Gloucester County corrections officers were fighting for their jobs in June 2013.

The county was emptying prisoners from its jail in Woodbury, and the state’s public defenders were urging a Superior Court judge to stop officials from closing the county correctional facility.

One year later, corrections department protests are silenced, lawsuits are winding down to settlements, and the reconfiguration is becoming a statewide model of “a new era of corrections,” according to Gloucester County administrator Chad Bruner.

“It’s amazing it’s a year later,” Bruner said Friday, days from the official one-year mark on July 1.

In his 22 years with the county he’d been a part of other shared-services initiatives, including county-wide dispatch, EMS and tax assessing.

Signing shared-service agreements with Salem, Cumberland, Burlington and Essex counties, and getting everyone on board — including the prosecutor’s office, court administration, the assignment judge, public defenders, municipal police, and the county sheriff — “was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said.

The county’s female and juvenile inmates had been housed in Camden and Salem counties since 2009. Moving the male population — an average of 350 men — to other facilities was the final stage in “closing the paradigm of corrections.”Starting in July, all arrestees were transported by corrections and sheriff’s officers to the Salem County Correctional Facility for processing, then held at the Salem jail or transported to other facilities. Gloucester County’s officers transport prisoners from the facilities to the Justice Complex in Woodbury for court appearances, then back again as needed.

When freeholders announced the move in March last year, the plan was touted to save $10 million a year starting in 2016. It’s on track for more than $11 million in savings, Bruner reported this week.

All four counties renewed contracts with Gloucester. All but Essex dropped the per-day rates.

Salem officials signed a 10-year contract with two 10-year options. The 30-year contract, effective May 1, includes a rate decrease from $100 to $83 a day. Last year, the jail housed an average of 213 prisoners a day.

Cumberland and Burlington signed one-year contracts. Cumberland will receive $100 for the first 100 prisoners and $83 for each additional man housed.

Burlington’s rate dropped from $100 to $83, but the jail will receive a minimum of 30 Gloucester prisoners and a maximum of 75.

Essex will remain at $108 per inmate, the federal per-day rate it receives for housing federal prisoners.

Prisoners needing drug treatment are sent to the Albert M. “Bo” Robinson Assessment and Treatment Center, a secure facility in Trenton, for $75 a day, Bruner added.

With lower renegotiated rates, Bruner said the county is on track to save $8 million in 2015 and $10 million to $12 million over the next 25 years.

If it hadn’t been reconfigured, and a 164-person staff slashed to 59 uniformed and civilian workers, the county corrections department would have cost the county $29 million, Bruner said.

The restructuring provides the county “everlasting savings,” he claimed.

Bruner has presented Gloucester County’s corrections model to the state’s League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Association of Counties.

“I tell them, ‘For it to truly work, you have to get counties looking to get out of this (jail) business, and counties looking to get into the business,” he said.

Is Union County looking to get out of the jail business too?  It’s just a rumor now (as per usual in this county) but if it happens here are the numbers:

Continue reading “Talk About Closing the Union County Jail”

UCCF 9/11/14: Paterson on Cryan

By John Bury | September 13, 2014

Joe Cryan is slated to be the new Union County Sheriff despite the views of Paul Mulshine and….

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UCCF 9/11/14: Union County Jail Closing?

By John Bury | September 11, 2014

This freeholder meeting changed the future meeting schedule (because of a Jewish holiday conflict there will be a double meeting on 9/18 replacing the meeting previously set for 9/25) plus there was Bruce Paterson on Joe Cryan as UC Sheriff and pay-to-play, tens of millions in bonding including buying $100,000 of video equipment and $432,000 for a residential property in Scotch Plains plus two freeholders announcing at this catered meeting that they were accepting the $4.25/day food stamp challenge ……but first:

Continue reading “UCCF 9/11/14: Union County Jail Closing?”

No Party For Republicans In Union County

By John Bury | September 10, 2014

Campaign Fiance reports for county parties were recently released by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC) and the contrast between the money going to Democrats and Republicans in Union County is striking.

Continue reading “No Party For Republicans In Union County”

WatchdogJournalism

By John Bury | September 4, 2014

The Star-ledger had a front-page story today announcing changes they will make next week which they claim will “feature more local content” explaining:

watchdog journalism
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If anything has distinguished The Star-Ledger over the years it has been ‘lapdogjournalism’.   One would be hard pressed to find ANY coverage of Union County government in the Star-Ledger that did not originate in county press releases or official statements.  For example, let’s compare coverage on a few important stories and see where we find watchdogjournalism:

Continue reading “WatchdogJournalism”

Another DeCotiis Project Sinks

By John Bury | September 2, 2014

Public Notice in the LocalSource:

ferry notice

There is a story behind that notice and it cost you at least $609,286.32.

We only have access to Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) billing records since 2004 but since then through the early part of 2011 ‘Elizabeth Ferry’ has been a perennial line item with $609,286.32 being paid out to various vendors over the years including $356,810.71 to DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole, LLP and $198,788.20 to PMK Group (later to be Birdsall).  According to the Union County check registry a payment of $300,000 was made to the UCIA for ”COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH FERRY’ presumably to underwrite some of this spending.

You might notice that there is no ferry service now from Elizabeth to New York City though it was proposed in 2008 according to an nj.com story:

A developer plans to transform a dormant and reedy landfill along the Elizabeth waterfront into a glittering residential development with 14 glass high rises and direct ferry service to Manhattan.

Tern Landing Development plans to spend as much as $2 billion over the next 12 years to building the project on 30 acres on the capped landfill behind Jersey Gardens Mall in the heart of New Jersey’s industrial corridor.

“I don’t know why people have discounted Newark Bay,” said Dil Hoda, managing member of Tern Landing. “This is waterfront property in metropolitan New York.”

The project calls for a nearly mile-long wooden promenade hugging the bay’s shore, with a marina for recreational boats. Then there’s the hotel and charter school surrounded by restaurants and shop. Hoda sees thousands of new residents on this isolated spit of land where not so much as a shack stands today.

Sounds almost as good (good as in lucrative for DeCotiis and PMK/Birdsall) as putting solar panels around the county.  But two years later northjersey.com had a different take on the project:

Tern Landing is a development project in Elizabeth that, as Pillets noted, could be EnCap’s little brother.

The parent company is Cherokee Investment Partners of Raleigh, N.C., the same Cherokee behind EnCap. Tern Landing Development LLC of Hoboken bought the Tern site from Cherokee in 2006, but with a hefty loan from a Cherokee affiliate. A Cherokee executive and an EnCap manager signed the mortgage papers.

Tern Landing, like EnCap, is slated to be built on trash dumps. The plans call for luxury apartments and hotels, fishing piers, dog parks, Zen gardens and a new ferry service to Manhattan. It also had the backing of state power players and politicians.

Over the years, the Union County Improvement Authority wrote and rewrote its deal with the company so Tern Landing could fly. Most recently it agreed to ante up $25 million and allow Tern Landing to pay it back through proceeds from the parking lot at the ferry terminal.

The Federal Transit Administration has withdrawn the nearly $10 million grant for the ferry. Tern Landing is in default of its mortgage from Cherokee. And the company’s principal owner declared bankruptcy last year on another development deal in Hoboken. Tern Landing looks no closer to being built than EnCap.

So the EnCap law should come galloping in right about now to take control of this mess. As it originally stood, it would have. Since the project would take $25 million in state funds, a state auditor would have gone over the books regularly and Tern Landing would have had to kick in a chunk of its own money in performance bonds before the state loaned any cash.

But thanks to the loopholes, Tern Landing gets to wriggle past the law. The project is below the $50 million trigger and is located in an Urban Enterprise Zone, making it off limits.

This works out well for state Sen. Raymond Lesniak. He’s the Union County Democrat who, according to lawmakers, worked hard to file down the teeth of the EnCap law. His law firm also represents Tern Landing.

We had hoped the EnCap catastrophe would pave the way for real reform. Now even hope is a luxury.

When Politicians Build It

By John Bury | August 29, 2014

According to one news source this month:

After 23 health violations were found at the [Linden] animal shelter and countless complaints lodged by the public, officials decided to shut down the facility by the end of the year and build a new one in 2015.

Another source reported:

Recommendations by [Linden's] ad hoc Animal Control Committee were presented at a caucus meeting Monday and were scheduled to be presented at Tuesday night’s council meeting. The recommendations include plans to build a new facility that would be financed mostly by donations and private funding, as available, rather than with taxpayer dollars.

What struck me was the ‘financed mostly by donations’ part.  You see the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) during the years 2006 through 2010 spent over $215,000 under the heading “Union County Animal Shelter” according to the available UCIA Bills Lists (which did not go before 2009 on the UCIA website so it could have been more).  This money went to DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole ($54,022) and Harbor Consultants ($161,720) apparently to study whether an Animal Shelter should be built.  UCIA meeting minutes show no discussion on the topic (which is not unusual since UCIA meeting minutes show no discussion on any topic, only resolutions and votes) so we can only speculate that after all this study they abandoned the project.

Now fast forward to mid-December outside the Linden Shop-Rite and three pre-teens with donation cans and pictures of abandoned dogs and cats behind them asking shoppers for money to build a facility to shelter these poor animals and keep them from being destroyed.  How much would people  drop into those cans if they realized that the first $215,000 of whatever they put in would be going to connected political operatives?  How much would you?  And yet that’s exactly what you did and are continuing to do every time some politician convinces you (or more accurately goes ahead without your permission or knowledge) that there is something (a banquet center, a courthouse, solar panels) that you need built and they have a plan for how to get it built.

 

Rahway Downtown Revitalized?

By John Bury | August 27, 2014

Add $9 million of county money to what Rahway has sunk into the Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC) and environs since 2004 and you may have a couple more slices of pizza sold some weeks to show for it.

Now it is reported that Carteret wants to join Rahway on the ‘Arts District’ bandwagon to bankruptcy and they have former Rahway mayor and current UCUA rubber-stamper Jim Kennedy to advise them.
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Union County spent $6.1 million to buy the UCPAC and, according to the check registries, sunk  over $3 million more into it since 2004 (and I may have missed some stuff that was hidden in those registries) for things like renovating the stage and fixing an organ.  All while taxes are skyrocketing, debt is at record levels, and pensions are about to be defaulted on.  ‘No brainer’ just about sums it up.

Freeholders Act – For Illegal Immigrants

By John Bury | August 24, 2014

For 99.99% of Union County residents were they to express their primary desire to the Union County freeholders it would be for lower taxes.  However, within the pay-to-play system the county maintains that is an impossibility.  Anything else they can do for you?  As it turns out one group did have a request that the freeholders honored.

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