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Local Finance Board Approves Port Authority Becoming a Utility

PERTH AMBOY — Former Mayoral Candidate Sharon Hubberman questioned the legality of the Port Authority becoming a utility. At the 2/13/13 Council Meeting she read an ordinance 97-01 stating that if an Authority has an outstanding debt, it cannot be changed into a utility.

Hubberman stated that the Port Authority has an outstanding debt of $900,000. Business Administrator Greg Fehrenbach said this is not true. Perth Amboy Chief Financial Officer Jill Goldy came forward to explain this debt.

“The Port Authority has no outstanding debt. It has been issued by the City and we have been paying this debt off,” Goldy said. “The debt has been used to pay off additional improvements to the marina that the City owns. Green Trust Funds were issued in 2001 which was $579,000 in principal. In 2006 the remainder was $265,000.

Goldy said, “There is a local fiscal authority law which states: a municipality can create an authority, In this case, a Port Authority was created.”

B.A. Greg Fehrenbach added, “Public utility laws do not apply in this case. (Whereas the marina becoming a utility.) The City has three budgets: Current Budget, Water/Wastewater Budget, and a Parking Utility Budget. In 2012 there was a line item where the Port Authority contributed a payment to the City for $125,000 but they made that payment in two installments.

Former Councilman Fernando Gonzalez wanted to know, “Will making the Port Authority into a utility add any additional cost to the City?” Gonzalez also stated that the Port Authority employees did a lot of volunteer work.

B.A. Fehrenbach responded to Fernando Gonzalez’ question by saying that, “By the Port Authority becoming a utility will have no impact on the City. Some aspects of the operations of the former authority will be taken over by City Administrators.”

Resident Stanley Sierakowski wanted to know how many salary positions were at the Port Authority and if any titles would be transferred.

Fehrenbach answered, “There were two full time and one part time positions. No full time directors were appointed. All appointments will be made by the Mayor.”

Mayor Diaz spoke during the meeting in regards to the Port Authority issue. Diaz said that some clarifications had to be made, “The local Finance Board Chair congratulated the City and the Council for consolidating operations. This is a City debt (referring to the $900,000.) that we have been paying on. The Port Authority Board will be on the Advisory Board when it becomes a utility.

Councilman Kenneth Gonzalez asked the B.A., “How many slips are in service now?”

B.A. Fehrenbach responded, “There were 137 boat slips before the storm hit and there are only 61 left after the storm.”

Councilman Bill Petrick said, “A decision to make the Port Authority into a utility was not done hastily. There was a lot of discussion.”

Council President Joel Pabon said, “This is in the best interest of the City to see the Port come back.”

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