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The Continuance

10/23/17 Caucus

PERTH AMBOY – The continued investigation of the former B.A. Peter Pelissier’s salary was again a topic for discussion.

Councilman Fernando Gonzalez said, “I heard the case went from the Appellate to the  Local and then the Superior Court.”

Law Director Peter King responded, “The Appellate Court’s decision said that they dismissed the case without prejudice. Also the appeal is dismissed.”

Council President William Petrick responded, “The Superior Court did not file a final decision.”

King replied, “This is a final decision by the court. Your (the Council’s) attorney will not appeal because he didn’t do what was required. You were not entitled to hire your own attorney. Pelissier was not named in the suit.”

Petrick then stated, “The Council had to do their own investigation without hiring an independent counselor.”

Councilman Fernando Irizarry then asked King, “What was the cost of this case so far?”

King responded, “About $70,000.”

Councilman Irizarry responded, “We need to know why the court made this decision about the attorney we hired.”

King then suggested, “Each Council Member should call the attorney the you hired personally.”

Irizarry then said, “The attorney should be calling us.”

The Homeless Warming Center was discussed next. Law Director King said, “The Warming Center just had to meet the zoning and code requirements.”

YMCA President and CEO Steve Jobin and Pastor Bernadette Falcon-Lopez from God’s Army Ministry came up to speak.

Jobin spoke first, “The Y started a partnership with God’s Army Ministry. We are here to try to solve a problem – not create one. We’re helping those who need different social services. People are living on the streets and in their cars. We provide a place to get them off the street. This is just another alternative place for them, besides the Y and Olive Street during the Code Blue/Red weather. We have to build trust with these people first and get them the benefits that they are eligible for.”

There was a question asked if there are satellite locations that also provide help for the homeless in the City.

Pastor Berny responded, “All services are not provided by the satellite locations.”

Jobin spoke again, “This center will be open 24/7.”

Paster Berny then continued, “We can assess their (the homeless) needs and we may have the application (for benefits they are eligible for) right a thte center.”

Jobin then further explained, “These people are transients. If they fill out forms in New Brunswick, they have no mailing address. The forms can be mailed to the Y where Pastor Berny has an office. There is an extensive intake (application) system. We have a lot of volunteers and equipment such as LED light fixtures that have been donated to us.”

Councilman Joel Pabon spoke up to thank Pastor Berny for all that she does. “If you were to get paid for all that you do, then you should be paid more than anybody that’s in this room. I heard you dig into your own pockets to help.”

Steve Jobin then mentioned people from City Departments who have helped out such as, “Tashi Vasquez, Kenny Ortiz, and Mayor Diaz. They got us together to address this issue, plus the Salvation Army is closing down their shelter altogether.”

Councilman Fernando Irizarry then questioned, “Why is this center called a case management service? Are any neighboring towns providing this service?”

Pastor Berny replied, “Catholic Charities, who I’ve worked with have provided similar case management centers. We all work together, but with all different agencies. We are not equal in the programs offered and some of these entities use grant monies with restrictions.”

Jobin then added, “Two cities are required by count to be Code Red/Blue municipalities. The requirements are you must have at least 10 documented homeless people.”

Irizarry then continued, “It doesn’t say you have to be a case management center (in the information that was given to the Council). Will you have certified people to deal with those who have mental illness problems and/or drug addicted?”

Pastor Berny responded, “We have professionals who come in and have this knowledge. We have been dealing with this kind of population since 2013. Some of the volunteers were once homeless themselves and in the same situation. If we feel we are in danger or something is out of control, we will notify the proper authorities.”

Irizarry then said, “I’m concerned this will affect the image of our City. This warming center is also in a school zone.”

Pastor Berny responded, “They already are here, in these same areas throughout the town. We are also talking about homeless families with children.”

Irizarry still had questions, “My concern is that it’s in a business district near a school and a church.”

Jobin then mentioned, “These services have been held at churches. If there’s a better idea, I’d be open to it. It’s just building on additional services already provided.”

Irizarry then asked Jobin about money that the Y owes to the City, “How are you able to get this building?”

Jobin responded, “We (the YMCA) offered a settlement  to the City that was tabled. These are two different issues (the Y’s agreement with the City vs. getting a mortgage on a building that is not tied to the City).”

Councilman Fernando Gonzalez then stated, “The City contributes $30,000 to the Y yearly.”

Gonzalez also had kind words about Pastor Berny, “She has helped me numerous times when I’ve reached out to her to help people. Is Perth Amboy becoming the dumping ground for Middlesex County? We have all these different social services offices (drug clinics, probation offices, etc.) We need to take a survey on how many social services we have and invite the County in on these discussions.”

Jobin then told the Council, “We are going to a County Meeting on Wednesday morning (10/25/17).”

Councilman Helmin Caba added  “I have also referred people to you (Pastor Berny) and I have the same concerns as the other Councilmen. We should not be providing homeless shelters, but I thank Pastor Berny for her work.”

The third topic for discussion included designating two Councilmen to discuss Sea Gate with Board Members for the Admiral and Bayview Condos.    Councilman Fernando Gonzalez and Council President William Petrick were nominated.

The Fourth topic was a discussion regarding festivals.

Councilman Joel Pabon said, “I have talked to an organizer of one of the festivals that takes place during the summertime. The person I talked to said that they start setting up their sponsors in November and December for the following year. If you want to make any changes, let’s discuss it now.”

Council President Petrick said, “We have discussed moving the festivals to a bigger venue based on their size (the crowds they draw).”

Gonzalez then requested, “The Council needs to have a report on each festival after they end.”

Petrick responded, “We’ve got a report after the Dominican Festival was over.”

Gonzalez then stated, “I want to see if the ordinance was complied to.”

Pabon concluded the discussion, “We need to outline any suggestions on the ordinance.”

The fifth topic for discussion was designation by Rider from the Bridge PILOT.

Fernando Gonzalez stood his ground, “The Rider should be for property tax relief. Too many homes are boarded up and foreclosed. As a realtor, a lot of people tell me they don’t want to see houses in Perth Amboy because the taxes are too high. Hopefully, this money will help people stay in this town.”

Councilman Irizarry countered this argument, “This is a negotiation and you can’t always get what you want. I would prefer to use all the money to pay off our debt.”

Gonzalez responded, “We can.”

Pabon then remarked, “I said from the beginning it should be for tax relief. If we can help a few people save their homes, I’m all for it.”

Petrick responded, “The City will always have debt.”

Helmin Caba said, “All debt is not bad. If you’re talking about saving hundreds on tax relief, I’m all for it.”

Topic number six dealt with Best Practices.

CFO Jill Goldy said, “There were 25 questions on the checklist. You must answer at least 21 as “yes” to prevent a loss in state aid. We answered “yes” on 23 questions. We adopted a new personnel manual which allowed us to get credit. We also need to make a note that we discussed this at this meeting (10/23/17 Caucus). We’ve been doing the Best Practices Checklist for 8 years.”

The seventh and final topic was an update on the Jankowski Center roof leak and building damage.

City Engineer Jeff Rauch came up to speak. He reported,  “80% of the roof is done. On Columbus Day weekend, the roof was sealed up where there was a gap between the old and new roof. There was a leak that the contractor cleaned up. Also, the same weekend a fire alarm went off in the Center, but there was no fire. I may not be able to answer all your questions because I just found out today that this item was going to be on the agenda. The deck is steel and it’s a foam board installation. There was a significant water damage at Olive Street from the leaks which included tiles in the Vital Statistics Office. The City cleaned it up and back-charged the contractor. The roof is completed and sealed, except for the metal trim. We assessed the cost to the City to submit to the contractor’s insurance company. No asbestos or mold was found. There’s no damage to the computer or electronic system. We took many pictures and all the damage has been well documented.”

Petrick stated, “Our (the City’s) insurance adjustor should have been there to see the initial damage.”

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