After almost three years of thumb twiddling over the purchasing of flood prone properties in the city’s northern quarters, the city council last week approved a resolution seeking to hire a consulting firm to oversee the Northside Buyback Program.
The city is seeking to hire a consulting firm which will compile a list of properties that must be bought out using roughly $5.8 million funds the city has at its disposal to purchase flood prone properties along the Passaic River mainly in the northern section of the city.
“We’ve learned that other cities, such as Wayne, actually engaged the services of a consultant to help them navigate this process efficiently,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, a week ago.
The councilman explained that the city has been late to the game and is on the verge of losing the money it was awarded years ago. “We’re about to lose this money,” said Morris.
“Is the money to pay these consultants coming out of the buyback money or is it coming out of the city?” asked Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman. The money to pay the consultants will come out of the buyback money, answered Morris.
Cotton followed with a second question. “Is this for them to put together a list to buyback the properties?” asked Cotton. “Somebody else is doing it for us?” Morris answered the company would compile a list of properties to purchase.
The city unsuccessfully attempted to compile a list, but for one reason or another it all came to naught. Morris said by hiring experts the city will be able to make use of the funds before it loses the money.
The city has done an abysmal job in handling the buyback program. After getting the word it will receive $5,763,117 in 2011, city officials in 2013 approved the purchase of 12 properties on North 1st, Bergen, and and Hillman Streets. However, tax records show the properties that were approved for purchase in September by the council have yet to change hands.
Residents in the flood prone areas have repeatedly complained during council meetings about the slow and cumbersome process that has dragged on for multiple years. One property owner even threatened to sue the city if her home is swept by another flood as the city drags its feet.