The state’s Local Finance Board on Wednesday morning gave its blessings to mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ road reconstruction plan. However, the plan has garnered much more scrutiny at the city council.
“Where is our return on investment?” asked William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, during a presentation of the borrowing plan. McKoy introduced a plan that would expand the city’s Public Works Department to include garbage and recyclables collection.
The 3rd Ward councilman said a garbage collection program will allow the department to enter into shared services agreements with surrounding towns to generate revenue to pay down the debt being incurred by borrowing $35 million.
Other council members asked the same. Council president Julio Tavarez described the plan as a “sexy plan” without any returns. “Do we get a return on investment?” asked Tavarez rhetorically. “I don’t think so.”
Torres disagreed with the council members on Wednesday afternoon. “I beg to differ,” said the mayor. Torres said the cost is minimal to fix so many streets. The mayor also said the contractors hired to carry out the project will be required to hire Patersonians. Those city residents will be trained, and the city will then purchase heavy equipment to expand the public works department.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, asked to know how the 170 primary roads were selected. Nellie Pou, business administrator, said there was no engineering report. The city’s engineer looked at the roads and picked them.
Sayegh wanted to see an engineering plan that details the cost to repair each of the roads, but no such plan existed.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, applauded McKoy’s plan — which would, said the 3rd Ward councilman, address not just roads but social ills as well by creating employment for city residents – but said the city had submitted a plan to the state detailing where the money would be spent.
Morris said the city would have to begin all over again, if it wishes to consider McKoy’s plan. 2nd Ward councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman urged the administration to do just that. “My advice to the administration is we should return to the drawing board,” said Akhtaruzzaman.
McKoy said on Wednesday he is on the sidelines whether he will vote in favor of the ordinance. Akhtaruzzaman said he was unsure whether he will vote in the affirmative. Sayegh and Tavarez have voted against the initial ordinance.
Tammori Petty, spokesperson for the state’s department of community affairs, said the state will have a monitor checking every contract awarded to spend the borrowed money. “The Monitor will review contracts with an eye to ensuring reasonableness and will really focus on ensuring funds are going toward critical projects that serve the community,” said Petty.
Torres is hoping the council will approve the ordinance so that work can begin before the first snowflakes fall. Torres said he has done everything in his power to repair the roads: putting together a plan, submitting the plan to the state, and obtaining the state’s approval for the plan. The mayor said it’s now time for the council to do its part.
“If they don’t approve it at the end of the day they’re telling taxpayers they’re not fixing the roads,” said Torres.