Mayor Andre Sayegh announced four coronavirus testing sites will open on Friday, but his administration did not have an approved contract with the vendor expected to run the sites, officials revealed on Thursday night under questioning from City Council members.
Administration officials also did not have insurance papers from the vendor to cover potential liabilities that might arise from running the sites at the four schools. They also did not know the price the vendor is charging the city for tests.
“The administration did not come to us to discuss the sites and these sites will require certain approvals,” said council president Maritza Davila. “All our I’s are not dotted, and T’s are not crossed.”
Law director Farah Irving said she did not receive insurance and other documents to present a resolution to award a contract to Sunrise Diagnostics of South Plainfield.
“Right now, they have no authority to work on our behalf,” said councilman Flavio Rivera.
“It’s very irresponsible,” added councilman Michael Jackson.
Councilman Al Abdelaziz said the city could not halt or delay the opening of the test sites because the news has reached thousands of residents. He suggested the administration rapidly come up with a fix as soon as possible.
Abdelaziz said if needed the council should host an emergency meeting to approve the necessary documents on Friday morning.
Council members are unanimously in favor of having test sites in the city.
The mayor’s chief of staff Della Fischer told the City Council the vendor has begun to set up the sites at the four schools.
“The sites are already set up. That started at 3 o’clock today,” said Fischer.
Irving received a text message at the meeting that fire chief Brian McDermott has the insurance documents. She told council members the city can enter into an emergency contract after the sites are set up.
“This is not a big deal. I can get it done,” said Irving. “The council can ratify an emergency contract after the contract is entered into.”
Davila asked about the price of each test. Administration officials said they did not have an answer on hand.
Officials said the price for a test is $100.
Rivera said some in the administration have floated the idea to pay the doctors for tests at the two non-governmental sites in the Eastside and South Paterson that the mayor opened last week. He said administration officials were saying they would collect receipts to cover costs of tests at the two sites. Both sites were charging residents for the test.
“Right now, we have no legal basis to pay them. We don’t have a contract with those two doctors,” said Rivera.
Efforts to pay those two doctors will likely create the appearance of impropriety. One doctor is the personal physician of the mayor while another is the doctor of a councilman.
“When are we going to learn? When are we going to do things properly?” asked Rivera.
The city could potentially receive more than $8 million in Cares Act funds from the county government to pay for the testing sites, officials said.
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