Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Technical foul.

Does anyone really know what is going on?

A few weeks back, the city announced it was going to institute temporary layoffs (furloughs) for all departments except police and fire. The furloughs would take place every week for 13 weeks starting in April.

This announcement bothered those seemingly few people who were paying attention because it meant the virtual shutdown of the Trenton Water Works (TWW) for one day each week. Considering the facts that

  1. the water utility operates on its own budget; employees are paid from rates charged for water usage, not tax dollars so any cost savings from the furloughs would NOT save the city money
  2. the majority of the customers of the water utility are located outside of the city and thus would be penalized by the weekly furloughs
  3. all customers would be put at risk because the furloughs would mean no one was minding the water treatment plant, pumping stations, etc. on those days

The problem comes from civil service rules that state furloughs must apply to entire departments. Since TWW operates under the umbrella of the Public Works Department, any layoffs affecting Public Works must apply to TWW.


Fortunately, the state of NJ through the DEP recognized the potential problems and squelched the furlough idea.


Before that occurred, a plan was drawn up to make TWW along with the Sewer Authority their own department, thus isolating (like Police and Fire) from the furloughs. It was a good idea…for a lot of reasons.


However, the city is only allowed to have 10 departments and our current structure has us maxed out. In order to create a Water and Sewer department, room has to be made in the organization chart. Part and parcel to creating the new department was the idea of making the current department of Inspections a division of the department of Housing and Economic Development. This would actually be a return to the way things once were.


This all needs to be accomplished by an ordinance introduced and passed by the governing body (city council). Predictably, with this administration and council, the plan has stalled.

Some object to moving Inspections back under Housing and Economic Development. Some don’t understand or object to creating a Water and Sewer department.

A workable solution languishes because the governing body seems unable to get its act together to do anything positive and the administration can’t think its way out of a paper bag.

Now here’s an interesting twist…

In November, the Mayor rearranged the former department of Recreation, Natural Resources and Culture (RNRC). Recreation and Culture were brought under the Mayor’s office directly and Natural Resources were moved to the Public Property Division of the Department of Public Works. In some respects the consolidation of departments is a good thing. Eliminating a director’s salary and merging functions are ways to economize.

And doing away with the department of RNRC frees up a space on the organization chart that could be filled by a newly created Water and Sewer department. Right?

Well, it would IF the city’s administrative organization chart was properly amended by ordinance. The Mayor cannot arbitrarily do away with a department. That must be done by ordinance approved by the city council.

Guess the Mayor didn’t think about that.

Neither did the city law department…obviously because of their inexperience with municipal law.

And the City Clerk didn’t catch it, so the city council didn’t realize it either.
Technical foul charged to the whole lot of them for simple failure to operate according to the rules.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well put. Logical. Hopefully, all concerned will read this (they shouldn't have a problem as the words are simple enough) and act accordingly. I doubt they will. I do, however, commend you for trying. PHS