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Friday Special Noon Mayor&Council Meeting Cancels Tues. 6/4/24 Meeting

Jun 04, 2024
Mayor Council Chambers Harrison NJ Town Hall

With only a day's notice, the Harrison Mayor & Council's special meeting on Friday, May 31, 2024, at Noon, sparked concerns among residents over the transparency of its decision-making processes. During the meeting, held in the 3rd Floor Mayor's Conference Room, two resolutions were passed and one $3.56 Million Ordinance introduced but we are not sure any member of the Public witnessed it or got a chance to ask a question.

Questionable Expediency in Major Green Space Projects

Central to the meeting were two substantial resolutions related to the Cape May Street Waterfront Park under Projects #0904-19-018 (Development) and #0904-19-081 (Stewardship). Although this project has been in the works since 2018 when it was promised during a Mayoral race it is ironic that Mayor James Fife and Councilman+ James Doran and others on the Council support with their silence the Environment Protection Agency’s plan to put a Toxic Sludge Dewatering Plant across the street from this Pocket Park.  Why spend all this money to decontaminate a property when there was a plan to put a Park, Community Center, Drop Off, Turn Around for the Park, Community Center, and PATH train across the street in a property that is already decontaminated? The community of Harrison would be better served if the Mayor & Council issued a Statement in Opposition To A Toxic Sludge Plant in the Town of Harrison and saved its money for the project that is in the Harrison Redevelopment Agency Plan to provide a Green Space / Community Center for all Harrisonians.  A promise made over 26 years ago. Mayor Fife has known about the EPA plan since 2022 but continues to state to the Public that he knows nothing about it. His statement was clear at a Harrison Redevelopment Agency meeting on August 29, 2022.

The Pocket Park

The Development received a $2,150,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Green Acres Program, with the town pledging an overwhelming $4,946,340 in matching funds. Similarly, the Stewardship initiative, focusing on long-term maintenance and ecological health, secured the same grant amount but with a matching fund of $1,530,108 from the town. These financial commitments raise questions about the town's budgetary allocations and the prioritization of such projects amid other pressing municipal needs. There is no doubt that despite various additional sources of income for the Town of Harrison the property taxes in the Town of Harrison will rise for Harrison Taxpayers this year.

Contract Awards and Capital Improvements

In other business, the Mayor & Council awarded a contract to Badger Roofing Inc. for up to $45,000 for repairs at the Harrison Recreation Center. The contract, intended for necessary roofing and wall repairs, was approved without an open bid process, under a process that allows it under state law with a Qualified Purchase Agent.

Additionally, the introduction of Ordinance No. 1511, allocating $3.56 million from the Capital Improvement Fund, was notable for key allocations, such as $1.05 million for Affordable Housing refunds and $835,000 for the demolition of Cleveland Avenue properties—a project already completed but still awaiting the final step of paving to alleviate local parking shortages.

A Call for Greater Council Accountability             

There may not be anything nefarious about a Friday Noon Time meeting of the Mayor & Council but the lack of notice to the community does raise at a minimum an appearance of impropriety.  Substantial financial decisions made at the meeting without very little public notice point to a broader issue of governance in Harrison. While the council's efforts to improve public spaces and infrastructure are commendable, the apparent lack of adequate public notice and engagement prior to the meeting is troubling. It casts a shadow over the transparency and efficacy of the Mayor & Town Council's actions, particularly in how it manages significant public resources.

Mayor & Council Refuse To Oppose EPA’s Toxic Sludge Plant

Top that off with the fact that Mayor Fife & Town Council continue to refuse to publically oppose the EPA’s plan to put a Toxic Sludge Plant in what is now a residential community but they continue to spend millions of taxpayer’s dollars on a Pocket Park that is going across the street from the Toxic Sludge Plant shows you the total disconnect from the vision of the late Mayor Raymond J. McDonough and then Town Council whose vision of transforming the toxic chemical laden industrial southern part of Harrison into a vibrant modern luxury apartment building community that would increase ratables to lower property taxes and provide Green space for long time residents.

Residents of Harrison deserve more than one day's notice on Mayor & Council meetings They need assurances that their voices are heard and that major decisions affecting their community and finances are made with thorough deliberation and genuine public input. As the town progresses, the Mayor & Council must reevaluate its approach to governance, ensuring transparency and accountability are not sidelined.

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