February 29, 2012

Borough and Township Back CGR and Kearns; Modify Hiring Directive

Sharing the podium in the main meeting room at Township Hall Monday evening, Borough Council and Township Committee members approved professional services agreements for the Transition Task Force, the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), and attorney William Kearns.

Offering a “brief status report and update” on work being done by the task force, Township resident and Task Force Vice-Chair Scott Sillars reported that the group has been “fully engaged” with a “very active schedule since its inception in January.” (See the related article on the page one.)

The task force, which is comprised of 12 members (five voting members and one alternate each from the Borough and Township), is charged with facilitating the process of merging the two governments and the services they provide in anticipation of consolidation, which will take effect January 1, 2013.

Mr. Sillars said that CGR, which had made a favorable impression as advisors to the Consolidation Commission, would again provide project management support by creating a website, implementing public forums, assisting in creating timelines, identifying goals, and setting priorities, while maintaining the momentum that began with the work of the Commission. The new $62,000 contract with CGR is their entire fee during the process.

Retaining an independent legal counsel, Mr. Sillars said, would give the task force an opportunity to obtain legal counsel independent of the Borough and Township attorneys. Mr. Kearns’s fee is $150 an hour, with a $40,000 cap. His previous experience includes serving as counsel to the League of Municipalities, as well as participation in consolidation projects elsewhere.

In an effort to clarify the roles of all of the attorneys with respect to the task force, Committee and Council members endorsed an amendment that included Township Mayor Chad Goerner’s suggested wording, noting that the task force will be able to use the two municipal attorneys on approval from an appropriate administrator, Jim Pascale in the Township, Bob Bruschi in the Borough.

In conversations before the vote to retain Mr. Kearns, Council members Jenny Crumiller and Jo Butler spoke in support of creating and voting on an additional amendment to clarify the attorneys’ roles for the task force. Others noted that the task force had not specifically asked for such clarification. “This is why we’re consolidating,” commented Mr. Goerner during the conversation.

Members of both governing groups expressed concern about public safety issues in response to the task force’s suggested “hiring moratorium” in both municipalities. It was agreed that the question of coverage and possible collaboration would be brought before the two police departments and the Public Safety Committee for their recommendations, and that any non-police openings would be be discussed by both the Borough and the Township before they are filled. “We need to send a message that we are coordinating,” observed Borough Council member Roger Martindell.