Englewood Council Grapples with Expenditures and Oversight Amid Calls for Transparency

In a Englewood City Council virtual meeting held on September 19, council members, along with Mayor Michael Wildes and City Attorney Bill Bailey, examined a robust agenda filled with extensive discussions on various city expenditures, the oversight of DPW employee contracts, and the correction of a zoning map typographical error.

An ordinance was introduced to correct a typographical error in the city’s zoning map. The error, rooted in the misreporting of block and lot numbers, had raised concerns over its implications on affordable housing, a worry that was clarified to be unfounded by officials. Despite the correction being a seemingly minor administrative matter, it reflected the council’s focus on maintaining clarity and transparency, especially considering the fears it had ignited among 30 property owners. The discussion underscored a pledge for correct and clear presentation of the data on the city’s website to allay any concerns, with a public hearing scheduled for October 24th to maintain an open dialogue with the residents.

Meanwhile, Councilman Charles Cobb spearheaded a probing discussion on the United Brotherhood of Public Workers DPW employees’ contracts. Highlighting a contentious clause regarding the regulation of overtime, Cobb expressed concerns over potential loopholes that could undermine the supervisory chain of command and accountability. Despite explanations emphasizing fairness and prevention of favoritism facilitated by the clause, Cobb remained unsatisfied, spotlighting a gray area in management procedures.

The council also treaded deep waters in scrutinizing contracts for tree removal and landscaping services, a topic that ignited sparks around the financial prudence behind outsourcing versus utilizing the DPW. The depth of the discussions reflected the council’s active engagement in understanding the fine details of the budget and ensuring the effective utilization of taxpayer dollars.

Further, members sought clarity on the delineations of authority within the DPW, especially regarding the role and reach of the shop steward in operational matters. The inquiries, which extended to discussions on the salary scales and roles in the DPW, mirrored the council’s attention to fair labor practices and the wellbeing of city employees. “Let’s have it in there, that’s all I’m saying,” a council member stressed, advocating for explicit clarity in the contract language to foster transparency and avoid potential disputes.

Councilman Kevin Wilson questioned several line items in the recent bills and claims, including payments associated with the McKay Park baseball field project and the operational readiness of repaired fire department apparatus. A notable point of discussion centered around an additional $135,572 expenditure for the baseball field project, necessitated by worse than anticipated ground conditions demanding additional materials and features such as bleachers.

The public comment section of the meeting heralded concerns from residents over various issues including climate change vulnerability assessments in new municipal master plans and the continuity of virtual meetings. Among the voices, Diane Jansen emphasized the need for integration with scientific data from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protections in planning and strategy formulations, reflecting a community’s eagerness for data-driven, informed decision-making processes.

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