In the last council meeting prior to the November 7th municipal elections, a Hoboken official revealed that the city is still unsure how much they owe Suez Water in liability.
The ordinance in question seemed simple enough: authorizing a $750,000 bond for the acquisition of public safety communications equipment.
However, this prompted 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher to ask if the city had to â€œmake any different types of disclosure to the remaining Suez obligation.”
“There are no additional disclosures for any bonding at this time. Both recommended that when we actually go out to market, that we issue an official statement. We still haven’t received a [bill] in terms of the bulk water costs and capital expenditures related to the Suez contract,” responded Business Administrator Stephen Marks.
Marks was relaying information he gathered after speaking with City Auditor Steven Wielkotz and City Bond Counsel Jeff Winitksy.
“We have not been sent a bill, an itemized bill, any bill, on bulk water or an itemized bill on capital expenditures.”
In an ongoing dialogue with Marks, Fisher wanted to know how Suez could issue a bill without making â€œa quantifying estimate.â€
“If we are sent a bill by Suez for those two items, we’ll have an opportunity to challenge it or at least, at the very least, review it. The numbers that have been discussed previously … they are approximations, they are estimates,” Marks added.
However, that never came to pass, as the council never voted on the measure after a heated exchange with Zimmer.
Responding to a question from Council President Jen Giattino, Marks said it was acceptable for the liability not to have a dollar amount, an answer that didnâ€™t sit well with Fisher.
“We publicized somewhere between $8.3 million and $10 million all over the city, that we think that’s the number, but when we actually disclose it to a bond offering, people that are going to buy bonds from us – we actually then don’t have to put a number in there?,” Fisher asked.
“That’s an approximation that Suez provided but it’s never been verified,” Marks responded.
1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco joined the discussion as well, questioning how the city had not asked how much Suez is owed.
“Shouldn’t we be using substantial city resources to make sure we understand exactly how much debt we continue to go into with Suez? Before we get into these other projects?,” questioned DeFusco.
“Councilman, we can’t compel Suez to send us a bill, we asked,” said Marks, a response DeFusco called “surprising.”
Both DeFusco and Giattino have previously called for investigations into the city’s liability with Suez, while Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla has recused himself from the matter to avoid any perceived conflict of interest.
The measure passed by a vote of 7-1, with DeFusco voting no. 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos was absent and the council did not subsequently vote on anything pertaining to the Suez contract.