The Jersey City Council passed the first reading of ordinance to dissolve their municipal construction board of appeals, with some vowing to discuss the matter in greater detail before second and final reading.
By Daniel Ulloa and John Heinis/Hudson County View
The five-member board was established on February 25th, 1988, according to a copy of the local legislation, which says Jersey City would have construction cases heard before the county board.
“I am requesting that [ordinance] 3.1 be carried. I thought we agreed on that the other night at the caucus meeting,” questioned Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano.
“We agreed that we would introduce it, and then we would have a discussion,” Council President Joyce Watterman said.
Business Administrator John Metro interjected that the ordinance technically doesn’t exist until it’s introduced and that Mayor Steven Fulop had asked Watterman to have a conservation about this at the next caucus.
Boggiano still asked what would come next, to which Watterman said they were still going to introduce it on first reading.
“I’ll vote to introduce and very much want a further discussion. It seems like maybe something to look at maybe with the idea of creating … an ethics standards. I think that is an option for us to look at versus simply abolishing it,” Ward E Councilman James Solomon sugggested.
Councilwoman-at-Large Amy DeGise said she also wanted to discuss the matter prior to final reading, but did not elaborate.
The first reading passed 8-1, with only Boggiano voting no, without any further discussion.
William Santomauro, the current interim construction board chair and the owner of Santomauro General Contracting, LLC, called for the council not to get rid of the governing body.
“The construction board of appeals should remain at the city level and not be transferred to the county. The construction board of appeals is a major conduit between Jersey City’s first responders code officials and property owners. The board maintains a crucial role in maintaining the safety and welfare of everyone in this city,” he asserted.
“We remediate appeals filed by property owners in Jersey City. We serve professionally. We urge the council to contact all the enforcing agencies and the law department and ask them about the benefit that this local board does for our community.
He also said that they oversee major crises like a housing shelter shutdown where numerous people end up displaced, to which Boggiano assured him that they would find an alternate solution.
In a sit down interview in his office at City Hall yesterday that covered several topics, Fulop said the move to decommission their construction board of appeals had been in the works for about two years.
“The reason is, look, I’m concerned about conflicts of interest that exist on the construction board of appeals. You have state legislation on who has to serve on the construction board of appeals, is says x number of plumbers, x number of electricians, x number of inspectors, I think x number of fire inspectors,” the mayor began.
“And the challenge is that most people who sit on that board also are contractors in Jersey City doing the work, which is an inherent conflict of interest. If they recuse themselves from a specific thing that they’re working on, they sit up there with a board member that they have a close proximity to that isn’t recusing themselves. And so not to say anything nefarious is happening, but it definitely has the potential for something nefarious to happen.”
He also questioned why construction appeals board members were lobbying council members to leave things the way they are.