With no health officer, West New York seeking to enter shared services agreement with Bayonne

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With no health officer since last week after their arrangement with North Bergen was terminated, West New York is seeking to enter a shared services agreement with Bayonne to remain in compliance with state guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Whereas, North Bergen has determined that it wishes to withdraw from and terminate the Agreement, effective June 10th, 2020, by adopting this Resolution and providing the required notice pursuant to the Agreement,” says a resolution unanimously approved (5-0) by the North Bergen Board of Commissioners on April 8th.

The West New York Board of Commissioners entered into the contract with North Bergen back in August 2018, where officials said they opted to abolish their own health department to provide six figures in savings – despite a lawsuit claiming otherwise.

North Bergen Health Officer Janet Castro also serves in the same capacity in Guttenberg, Union City, Secaucus, Harrison, and Weehawken.

West New York officials did not respond to multiple inquiries seeking comment over the past few weeks, and as recently as yesterday, as to what they would be doing moving forward.

According to sources with knowledge of the agreement, who were not authorized to speak on the matter, the deal with the neighboring municipality also included four health inspectors and 34 COVID-19 contract tracers.

However, those same sources indicated that West New York is in the midst of trying to work out a shared services agreement with Bayonne, which was confirmed by the city’s corporation counsel, Jay Coffey.

“We’re exploring the possibility of entering a a shared services agreement that would address the needs of both municipalities,” Coffey said over the phone this afternoon.

Bayonne’s next council meeting is tomorrow at 7 p.m., while the West New York Board of Commissioners will meet again on July 1st at 6:30 p.m.

As recently as March 16th, Bayonne also did not have a health officer, with city spokesman Joe Ryan saying at the time that “two Registered Environmental Health Specialists and three City Hall Clinic Nurses” were in touch with the New Jersey Department of Health daily.

However, according to their meeting minutes, Vincent Rivelli, the West New York Health Officer between 1973 and 2017, took over that role in Bayonne in mid-April.

Rivelli, who is retired and also previously worked for Bayonne in 2017, is allowed to return to work while collecting his pension – with no additional compensation – during the public health emergency due to Executive Order 112 issued by Gov. Phil Murphy (D).

Due to the challenges of the coronavirus, Murphy allowed retired public health and health care workers the ability to reactivate their licenses temporarily.

On June 9th, the day before their agreement with North Bergen ended, West New York posted on their website that they would not be opening their municipal pool or summer camp this season.

While many municipalities have followed suit in completely cancelling summer camps, Murphy announced last week that municipal pools can begin opening on June 22nd.

Both North Bergen and Union City will both be opening their pools on June 22nd and July 1st, respectively, with plans in place to follow state guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.