Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Council President Jen Giattino are continuing to spar over the city’s controversial deal with Suez Water.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“The terms of the proposed Suez contract were given to me by the Administration at an Infrastructure Subcommittee meeting I attended the evening before they were sent out to the entire public and the rest of the City Council on July 12th,” Giattino began in a statement sent this morning.
She continued that in the one-hour meeting, where Zimmer, Council members Ravi Bhalla, Tiffanie Fisher and Ravi Bhalla, as well as Business Administrator Stephen Marks and City consultant Dennis Enright were in attendance, Enright said the proposed contract was above market, but did not say by how much.
Giattino further stated that it was not until an August 29th subcommittee meeting that Marks revealed that the $8.3 million liability “related to contractual expenses and costs that had been incurred in prior periods and that it was potentially unfunded and not disclosed.”
Zimmer of course disagreed with Giattino’s notion that past budgets should have raised taxes to pay for these costs.
“I strongly disagree, as did the legal and accounting professionals on whose advice the City relied upon. The charges had not been billed and were not going to be billed until negotiations had been completed,” Zimmer said in her own statement.
“Put simply, the amounts were not yet due and were not likely to ever become due as the result of a renegotiated agreement or the city’s ability to pass the costs on to ratepayers.”
The mayor emphasized that “the taxpayers of Hoboken should never have to shoulder the burden of the extremely unfair existing agreement,” which had an amendment passed in 2001 (the initial deal passed in 1994) and currently extends through 2024.
Zimmer has previously argued that the new proposed Suez deal would come with over $40 million in benefits to the taxpayer, forgive the city of $10 million currently owed to Suez and add an additional 10 years to the agreement – good through 2034.
The city council and Zimmer clashed at last week’s meeting, with the Giattino eventually pulling the Suez agenda item after intense verbal sparring between the mayor and multiple council members on the subject.
Zimmer was widely expected to seek a third term, but thought better of it in late June, providing little explanation beyond that she wanted to fight climate change beyond the confines of Hoboken.
Additionally, 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, another mayoral candidate, called for a state investigation into the $8.3 million liability, taking a swipe at Giattino in the process.
Today, Giattino returned fire by publicly releasing an email she sent to DeFusco, calling his narrative “misleading” before getting into the particulars.
“I cannot speak for what the Mayor or Councilman Ravi Bhalla knew or when they knew it, but as Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher described in public at the City Council meeting on September 5th, it was not until the Finance Subcommittee meeting on Tuesday August 29th that we, along with Councilman Peter Cunningham, first became aware that the $8.3 million liability related to prior year costs and expenses that appear to not have been previously funded or disclosed,” she wrote.
“It is also crucial to properly identify what is included in the subject liability as we look ahead – primarily bulk water charges reflecting increased rates and capital improvement costs in excess of Suez’s required contribution amounts; not just the latter as you inaccurately described in your letter.”