After passing a resolution in March that would require the Hudson County Community College to implement Project Labor Agreements for ongoing and future construction projects that would require inclusion of union labor and other provisions, the Hudson County Freeholders at the April 24 caucus threatened to withhold funding for capital improvements at the school.
The county established the requirement for its own departments several years ago, but because the college has its own board, the freeholders have not yet been able to get college trustees to implement the agreements.
A Project Labor Agreement requires all contractors, unionized or not, to subject themselves and their employees to unionization in order to work on a government-funded construction project. This is done by including a union collective bargaining agreement in a public construction project’s bid specifications.
“I’m opposed to abolishing it.” – Bill O’Dea
The freeholders threatened to hold up nearly $7 million in bonding that would refinance some of the college’s debt and more than $32 million in capital improvement funds unless the college implements the PLA.
In a letter issued to the freeholders, HCCC President Dr. Glen Gabert agreed to bring up the request at a special meeting on May 8, prior to the next freeholder meeting on May 10.
The Freeholders are under a tight time frame, however, since ordinances and resolutions need to be passed quickly in order to meet the June 30 deadline for selling the necessary bonds. If they do not meet the deadline, the freeholders face the loss of critical financing benefits.
At the April 24 caucus, Freeholder Bill O’Dea urged the Board of Freeholders to not introduce the ordinances until the board was assured that the school trustees would meet to discuss the PLA.
Officials from HCCC said that school had already implemented PLA for phase two of the project, but O’Dea was very skeptical of the move.
“I’ve seen this before,” he said, “splitting up the project.”
Although County Administrator Abe Antun urged the freeholders to introduce the ordinances, which will allow the bonding to move ahead if the school trustees comply with the freeholders’ request, O’Dea said he wanted the trustees to first vote on the freeholder request.
Hudson County Economic Development Corp defunded?
Agreeing that the 38 percent cut in Community Development Block Grants will not allow the county to use those funds to fund the Hudson County Economic Development Corp, Antun promised to find a new source of funding that would keep the office open, despite the fact that no money has been allocated in this year’s county budget for that purpose.
The HCEDC, which serves all 12 municipalities, was established in 1994 to foster business growth and community development through job creation and improve the quality of life in Hudson County. Programs include: business loan and micro loan programs, business financial and economic outreach, site selection for businesses looking to relocate to or within Hudson County and the award-winning Brownfields Program.
O’Dea said he was concerned about abolishing the program, although he believed it should chance its focus, and pressed Antun to find new funding to allow it to remain open at least for another year.
O’Dea said one concern is the number of outstanding loans that the corporation oversees and the impact shutting down it down might have.
“I’m opposed to abolishing it,” he said. “Better to integrate it with the government or even the HCIA (Hudson County Improvement Authority).”
Formula 1 won’t affect proposed paved streets
Freeholder Jose Munoz questioned the impact that recent proposed Formula 1 race car driving would have on newly paved county roads.
The county is seeking federal grants through the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority for funding to repave locations on JFK Boulevard, between 60th and 62nd Street and 70th and 72nd street in Guttenberg and West New York.
Earlier this year, a tenative agreement was reached that would allow race cars to use the streets of several North Hudson towns, raising a concern from several freeholders about repaving of streets that would later be torn up by the racecars.
Antun said the towns involved still have to formalize agreements with Formula 1, and that in these agreements, Formula 1 is expected to restore streets used for racing.
Although County Engineer Demetrio Arencibia said none of the streets that are being repaved under the proposed resolution will be affected by the race cars, Freeholder Bill O’Dea said that the county should be more proactive when planning mayor repaving efforts to make certain that projects proposed by utility companies and others are done prior to the repaving.
“Six months after we repave a street, PSE&G or someone else rips up the street,” O’Dea said. “It makes more sense to let them do the repairs before we repave and give us the money that they would pay to fix the street.”
A new bank for MLK Drive?
A Newark-based African American-owned bank may soon open an office on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Jersey City.
O’Dea announced that City National Bank of Newark will open a branch on MLK Drive, provided certain deposit goals are met.
O’Dea said this would mean a substantial deposit of funds from the City of Jersey City and some deposits from Hudson County.
“Bank representatives spoke to me, hoping that the county might put some of our deposits in the branch. I also spoke with Senator [Sandra] Cunningham about possibly putting some state funds into the bank,” O’Dea said. “They also asked some technical questions about financing.”
Freeholder Jeff Dublin said the new bank has a good track record for providing loans and other investments in the community, and would serve an area that was abandoned when Bank of America closed its offices there on short notice.
Dublin said City National Bank has been doing business in Newark for more than 20 years.
“It would be great to have a bank back in the area,” he said.