Although there was plenty of discussion and two votes no towards the new service providers for the township of Scotch Plains, the council ultimately appointed a new Township Auditor, Labor Relations Attorney and Tax Appeal Attorney at the Jan. 29 meeting.
Also on the agenda was the appointment of the Doyle Alliance Group as the 2013 Health Insurance Broker/Consultant but the resolution was tabled until more information was obtained.
Both Councilman Bo Vastine and Councilman Mickey Marcus voted no on all three resolutions to appoint the three service providers, both council members felt strongly that some of the previous providers were well versed in the details of the township.
Vastine stated, for the second time at a council meeting, that he felt the township was losing continuity by turning over so many of their service providers. He added that it is not in the best interest of the town to lose those providers who were familiar with the township and hire those unfamiliar.
“It is my concern by changing all the providers at once there is going to be a tangible cost for the taxpayers,” Vastine said. “Not necessarily in the direct fee that they charge but in the loss of knowledge and history they have with the township.”
Marcus echoed Vastine’s sentiment by saying that the previous township auditor served the town very well and he would not recommend replacing them at this time.
“This is a very serious issue as the fees for these services are paid by the residents and taxpayers of Scotch Plains,” Marcus said. “It is extremely important that the process and selection be done properly and fairly – there should be a level playing field for everyone.”
Marcus added that he has concerns about how the selection of professionals has been made this year and whether or not it was fair and open as the state statute insists.
There was also a heated discussion on the resolution appointing Doyle Alliance Group as the Health Insurance Broker/Consultant after Vastine brought up an email that was sent prior to the meeting with an a change to the agenda stating that the dollar amount of this contract increased almost $40,000 more.
“It would appear this firm that is being put forward is almost double the amount we have received bids on from other firms my question is why would we be willing to pay almost 30,000 more for this service based versus going with our existing health insurance broker who had a cap of $50,000 a year, ” Vastine said.
Marcus said if this was true he would like more information before deciding to vote on this appointment.
Again, Vastine commented on the cost of the service provider Scotch Plains was looking to appoint Tuesday evening, stating that the current service provider said their compensation and all consulting fees would not exceed $50,000.
“Now the day of the vote we’re getting emails saying it’s going to be 90k,” he stated. “Quite frankly paying twice the money for the same service is not in the best interest of taxpayers.”
Underhill stated that the proposal didn’t specify a number, but he added a number to the agenda based on last year’s number. Vastine said that without a number the proposal is invalid and township Attorney Judy Verrone said she had not seen the Request for Proposal so she would have to examine it again to see if it was valid.
Right now the relationship with former company will expire on Jan. 30 but employees will be covered through the year.
Gialanella commented that many of the discussions at the meeting seemed to be politically driven.
“For a very long time the government of Scotch Plains has been driven by politics… politics is a hobby,” she said. “What we’ve heard from the public that is there desire for change looking to support our longstanding employees with different ideas and resources.”
Glover also commented on the community’s desire for change and his hope to put politics aside.
“I’m absolutely convinced that the folks coming in will well serve this community they will create efficiencies and opportunities,” he said. “A lot of this is political, it is time to put politics aside.”
Additionally, Glover stated that the township will be monitoring the progress of the new service providers and have the council meet with them to hear any suggestions or comments by early March the latest.