By Ron Leir
Last Tuesday’s heavy agenda meeting of the Kearny Town Council opened with a celebratory moment with a promotion in the Fire Department.
Firefighter George C. Harris, with an impressive fire service pedigree, was appointed fire captain, effective Sept. 11, at an annual salary of $103,673.
Harris, who has served 23 years with the department, is a past Firefighter of the Year. His brother, John Harris, is a deputy chief with the department and his father, George Harris Sr., is a retired deputy chief, noted Mayor Alberto Santos.
Fire Chief Steven Dyl told the packed council chambers, filled with relatives and friends of the new captain, that, “The timing [of the promotion] is appropriate, since tomorrow [Sept. 11] is the anniversary of 9/11 – a big day for remembering the contributions of first responders at the World Trade Center tragedy.”
And, Dyl said, “It’s appropriate that we’re showing signs of progress, moving forward with this promotion, even as the council is struggling with budgetary pressures.”
“George,” said Dyl, “I know you’re going to rise to the challenge.” Harris and his wife Tracey have two children, Mia and Jack, and all were at Town Hall for the swearing-in ceremony, along with the new captain’s brother and father.
Harris fills the position newly vacated with the retirement of Fire Capt. Michael Karlok.
The mayor and council also voted to upgrade the prior provisional appointment of John Donovan as the town’s Fire Official/Chief Fire Inspector to a permanent position, effective immediately, at an annual pay of $120,000.
And they appointed Edmund McKeown and Jason Bell as part-time public safety telecommunicator trainees to work a maximum of 24 hours a week at $15.25 per hour.
Among other developments that night, the governing body:
*Heard a presentation by Fincredit Inc. on a proposed Property Tax Rewards program but stopped short of endorsing it pending further review.
*Settled a new contract with the town’s department heads and middle managers.
*Put in motion plans for a four-way traffic stop at Hamilton and W. Bennett Aves and scheduled a public discussion on proposed traffic flow changes on Afton St. for Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in the chambers .
*Scrapped an agreement with All Vision LLC for the placement of advertising billboards at three town-owned meadows sites in favor of consulting with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission on that plan.
Fincredit’s Carmine DeFalco said the company is operating in Bayonne, Marlboro, Highland Park, West Orange and Pequannock, with six other communities “ready to come on board.”
How it works, DeFalco said, is that a municipality makes available “swipe” cards to residents. When making a transaction with a participating business, the resident pays the full amount and the business owner then runs the resident’s card through an electronic scanner to generate a tax or rent credit for the resident. Each business decides on a fixed percentage of each sale that will be rebated to the resident and Fincredit takes a portion of that rebate as its administrative fee.
As an example, DeFalco cited the case of a $100 sale where the merchant has agreed to a 10% rebate. Of the $10 rebate, $7.50 would be credited to the purchaser and $2.50 would go to Fincredit, he said.
DeFalco said the merchant would either pay a one-time cost of $160, with a threemonth warranty, for the card swiper or, in the case of small business with not as much sales volume, could opt for a free online service.
DeFalco said Fincredit would provide the town with a digital record of all rebates issued so that resident homeowners’ tax bills could be accordingly adjusted to reflect those credits. Local tenants would get a check for the credits they earned, he said.
The town’s only expense would be for the purchase of the swipe cards, although, as noted by Kearny Urban Enterprise Zone Director John Peneda, one local bank has offered to assume that cost.
Mayor Santos said the town would have to examine the legal ramifications of undertaking such a program, particularly as to whether it would have to advertise for bids for the service or issue a vendor license, for example.
The new contract with the town’s Association of Dept. Heads and Asst. Dept. Heads covers a four-year period, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013, and running through Dec. 31, 2016.
Employees at the top of the salary guide will receive pay increases of 1% this year, and 1.75% for each of the three years following.
The town gained these concessions from the association:
From now on, the jobs of tax collector, tax assessor and recreation superintendent will be removed from the unit and they’ll be part of management.
A new two-tier payment system will be implemented: Full-time employees hired before Dec. 31, 2012, will have to work 12 – instead of seven – years to reach maximum pay and new full-time employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2013, will earn 10% less than their peers in their first-year pay and 15% less in their maximum pay.
Employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2015, will no longer be entitled to longevity payments.