Western New Jersey

P'burg Council refreshes parking lot ordinance

Ethics board proposed

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - Phillipsburg Town Council restarted its effort to repeal and replace the town’s parking lot ordinance at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Council passed the first reading of Ordinance 2018-06, which sets metered parking spaces and permits at the town’s 10 municipal lots, with five clarifying amendments.

Of note, town officials set aside 25 reserved parking spaces for businesses abutting the Riverside Way Lot.

Also, Council included language offering seasonal parking permits to licensed fishers during the April - November fishing season. Town residents will pay $25 for the permit; out-of-towners will pay $35.

The proposed ordinance also allows Council to waive parking fees for trailers during special events, wording that was written with the Shad Tournament in mind.

“I don’t want the fishermen to get lost in translation,” Council President Robert Fulper said.

For the time being there will be no parking fees in the Transit Lot. The town’s lease with NJ Transit, which owns the lot, does not allow the town to charge for parking on the lot.

For a moment, the threat of another “tabling” hung in the air as town solicitor Richard Wenner suggested Council table the ordinances and have a comprehensive plan in place no later than mid-March.

“If we continue to put things off we’re no better than our predecessors,” Fulper said, pressing ahead.

Council had started the process in February by repealing the original parking fee ordinance. However, since three of the five Council members had not read it, they tabled the replacement.

In order to get parking revenue from the Market Street Lot when the Easter Train comes to town, Council asked the mayor to veto their earlier decision to delete “municipal lots - payment required.”

He did, and Council will now continue with a fresh start.

Ethics board proposed, debated

Council introduced Ordinance 2018-08 to replace the town’s current code of ethics with a municipal ethics board.

Ethics complaints are currently heard by a state board called the Local Finance Board, which is under the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. 

Council members Mark Lutz and Josh Davis dissented, arguing that the board could easily pose a conflict of interest.

As proposed, the ethics board would be composed of a six-person body appointed by Council based on a “consistent reputation for integrity and their knowledge of local government affairs.”

The board would have the power to hold hearings, issue subpoenas on complaints, advise government officials and enforce provisions of the municipal code of ethics.

Ethics complaints required the distance offered by a state board, Davis argued.

Fulper said the state board faces an extensive backlog that negates any effectiveness it would have.

Mayor's hiring practices to be investigated

Council also voted, 3-2, to establish an ad hoc committee to investigate the mayor’s hiring practices, despite protests from Davis and Lutz.

Lutz voted against the motion, citing a lack of information

“I don’t know what the councilman’s looking for or what he’s trying to uncover,” 

Lutz said, adding that it could be better discussed in executive session.

Council member Frank McVey said the committee would look into emails sent during Mayor Stephen Ellis’s transition period into the mayor’s office.

McVey said he wanted to get to the bottom of the situation and resolve it for good.

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