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Council Rejects Appointment of DPW Laborer to Full-Time

Council President Howard Berner breaks with party to vote no.

The council voted 4-2 to deny the appointment of Mark Hettinger, Jr. this week from seasonal to full-time employee status with the Department of Public Works.

Councilwomen Randi Duffie and Hedy Grant voted against the move citing the economic difficulties facing residents evidenced, in part, by the increasing number of tax appeals that are being filed by homeowners. 

Prior to casting his "no" vote, Councilman Austin Ashley said that given the economic climate, the borough should "pursue a course of attrition" and not replace vacancies. 

Responding to this hire, in light of the recent promotions of six police officers to the rank of lieutenant, Ashley asked, "Where are we going to get the money?" 

In a surprise turn of events, Council President Howard Berner sided with Duffie, Grant and Ashley and voted "no" to the appointment of Hettinger to a full-time position within the DPW. Berner also cited the need for the borough to watch expenditures given the difficult economic times. 

Disappointment in the decision resonated throughout members of the audience, some who were volunteer members of the fire department and had come out to support Hettinger.

One member who asked that his name not be used said,"[Hettinger] works so hard and loves his job. We won't forget this in November."

Hettinger, who was initially hired under contract as a seasonal employee, was being considered to fill one of the two spots vacated by attrition. His contract ends Thursday at which time his employment with the town is terminated. 

On Wednesday, three borough employees speaking on the condition of anonymity told Patch, "That decision has crushed morale here. He was such an enthusiastic, hard working kid. We're all pretty upset over it."

Martin Wolff March 01, 2012 at 09:20 PM
I feel bad for Hettinger and even bad for the town that we didn't end up getting someone who was enthusiastic about doing a good job. But this has to be seen in the light of the economic times we live in. ALL the people in the town have to be also considered in these decisions - if there's no money, we can't hire him. We do need to live within our means. More debt is not the answer to this town's (or this country's) problems. Unfortunately, our financial condition leads to the loss of opportunities like this. Let's see if we can change that first (we can) and then we will have more flexibility in the future. Martin Wolff
Ulises March 01, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Mr. Wolff, well said. I blame the police force bloated salaries and benefits for this decision. Our men in blue do a great job in town but they get a bonus every year for not using sick days and upon retirement they get a banked-sick-day-bonus for all thoses days they already received a bonus for???. That's double dipping and we're stuck with the bill - this has to change...
Ulises March 02, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Jimmy, I've told the very same thing I mention here to one of officers who just got promoted and others on the force. I think they do great job in town but their benefits are costing us a fortune particularly their banked sick days. Is it a crime to speak up against their union contracts? The chief treaten of the likelihood of a lawsuit if they didn't get these promotions, which I've stated I think it was the right thin to do, plus a great chess move on his part. But that came at a cost of approximately $100k to the budget. And at this week's mayor and council meeting there was an interesting exchange and to me it seems there will be more promotions to come in our police department. I feel bad for Mr. Hettinger and I think he should look into joining the police academy because they have great salaries and benefits that are unheard of in the private sector
Ulises March 02, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I don't know either. But has the country turned for the good since Bush's last day January 19, 2009? I think so (we were losing 750k jobs per month under Bush). But now Isreal wants to drag us into a confrontation with Iran and since AIPAC controls D.C. all hell is about to break lose again and gas will continue to go up... Hopefully, the President will tell Netenyahu this is not in our best interest just like most Isrealies feel in, according to recent polls in Isreal.
delgado March 03, 2012 at 01:31 AM
The odd thing is the Tea Party New Milford Republicans PLEDGED and SWORE, they would lower taxes and cut cut cut cut spending, now when they get in control, they lie and increase spending..
Lori Barton March 03, 2012 at 02:50 AM
I understand the need to reduce costs. But why is it that New Milford still pays for major medical health benefits for our PART TIME council members? I know that the mayor does not take advantage of this perk. How many on the council are we paying for? The policy costs approximately $20,000/year PER FAMILY for this coverage. If all 6 are receiving this coverage, it is costing the taxpayers in New Milford about $120,000 per year. Most towns in Bergen County do NOT offer this benefit. And we are rejecting the appointment of a DPW worker. How much would his salary be???
Ulises March 03, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Delgado, feel free to use 'TeaPublicans', I haven't used it in a while, and I do agree about these broken promises you mentioned. Ms. Barton, I agree with you too about this health coverage and I like to say that Peter Rebesch, who's no longer on the board, waived this coverage as the mayor has too. He's also a good man, Mr. Rebesch, which, from what I've heard, is not even being considered as a candidate this fall by his own party (I could be wrong but I doubt it...). Councilman Berner's vote, against this promotion, was in my opinion, motivated by his coming election. He doesn't want, in my opinion, this to be a campaign issue this fall, but how could he be worried about spending now because when it came down to the police promotion vote he followed suit and voted to increase the budget by approximately $100K and the Democrats held their ground??? Oh, silly me, I know why, the Chief's chess move on a possible union lawsuit, that's why (the police force is the real reason why are taxes are out of control, banked-sick-day-bonus payouts is increasing our taxes and no one has the guts to stand up to them)... Nevertheless, the Democrats have shown to vote in a more fiscally responsible fashion than the Republicans have and I tip my hat off to them.
james March 03, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I'd like to know who is receiving this perk also. Is there any way we can find out? How do we in the town do away with this perk?
Jeffrey DelVecchio March 04, 2012 at 02:37 PM
How is it the council can say that tough economic times is the reason for not hiring someone? Wouldn't hiring someone help the economy? How does a tough economy effect the Boro's income? It shouldn't unless there are a lot of foreclosures which would reduce tax revenue. As far as the reassessment lowering taxes, it will not. The home values may be reduced but the tax rate must be increased. The Boro's revenue level must remain the same. The only benefit of the reassessment is to the Boro because it will stop the tax appeals. Currently if someone appeals their taxes and wins they pay for a lower assessment at the current tax rate and will save money. This reduces the Boro's revenue and is detrimental to the rest of the tax payers. I say shame on the council for not hiring this man and helping to lower the unemployment rate and bring much needed money into our struggling economy.
Ulises March 04, 2012 at 07:16 PM
A tough economy doesn't allow home owners to pay their property taxes, which lowers the town's revenue unless expenses are kept in check. I know of a few people in town on this path. One, is waiting for the bank to take over and the other walked away completely, that's approximately $20k the town is losing and there's many more struggling to pay our high taxes.... Our officials need to watch expenses and take on the union contracts that drive our taxes up every year, with their banked-sick-days-retirement-bonus checks ($3M plus is what we owe on these banked sick days, $2.5m just to the police force - I uploaded the breakdown by department).

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