UNION COUNTY – Last week the Union County Improvement Authority and the Union County Utilities Authority entered into a shared-services agreement that will be overseen by former Union County freeholder Dan Sullivan.
Sullivan announced last week he would be resigning from the freeholder board Sunday in order to assume the position of interim UCIA executive director. The former freeholder, elected to the board in 1995, was appointed UCUA interim executive director in 2011, eventually assuming the position permanently about a year later.
The UCIA paves the way for the creation of civic projects while saving taxpayer dollars through low financing rates. Among the UCIA’s recent projects was a new public library in Linden, fire stations, a juvenile detention center, a public promenade in Linden, expansion of the Union County College campus in Elizabeth and the county renewable energy program.
The UCUA is responsible for enforcing the New Jersey Solid Waste Management Act and the Union County District Solid Waste Plan. Under contract with the company Covanta, the authority’s Union County Resource Recovery Facility in Rahway converts approximately 1,500 tons of solid municipal garbage daily to power 30,000 homes and businesses, as well as provide electricity for the facility.
County sources claimed it was Sullivan’s work as a freeholder that saved the UCUA from going under in 1998. The freeholder oversaw finalization of a 15-year lease extension, plus a five-year option with Covanta. This, officials said, will result in $70 million additional revenues during the lifetime of the extended lease with the county and the 14 member municipalities under contract to use the facility.
Earlier this year Sullivan announced he would not be seeking another term on the board and would be stepping down at the end of his term in December. While it was expected the freeholder would fulfill his three-year term, the Democratic Party now must nominate someone to take his place earlier than expected.
Presently the Sullivan is paid $130,000 as UCUA executive director but according to Union County Communications Director Sebastian D’Elia, the former freeholder will not be receiving any additional salary from the UCUA. However, D’Elia, a UCIA board member, did point out the Improvement Authority would be paying the UCUA $15,000 a month for the next six months for Sullivan’s leadership until a consultant’s report on the merger is completed. This money, he added, will go towards paying for housing of the two UCIA office staff members, use of office machines and other equipment as well as “Dan’s leadership.”
At the Aug. 22 meeting Sullivan was lauded by Freeholder Chairman Linda Carter for his leadership role on the board since 1995.
“Dan has been a driving force in Union County’s transition to a diversified, globally competitive economy with top quality education infrastructure, a thriving cultural scene and ample resources for healthy outdoor recreation,” the freeholder chairman said, adding “his dedication to serving the common good is an inspiration to us all.”
Sullivan, who served as chairman and vice-chairman of the freeholder board over the years, focused primarily on transportation and development issues, making his mark as a policy guru as well as planning, crafting and shaping major governmental initiatives according to Tina Casey, Deputy Director of the Union County Office of Public Information.
Casey said that during his tenure on the freeholder board Sullivan supported, or was instrumental in creating, key economic development initiatives including the new Union County College building in Elizabeth, the Park Madison project in Plainfield, the J. Christian Bollwage parking garage, and the Froehlich and the Colleen Fraser buildings in Westfield. The former freeholder, she added, also was critical in helping with various transportation improvements, including the expansion of Liberty International Airport and shuttle service and the expansion of one of the county’s largest employers, the supermarket cooperative Wakefern in Elizabeth.
While on the freeholder board, Sullivan was a staunch defender of the county’s Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust funds. Since its launch in 2000, these trust funds enabled more than 300 acres of green space for public recreation and nature conservation, including major new parks in Scotch Plains, Clark and Berkeley Heights. Each year the trust fund also supports local recreation and historic preservation initiatives, such as helping preserve historic Rahway Theatre, home of Union County Performing Arts Center.
At the freeholder meeting last week, Sullivan briefly commented taking on leadership of the UCIA in addition to the UCUA.
“The shared services agreement between the UCUA and UCIA has presented a new opportunity to move forward with civic projects that benefit the Union County community and I am looking forward to guiding both agencies through this important transitional period,” Sullivan said, never mentioning the media flack that surfaced when former UCIA executive director Charlotte DeFilippo took a verbal bashing from Tom Neff, head of the Local Finance Board in Trenton.
Neff blasted DeFilippo for her “outrageous” $160,000-a-year job, maintaining he would not approve any further bonding the authority was seeking for projects until the executive director’s salary and benefits were explained and justified. UCIA Attorney Jonathan Williams was in Trenton seeking $18 million in bonding for various projects at Union County College.
Several weeks later DeFilippo resigned as executive director as well as head of the politically powerful county Democratic Party, noting an “unwarranted series of criticisms” threatened the UCIA’s progress in the future. In short order the UCIA announced Assistant Director Mark Brink would step in as interim director until a replacement could be found.
DeFilippo did not attend the Aug. 1 UCIA meeting and, according to information obtained by LocalSource, did not put up a fight for the $150,000 in pay she previously claimed was due to her for unused sick and vacation time. According to sources, she has not received that money.