Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sounding Off: Some questions on ‘going green’

Dear Editor:

I read with interest the many letters to the editor that Dumont residents as well as the candidates themselves have appeared in recent weeks.

While it appears straightforward to read the positions taken by the Kruger/Hakim/Dondero team — agree or not — I have been less than successful in reading the positions taken by the Caspare/Manna/Riquelme team.

While I agree that the incumbents have established a record and history in serving the town, if I may, I have some questions.

The pilot program for alternative fuels ("Alternative Fuels for Thought," Oct. 8) seems impressive and ambitious. However:
  • Regarding the biodiesel pilot for DPW diesel trucks, do Messrs. Manna and Riquelme, in their reserach, realize that the used cooking oil must be filtered, treated and stabilized before blending with diesel fuel, even then, at a maximum 20 percent concentration (B20) from established and reliable sources?
  • Does Mr. Riquelme, with his food management experience, overlook the fact that restaurants now consider their used oil a valuable commodity, worth about $2.50 per gallon just months ago? What is his plan to compensate restaurant owners if the borough is unable to pay for this oil? Does he realize that the grease cannot be stored for long, as oil going rancid renders it unusable, even as a fuel component?

In fact, the "Biodiesel Handling and Use Guidelines" prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy stresses, in part, that "...recycled greases that have not been converted to biodiesel are not biodiesel and should be avoided" due to engine damage at concentrations as low as 10 percent". While adventurous folks have received overwhelmingly positive press with their homebrew converted vehicles, the reality is that using waste fat to power a vehicle remains a hobbyist realm and risky business for municipalities unable or unwilling to add new maintenance tasks to already burdened staff workloads.

  • Regarding the propane pilot for DPW and police vehicles, do Messrs. Manna and Riquelme, in their research, reveal that setting up fueling infrastructure for propane is neither trivial nor cheap?

In "NJ Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Program" guidelines document, stresses, in part, that "Alternative fuels such as...compressed natural gas (CNG), propane...present different safety requirements than gas or diesel fuels. It is strongly recommended that any organization considering the use of alternative fuel vehicles have its vehicle maintenance and repair facilities evaluated to ensure that building systems, including lighting and HVAC, and existing operating procedures, are compatible with the use of gaseous or other fuels."

  • Is it a good idea to convert police vehicles, considering their use in security and life-safety, where even minor decreases in availability and reliability are not tolerated? Just ask our police force to see whether they agree on a tradeoff.
  • Regarding the program in general, have the conversion costs budgeted? Assuming Dumont receives the full rebate, where is the $3,000 per car difference coming from? How about the fueling facility, where only half the costs are rebated and capped at $50,000?
  • Could it be that Messrs. Manna and Riquelme put the cart before the horse? According to the project coordinator for New Jersey Alternative Fuel Rebate program, he seems unable to recall Dumont applying for any rebate programs. Current contracted fuel costs can be found at I find it difficult to find savings in biodiesel over diesel.

While it is laudable that Dumont is launching a green initiative, I challenge Messrs. Manna and Riquelme to scale back, share with adjacent municipalities or find a better way to "go green" without spending a lot of green, as what this pilot program seems to imply upon closer examination.

Switching gears, I am a bit dismayed to read that, in an earlier Sounding Off (Oct. 15, "Candidates cite positive changes"), Messrs. Caspare, Manna and Riquelme strongly object to their challengers’ call for making council meetings available on telecast, citing undisclosed cost and delay, defeating the purpose of such an idea. Could it be that the cost was undisclosed because there are none? There are a number of companies, in the spirit of Google, offering free services that allow live video streaming over the Internet without charge. For example, is cited in the March 31entry of the Dumont High School principal’s personal blog as a way to save money.

  • Have the current council contacted their site contractor Xquizit to see if recorded video streams can be made available as soon as an event ends?

This should be a trivial task to put on the borough Web site. Anything less from the contractor would be a sign of incompetence.


Kai Chen

Agree? Disagree? Discuss on a forum or write a letter.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sounding Off: On C3, agreeing to disagree

Dear Editor:

I thank Mayor McHale for patiently responding to some of my questions regarding C3. I am a little disappointed, however, that he seems more interested in rehashing the Dumont C3 press release and associating me with a council candidate (It’s funny; I am not running for office) rather than refuting my findings should they prove false. To clarify:

  • Where is the value of GIS provided by C3 when Bergen County offers it for free, with a municipal-only area where area residents can also be, quoting Mayor McHale, "geo-coded for targeting purposes via GIS mapping technology" and found at
  • Alluding to the "…possibility of better and improved municipal services," is Mayor McHale tacitly admitting that wireless coverage in the borough could be better? Did the borough squander opportunities in terms of needed revenue and servicing residents’ communications needs by rejecting formal requests from Verizon and T-Mobile in 2007 to provide coverage in Dumont, for Dumont?
  • If the C3 system is now, quoting Mayor McHale, "administered by the borough of Dumont." is it true that the system contract is actually much more than $1,500 monthly, when administration costs included under the old contract must now be performed by borough labor and consequently accounted for? What is this additional cost? Suppose that for three full-time borough administrative staff each spending, on average, 60 minutes per day at $50 overhead hourly rate and 20 days per month, that equals, on average, another $3,000 per month…$4,500 total monthly and $108,000 over the contract term. Yikes!
    Is it true that the borough is left paying a ton of money for some online storage and a license for glorified social networking software?
  • All kidding aside, now that a lot of detailed data is being collected from the 1,000 households participating in Dumont’s C3, submitting municipal service and other borough requests, when will the data be aggregated and compiled into reports used to measure borough performance (akin to a report card), made available on the borough Web site and utilized as a tool for future planning purposes? Similar software packages can generate such reports in minutes. Making this feature available would seem consistent with Mayor McHale’s pledge to " innovative ways and approaches of how the Borough of Dumont can better serve its residents".

While I have no doubt that C3 has some positive merits and is here to stay, frankly I think that the value of C3 remains questionable, given its cost, if only to send subscribers an overnight parking extension message. But that is just my personal view. Perhaps others may agree with the mayor over the course of this exchange. While I continue to challenge Dumont residents to consider our points, research our sources and decide for themselves, I guess I will just have to agree to disagree with Mayor McHale. Isn’t that the American way?


Kai Chen

Agree? Disagree? Discuss on a forum or write a letter.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sounding Off: C3 is more than just a Web site

This letter originally appeared on the October 8, 2008 edition of the Twin-Boro News, Sounding Off section.

Dear Editor:

Last week Mr. Joseph Hakim and Ms. Kai Chen submitted letters regarding Dumont’s newly implemented Citizens Communication Center (C3). I thank them for their concerns and questions.

As the Democratic mayor of Dumont, the free exchange of ideas and opinions is a priority of my administration. Along with my fellow colleagues on the Council, we have worked tirelessly to engage our constituents in the hopes of reaffirming and practicing our collective democratic principles.

Regardless, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to any controversies or implied controversies regarding C3 and the Borough of Dumont.

C3 is more than just a Web site as Mr. Hakim and Ms. Chen have intimated. Dumont’s C3 system is completely administered by the Borough of Dumont, which allows Dumont residents to receive e-mails, text messages, calls to their home and cell phones, updates on borough news, process municipal service requests, register their emergency contacts, refer friends, and provide special needs information, as well as a host of other services solely for and about Dumont.

Dumont’s C3 system is further complemented on the administrative side by managing this information for residents with full GIS capabilities and other important functionality like surveys, polls, content management, frequently asked questions, and by centralizing municipal services requests.

Upon signing up, registrants are geo-coded for targeting purposes via GIS mapping technology so in the event of an emergency, power outage or evacuation, the Borough of Dumont can identify affected individuals.

However, this technology is also helpful for non-emergencies and for the administration of borough services. For example, the recent notification that overnight parking would be extended from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1.

Other important mapping tools further allow the Borough of Dumont to zone alerts to particular sections of town, streets, or for that matter, target an individual property.

This feature is not covered under the County of Bergen’s contract with C3. The County of Bergen’s contract with C3 allows every municipality, so long as the municipality pays for usage, to administer voice messaging only.

The Borough of Dumont has full access to the previously described services, and not just the voice messaging.

The ability to communicate over various types of communicative devices affords the Borough of Dumont and its residents the possibility of better and improved municipal services.

The centralization of advance technological communications provides Dumont’s taxpayers with a value which would have had to been contracted with over five different vendors resulting in a lack of integration and higher cost. We have achieved this service at a monthly rate of $1,500 over a two-year period.

I am most dismayed by both Mr. Hakim and Ms. Chen’s lack of information and am happy to be able to explain further.

Having served as Dumont’s mayor for almost three years, I have made it a point to be available to all constituents, regardless of forum, whether it be meeting in person, answering questions at council meetings, or returning phone or e-mail inquiries, However, neither Mr. Hakim nor Ms. Chen have attempted to contact me.

Their inactions have led me to question their underlying motivations. Both individuals falsely imply facts and furthermore, as in the case of Mr. Hakim, make accusations regarding my and the council’s intent, as well as who owns C3.

As a candidate for council, Mr. Hakim especially should perform his public service by uncovering the facts before making such statements.

To date almost 1,000 household have signed up with the borough for this important and worthwhile service, C3.

I am happy to have an open forum and engage more residents on not only the benefits and attributes but also the new innovative ways and approaches of how the Borough of Dumont can better serve its residents.

I encourage all residents to visit and sign up for this groundbreaking initiative.


Matt McHale