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DRPA Dispatch: No CEO pay raise until unions get their own; 5th Street Tunnel repairs expedited

Waiting, Tom Petty says, is the hardest part.

Maybe for some, but not for Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) CEO John Hanson, who was all smiles when asked about his still delayed pay increase. A DRPA board vote to bump Hanson’s salary from $180,081 to $219,474 was derailed last month by procedural miscues.

Perhaps politics played a role, too?

“I don’t know anything about that,” said Hanson, dismissing the notion that a hang up approving new union contracts played any part in his own remuneration issues. Hanson also noted that the labor & employment committee, which has to consider and approve changes to the executive compensation, did not meet in February; the committee’s failure to review the pay raise in January led to the full board tabling the matter last month. Doth the CEO protest too much?

Yes, according to DRPA Chairman Ryan Boyer. “We won’t have any executive pay raises unless we all have pay raises,” said Boyer, whose day job is business manager of the Laborers’ District Council of Metropolitan Philadelphia and Vicinity.

Unions representing DRPA employees have worked without a contract for seven years, meaning no pay increases during that period. At Wednesday’s DRPA board meeting, commissioner and IBEW Local 98 Business Manager John Dougherty complained once again about the unions’ lack of contracts.

Boyer told PlanPhilly prior to the Board meeting that the DRPA’s Pennsylvania delegation pushed for the decision to hold off on Hanson’s raise until the unions signed new agreements. Not that the New Jersey representatives are to blame for the lack of union pay raises, said Boyer. Rather, all credit for union negotiation delays should go to Republican governor and now ex-Presidential candidate, Chris Christie. Christie’s predecessor, Democrat Jon Corzine, appointed all of New Jersey’s commissioners on the DRPA board.

New Jersey’s governor gets to review and possibly veto every resolution passed by the DRPA board; Pennsylvania’s General Assembly is currently considering a bill to give the Keystone State’s governor a similar power. While those vetoes are relatively rare, Christie has an infamously antagonistic relationship with public employee unions, and used his veto power in 2010 to block the restoration of some DRPA employee perks.

DRPA representatives held meetings in Trenton last month to discuss the labor negotiations, said Boyer.

“The hurdles they put up weren’t insurmountable. I think we can get around them,” said Boyer.

“We’re in a precarious position,” said Boyer, noting that DRPA employees worked throughout the papal visit with neither a contract nor a work stoppage or slowdown. “This authority has been run in an exemplary fashion,” said Boyer, noting the authority’s improved finances since it ended its controversial economic development spending in 2011.

“To not get some level of autonomy is frustrating.”

Dougherty was also clearly frustrated by the delays, once again calling for new contracts.  Dougherty also lamented the continued disparity in DRPA employment between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

FIXING 5th STREET TUNNEL, INSPECTING BRIDGES

The DRPA board voted to approve an expedited bid to rehabilitate the 5th Street tunnel. Minor repair work had been ongoing when DRPA engineers realized that what they thought would be simple repairs would require substantially more reconstruction.

The increase in scope was a bit too much for a change order, but going through the regular bid process would have kept the tunnel closed during the Fourth of July and Democratic National Convention, said Chief Engineer Mike Venuto. A quick bid process, with JPC Group, Inc. of Blackwood, N.J. winning the contract for $3,352,998, was the compromise. Work is expected to finish by mid-June. The work will include new lighting and improvements to the bike lane, which will be widened, buffered, and protected with delineator posts, said Venuto.

Relatedly, all thirteen PATCO stations now have bike racks located under cover and under camera surveillance.

The DRPA board also approved contracts for the bondholder-required biennial inspection of its assets, i.e. its four bridges and the PATCO line. Contracts ranged from $485,000 to $791,000 on the bridges, awarded to four separate engineering different firms, and $353,000 for PATCO.

The DRPA splits the inspection contracts among firms to ensure fresh eyes examine the bridges every two years – hiring the same firm twice in a row, CEO Hanson explained, would make it less likely that the company would expose mistakes made during the previous examination.  

THE TRANSFER WINDOW IS WIDE OPEN

Kyle Anderson, Director of Corporate Communications, is “on loan” to the Democratic National Convention, said Chairman Boyer. It’s kind of like how LA Galaxy loans Landon Donovan to Everton, only the DRPA won’t get paid millions of British pounds. Instead, they are spending about $25,000 on two public relations firms to fill in while Anderson is on the DNC sabbatical until August.

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