Trenton (10672MF), New Jersey, the capital of the third-wealthiest U.S. state, is restocking toilet tissue without resolving a City Hall feud spurred by spending on paper cups that left police to fend for themselves when nature called.
As the City Council took up the issue yesterday, Trenton officials said they made an emergency purchase to restock public buildings with paper goods. Staff restrooms at police headquarters ran out of tissue, according to a union chief.
A spat erupted between the council and Mayor Tony Mack in November when he included $4,000 for paper cups in a $42,000 purchase order. Councilman George Muschal said he and other members grew concerned that the price for the containers was inflated, possibly because employees were taking goods home. As the standoff went unresolved, supplies of paper goods dwindled.
“Everything has been solved and the departments will all have paper,” according to Marchelle Marshall, the acting purchasing director in City Hall. “This emergency supply will be enough to carry us through until we can re-bid.”
About $16,000 was spent on paper towels, toilet paper and other restroom supplies yesterday, Marshall said in an interview. She told the council that the resolution authorizing a purchase had expired.
By March 12, the reserve of toilet tissue had fallen to 11 rolls for 15 city facilities, such as five senior centers, four for recreation, two museums and police and fire headquarters.
“There’s probably a good 60 people or so who work in this building who, unless they bring their own private stock, are out of luck,” George Dzurkoc, president of the police union, said by telephone from the department’s headquarters. “It’s a basic necessity the employer should provide.”
Beat officers were taking advantage of restrooms in local businesses, including a downtown hotel, until headquarters restrooms were restocked, Dzurkoc said. The building has been without paper towels for at least three weeks, he said.
“We’ve become a city of diminishing standards,” Michael A. Walker, 44, a Lamberton Street resident, told council members at the meeting during a public comment period. “Now Trenton isn’t just known as a dangerous city -- it’s known as a dangerous city that’s devoid of toilet paper.”
Trenton may seek new bids in the next few weeks and may evaluate another round of bids as soon as April 18, Marshall said.
The tissue shortage has drawn global interest as news organizations including the British Broadcasting Corp.’s BBC covered the situation. Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals offered the city a free six-month supply of toilet tissue provided it accept rolls with a message imploring people to give up consuming animal products.
“We’re always on the lookout for ways we can help cities in need and raise awareness,” Alicia Woempner, a project director at the group also known as PETA, said in an interview.
Mack accepted the offer for a six-month supply of tissue and agreed to talk with representatives of the group, according to a statement sent by Lauren Ira, a Mack spokeswoman. He also accepted an offer from Dyson Inc. for 15 blow-driers to replace paper towels in restrooms.
The City Hall dispute echoed a 2010 threat by Newark Mayor Cory Booker to stop buying “everything from printer paper to toilet paper” in the state’s biggest city by population. Booker never took those steps, while Marcal Manufacturing LLC offered to park a trailer near City Hall to provide free toilet paper.
Mack took office in July 2010 and the city has gone through at least six business administrators and has been sued twice by whistle-blowers, including a parks department employee who said he was fired for questioning Mack’s bidding and hiring practices.
New Jersey’s per capita income of $51,167 in 2010 ranked it third among states after Connecticut, at $54,877, and Massachusetts, at $51,302, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
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