Separate public safety measures aiding humans and animals highlighted Monday’s caucus of the City Council of Jersey City.

For the city’s two-legged creatures, the city’s Department of Health & Human Services, is prescribing a strategy simple as operating a vending machine … without depositing currency.

At the department’s behest, the council is being asked to “initiate a program to dispense certain health testing products that prevent, minimize, mitigate or reduce harm to public health.”

These products – such as Narcan – would be dispensed to the public “from kiosks within Jersey City, free of charge to end users,” according to department staffers.

The city administration proposes to launch a pilot program “by utilizing a single kiosk for a limited time to determine the viability, efficacy, best implementation strategies and estimate costs of a wider program dispensing harm reduction products.”

For now, the council is being asked to solicit informal price quotes from vendors to provide a single kiosk to start the program and, if successful, to expand to a multi-kiosk service via competitive bidding.

While the city doesn’t anticipate receiving annual revenues from the program, it does expect the services “will significantly benefit public health by making harm reduction products more widely accessible to Jersey City residents, especially those currently under-served or of limited means which will prevent and/or mitigate a variety of negative public health outcomes.”

Administrators project that the pilot program utilizing a single kiosk will run “approximately 6 to 7 months.”

Selecting a location for the initial kiosk will be up to Stacey Flanagan, city Health & Human Services director.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Jeremy Jacobsen told city lawmakers that the kiosk system is now in use in Atlanta (where he estimated there were 50 city-wide), Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Atlanta has partnered with the Georgia Department of Public Health and Fulton County Board of Health to set up the dispensaries. Residents aren’t charged for health tests such as COVID-19 but those with insurance are billed through their insurance plans. Test results are provided via text or email within 48 hours, according to local health officials.

To find locations of Georgia-based kiosks, residents are referred to a map available on the state’s Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard.

Jersey City would be the first municipality in New Jersey to experiment with public health kiosks, according to Jacobsen.

Asked by At-large Councilmember Denise Ridley who would be responsible for monitoring the kiosks, Jacobsen said the expected to check on their condition and ensure they are amply stocked.

Ward F Councilmember Frank Gilmore asked if residents’ identify could be traced by using the kiosks, Jacobsen said: “ID is not needed” to access the dispensaries.

Meanwhile, the city got another update on its municipal Animal Shelter which the city took over Jan. 1 from its boss, W. Mark Byrnes, who told the council the shelter was now ready to take on strays from two other communities in Hudson County.

As proposed, Hoboken would pay Jersey City $100,000 for service by animal control officers for at least 12 hours a day, normally during the hours of 7 a.m.-10 p.m. (except on Jersey City holidays), or for emergency service, to aid strays or abandoned animals or sick, injured or trapped dogs or cats, but not “outdoor cats and cat colonies which are being fed by or otherwise cared for ….”

Animal bite investigations “are the responsibility of the municipality’s health officer.”

All animals impounded will be transported to the Jersey City Animal Shelter where staff will try to locate the owner. “Any stray or at-large animals will be available for reclaim to their owner within the 7-day mandatory holding period subject to state-mandated fees and the shelter’s published reclaim fee.”

If the Jersey City shelter accepts care of an animal, it will offer shelter without additional charge for up to 30 days…. However, the shelter “reserves the right to decline to admit or to discharge back to (Hoboken’s) custody animals deemed too dangerous to safely shelter or when … shelter would be inhumane for that animal.”

Guttenberg would pay Jersey City $11,000 under a shared-services agreement under conditions similar to the contracts with East Newark and Hoboken.

Asked by council members how many animals he expected would be taken in by the Jersey City shelter for the year, Byrnes said projecting a yearly-long tally “would really be speculation” because the shelter’s prior operator didn’t provide any documentation.

Ward C Councilmember Richard Boggiano said he and colleague At-large member Amy Degise urged Byrnes and his staff to “take care of the animals, no matter where they come from. We don’t want to see animals suffer.”

Byrnes said he was hoping to strengthen relations with local animal protectors by setting up a “low-cost spay/neuter program for those who can’t afford to fix (their animals).”

At the same time, Byrnes said, he and his staff “are talking about bringing back a foster and volunteer program” for pet lovers who’d like to become “weekend (animal) parents.”

On the local recreation front, the council is being asked to reject the sole bid of $198,500 received April 9 from Aquatic Dynamics, of Mt. Sinai, N.Y., which “substantially exceeded the city’s cost estimate for the provision and installation of a RenoSys PVC membrane system pool liner” at Pavonia/Marion Municipal Pool and to negotiate for a new vendor and price.

And lawmakers will consider an application by The Number Spot, Inc., to operate a retail cannabis dispensary at 539 Martin Luther King Drive in the Jackson Hill Redevelopment Neighborhood Mixed-Use Zone.

The city Planning Board and city Cannabis Control Board have each voted approval for the applicant, Niamah Terry, to retrofit the first floor of a vacant 2-story mixed-use building, with second-floor office space, roof deck and basement for use in cannabis operations.

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...