Requests for nearly $3 million in capital projects and equipment, including $1.7 million in new borrowing and nearly $1 million for improvements of athletic facilities at the high school, head the agenda for the Dec. 18 West Orange Town Council meeting.
Also for review is a proposed contract to a company under investigation for trying to evade state law on public contracts and political contributions.
The administration has asked the council to approve the award of an environmental services contract, apparently without competition, not to exceed $316,270 to Birdsall Services Group.
The company is under state investigation, apparently for attempts to evade pay-to-play restrictions on public contracts and political contributions. One former executive has pled guilty to the scheme http://bit.ly/Wl0FMZ, while a second former executive was indicted just last week on nine counts of similar charges http://bit.ly/TWYUQm.
The meeting agenda and related material is here http://bit.ly/Ttq8PP.
The administration has requested final council approval for two bond ordinances. The first (Ordinance 2366-12) seeks to reallocate $1,606,799 in previous borrowing for:
- $400,000 to renovate the artificial turf soccer field at the high school
- $200,000 to light the football/track & field facility at the high school
- $350,000 for a new concession stand at the high school
- $200,000 for public works vehicles/equipment
- $200,000 for computers and software
- $56,779 for “improvements to outdoor facilities”
- $200,000 for improvements to the municipal building
This ordinance reflects previous debt issuance, so it doesn’t require adding to our debt level.
The second ordinance (2367) modifies existing authorizations to borrow $1,717,024.44 for:
- $873,824 for road resurfacing for unspecified streets
- $100,000 for Nicholas Avenue improvements
- $600,000 for Mountain Avenue improvements
- $143,201 for the balance for “outdoor facilities” from the other ordinance
Both ordinances were approved on first reading at the Dec. 4 council meeting. They are on the agenda for public comment and final vote at the Dec. 18 meeting.
Birdsall is among the state’s largest recipients of public contracts, an estimated $28.4 million in 2011, and largest political donors, $129,700 last year. The state attorney general raided the company’s offices in May http://bit.ly/UNu0eq, and the chairman abruptly retired last month http://bit.ly/TtqLcm.
The company, including its affiliate PMK Group, has done substantial work for West Orange. The administration wants to hire Birdsall for environmental services on four town sites, including the town’s public works building on Lakeside Avenue, that require investigation and/or remediation for leaking fuel tanks. The resolution, 235-12, says the firm has experience at all four sites. Under state procurement law, contracts for professional services are not required to be competitively bid.
Other items of potential interest on the agenda include:
- A council workshop with the West Orange Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) https://sites.google.com/site/wocert/. The workshop is set for 6 p.m. in council chambers.
- The public hearing and vote on the 2013 budget for the township’s Special Improvement District, which is managed by the Downtown West Orange Alliance. The proposed budget is $240,000.
- Prioritization of projects for the application to the county for Community Development Block Grants.
- Review of proposed 12-month contracts for snow plowing and hauling to three companies that had low bids for various services.
- Review of a proposed extension of a contract for janitorial services to Excellent Building Services for $57,540 for various town buildings.
- Review of three proposed contracts for tree services to Kevin Downs Tree Service and Dujet Tree Experts.
Joe Krakoviak is a West Orange Township Councilman, since 2010. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A former financial journalist, in his spare time he’s a business communications consultant.