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Preview of Dec. 18 Town Council Meeting: Proposed capital spending, borrowing and contract to company under investigation

Requests for $3 million in capital spending - $1.7 million in new borrowing and nearly $1 million for improvements of high school athletic facilities, and proposed contract to firm under investigation

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 jkrakoviak@westorange.org. A former financial journalist, in his spare time he’s a business communications consultant.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

wohopeful December 18, 2012 at 09:56 PM
The foolish spending has got to stop. The town council, mayor and board of education members need to stop trreating the taxpayers as though we are their personal ATM machines with umnlimited funds.
Adam Kraemer December 19, 2012 at 12:56 AM
I can figure out how Joe will vote: If the other four vote for this vendor the voters need to remember this and vote them out on the next municipal election.
Mick Erickson December 19, 2012 at 12:56 AM
unfortunately the council has no problem spending our money and they forget how we got screwed by Organon Pharma. What happened to promised jobs, future tax revenues, and resident benefits? We're not much different than towns like Ypsilanti, MI, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/us/how-local-taxpayers-bankroll-corporations.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Raymond Helfrich December 19, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Very interesting! (Now, what happened at the meeting...?)
Gary Englert December 19, 2012 at 08:51 PM
The bond ordnance proposals passed 4-1, with Mr. Krakovia dissenting and the Birdsall contract proposals were tabled, due to the Township Engineer's inability to attend due to illness.
Gary Englert December 19, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Yes, Mr. Kraemer, maintaining recreational facilities used by thousands, repalcing a facility not up to buiding and health code and including ADA required restrooms and maintaining public roads and facilites is preciselyt what the Council is charged with doing. It certainly is not a reason to vote them out of office.
john anthony prignano December 19, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Adam What the Council is charged with doing they are certainly NOT doing around here .After 20 months and 6 public appeals, including one to Councilman Krakoviak who said he would see what he could do , { which was nothing } we have given up trying to get a town tree trimmed.The streets around here are in horrendous shape . Here's a West Orange first: After the December leaf pick- up,there was no follow up street cleaning .Need wet mulch? We have it ! We get six street cleanings a year. When there is heavy snowfall, snowplowing is erratic at best. BUT, we have transparency !
john anthony prignano December 19, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Let's try a transparency question; Can Councilman Krakoviak tell us how much the Township paid out in legal fees { private and Township } in the most recently completed budget cycle.
Joe Krakoviak December 20, 2012 at 03:54 AM
My post on the council meeting is here http://bit.ly/Yn9B4S.
Adam Kraemer December 20, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Joe is right this is stuff that may be nice to have but we don't need: I don't see a $300,000 concession stand as a critical government function. Also we are working with problematic vendors and contractors in building these items. Local government should provide basic public services and basic public infrastructure at a reasonable rate to taxpayers. We are way off that mission. We are do things that we don't need to do. The four other council members are just spending other people's money. Joe is trying to bring the West Orange government back to place were it should be. I am very glad he is working in that regard.
barry_geltzeiler December 20, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Adam it is not a 300K concession stand, its 300K ADA compliant (in which we in arrears) bathrooms that happens to have a spot for concession sales. Your misreprensation of the project is inflammatory and negligent. Lets be real and call the project what it is. An upgrade to the facility to accomadate the handicapped bathroom usage with a concession counter. End of story. Enough drama there are so many more legitimate issues in town than this.

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