BELMAR, NJ — Nearly a year after the Lake Como stormwater outfall pipeline was deemed complete, the drainage improvement project has hit more turbulence on several new fronts.
While the project’s lead construction company is suing the borough, claiming it is still owed at least $345,000 under its original $4.3 million contract, it recently was discovered that a construction or design defect has been found in the underground 700-foot pipeline that now extends from Lake Como under Ocean Avenue to the ocean.
Aimed to protect the flood-prone area of surrounding residential neighborhoods during heavy rains, the project was funded through a $6.2 million grant in Superstorm Sandy relief aid from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in May 2015.
Although Belmar Business Administrator Edward Kirschenbaum said did not offer details on the pipeline’s flaw, he expects to meet next week with all involved parties—“to have some semblance of order to get it fixed” — since no one is taking responsibility for it.
Both new developments come several months after the state Attorney General’s Office notified Belmar that due to noncompliance with federal bidding rules, it will not be reimbursed $600,000 in professional services fees paid to Maser Consulting. The Red Bank-based engineering firm was found by state and federal officials to be ineligible to bid on the project because it had performed preliminary engineering studies and other work for Belmar in preparation for submitting the application for the HUD-funded project.
And on top of that, Maser, which is no longer involved in the project, is seeking payment of another $200,000 in change orders for its work on the project.
As Belmar Borough Attorney Jerry Dasti summed it up during the borough council’s May 21 meeting, “We’re still trying to get through the weeds on all these things.”
During the meeting, Daisti announced that J.E. Hannon, trading as Bird Construction — the Bayville-based marine construction company hired for the outfall project — filed a Superior Court lawsuit in Monmouth County, seeking payment on a host of change orders and other charges that were to be handled by Maser as the project’s engineering firm..
In the complaint filed by Mitchell Taraschi of the Roseland-based law firm Connell, Foley, Hannon maintains the borough has ignored its requests for payment and has breached its contract for failing to pay for supplemental work.
Meanwhile, borough officials currently are in talks with state and federal officials over whether the borough can take any retroactive action that may bring them into compliance — or satisfy federal requirements — that would allow it to receive the $600,000 reimbursement on the project.
The borough is in the process of hiring a new engineer, as it is accepting “requests for qualifications” through June 21 when all requests will be opened as part of the selection process.
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