At the May 12th Town Council meeting, the public first learned about significant delays and cost overruns which would potentially require Berkeley Heights to seek an additional $2M to complete the Municipal Complex project. During the July 21st Town Council meeting, an ordinance was introduced seeking to secure an additional $3.5M in funds—almost double what was communicated, just a few meetings ago.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
- Municipal Complex project was underway only a few months prior to the arrival of the newly elected Mayor and Democrat council members (new Administration).
- In February 2019, contaminated soils were discovered (17 months ago).
- Throughout 2019 and the beginning of 2020, more than eleven Municipal Complex updates were given with no mention of the impact of the soil contamination. (links to articles below)
- The Township Administrator (former campaign manager for our Democratic Mayor and council members), who is responsible for managing the project has extensive experience as a political writer and marketing professional, but lacks experience in engineering, construction or project management.
- The new Administration has been in full control of ALL DECISIONS regarding the Township, including the Municipal Complex project, since January 1, 2019 (close to two years).
- In 2018, as candidates for office, we heard, “we can do it better”, “we will provide strict oversight and management to bring costs down” and “we will prevent any additional cost overruns” from the new Administration. (links to flyers below)
- In 2018, residents voted to remove an engineer with construction and project management experience, and a finance project manager and replaced them with a keyboard clerk and a sales manager.
In my opinion, residents of Berkeley Heights are not being provided with full transparency from the new Administration. They’ve put too much trust in the experts and provided little, if any, oversight and direct management of the project. It’s simply not acceptable for the largest project Berkeley Heights has and will ever undergo to hand the keys over to the experts. In 2018 their entire campaign was driven on the Municipal Complex project but yet it appears they’ve taken no ownership of the project. In the revised budget, presented on July 21, 2020, an additional $800,000 is being spent on consultant (the experts) costs. The new Administration has a blind allegiance to the experts because we now have representation that is ill-equipped to manage or ask the questions needed to get the project completed.
As a leader in project management I do not make excuses. Leaders do not shift blame. Leaders do not let others speak for them. They wanted to manage the project and said they could do it better. Were they naive? Either way they are now close to two years into this project, $3.5 million over budget, greater than seven months behind, and THEY OWN IT.
Links to 2018 Campaign Flyers
Links to Municipal Complex Updates
Editor's Note: Jeff Varnerin is the Republican nominee running for Berkeley Heights Township Council in the November 3, 2020 General Election.