BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater Township has looked north for a consultant to manage its sewer fund, and has also voted to expand a local roadway construction endeavor.
The town council voted unanimously May 18 to award a contract to Raftelis, Inc., out of Massachusetts, to provide sewer fund management services for an amount not to exceed $449,850.
It also authorized a change of scope with an increase of $31,600 in a professional services contract with Keller and Kirkpatrick, Inc. in the BWT-6 roadway improvement project.
Council president Howard Norgalis said the sewer fee that town residents currently pay is actually a utility, and not a tax. The current annual fee is $399.
“We’re not adequately recovering our costs,” said Norgalis.
The costs for sewer services are not considered equal, in terms of lavatories or bathrooms used. There is also no distinction made between residential and commercial properties.
Bridgewater Mayor Matthew Moench said there are different way of calculating costs, regardless of usage or number of restrooms, or residential versus commercial. He said officials will ask the company to evaluate how the township apportions its sewer-related costs.
“We’ll see if there’s a better way, a fairer way, to recoup our sewer costs,” said Moench, “and have funding levels necessary to operate, without burdening our residents.”
That includes billing, budgeting and managing sewer fees.
Township administrator Michael Pappas said he had been instructed by Moench to reach out to different firms, and found that this one would be most beneficial to the township. Councilman Michael Kirsh added that it is “one size fits all” at present.
Moench said the fee plan will be comprehensive, perhaps in the future charging something along the lines of $150 to a senior citizen living alone, to over $400 for a family home with multiple bathrooms. He also said that administrators are taking a look “at the whole system, and how we do it.”
Moench also discussed how to bill commercial properties, and said that are were different options to consider “if we want to make changes.”
Norgalis added that some municipalities utilize water bills as a proxy for sewer costs, before the measure was approved by a unanimous vote of the five council members.
The council also increased the scope of the BWT-6 roadway improvement project, to add professional and engineering services, and to include Tullo Road from Washington Valley Road to Mallard Drive, along with the entire length of South Knob.
The change in scope increases the price of the contract from $39,000 to $70,600. It will be funded through the township’s 2019 capital fund.
Norgalis added that the change in the project is about adding additional streets, to continue Tullo Road to its end, while also adding three adjacent streets.
According to the resolution, the expanded scope will include the entire lengths of Valley View Road, Brookdale Drive and Arrowbrook Drive. The improvements are expected to include minor drainage upgrades, curb and sidewalk repairs and the repair or replacement/overlay of pavement.
“It’s a much bigger package,” said Norgalis.
Moench added that Tullo Road stands as the “worst example of a road in need of improvement.”
He also said the resolution is an effort to accomplish the project “in one shot” and not in a piecemeal fashion, including cul de sacs, depending upon pricing. It also allows the township to continue to use the same engineering firm.
“Hopefully we can do this as an entire package this year,” said Moench.
Township attorney Chris Corsini said there will be similar resolutions on coming council agendas. Kirsh added that there was an instance at the previous council meeting of a project bid coming in lower than expected, and wanted to confirm if that was a logical way to look at roadwork.
Moench replied that he is hoping to continue to get lower bids, and to do them as packages.
The mayor added that there is funding approved by the council that is “still sitting there” from 2018 and 2019.
“We’re trying to aggressively get this project done, while still working through 2020 funding,” Moench said.
Councilman Allen Kurdyla had questions about the contract being awarded with no competitive bidding, with the project now almost doubling in cost.
Moench responded that engineering and professional services don’t usually require fair bidding. He added that the township used Keller and Kirkpatrick last year, who said they were familiar with Tullo Road, and that the township was not legally required to go out to bid.
Corsini said the resolution is a statutory check, to “keep it in the public eye,” and reiterated that the engineering firm is already on the job. Kurdyla said he thought it was an odd change, increasing the scope by so much, but also felt it was logical and said he would support it.
The resolution passed unanimously.