BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater Township Council approved a pair of resolutions to hire special legal counsel to assist the township’s own attorneys with certain matters related to the municipal government transition that will take place at the beginning of the new calendar year.
The council voted unanimously Dec. 5 to appoint attorney Michael Collins of Archer Law out of Red Bank, and attorney Mark Peck of Florio, Perucci, Steinhardt and Capelli out of Phillipsburg. Both resolutions passed by a 4-0 vote of the council.
Some residents voiced concerns with the attorney resolutions before they were ratified.
Resident Jeffrey Brookner asked if the attorneys in question would be paid by the township, and said he "didn’t think it was appropriate.” Resident Cathy Franco called hiring the two attorneys to assist with the transition “overkill," and said she believed that, by her own research, the attorneys could cost anywhere from $135 an hour to as much as $430 an hour.
Franco asked if there was a not-to-exceed threshold established on costs. She also asked if the contracts had gone out for bid.
Council president Matthew Moench, who won the general election in November and will be sworn in as Bridgewater’s new mayor Jan. 1, said the attorneys involved would be paid $165 per hour, to a maximum cost of $10,000. In response to public concerns, he said they were not fair and open contracts, as the township attorney is also the director of the township’s department of law.
Moench added that the Perucci firm is also currently the township’s labor counsel, and that the Archer firm deals with regulatory matters. He said it had been the recommendation of the township attorney to employ the two firms, to hire the “right personnel.”
Councilwoman Christine Henderson Rose said she wanted to edit the resolution to contain the costs, to which Moench replied that it was the current rate for labor counsel. Councilman Filipe Pedroso said he supported the hiring of independent counsel, if the town’s own attorneys required assistance, particularly counsel that had expertise in specific areas.
Also regarding resolutions passed, the council approved one to authorize the solicitation of bids for a traffic engineer who would conduct a study that would determine the need for traffic improvements along the Route 202/206 corridor in Bridgewater. Brookner said prior to the resolution’s passage that it was "a great idea,” and he wished it had been done earlier, with the township planning board.
Moench said a study of the Route 202/206 corridor had been accomplished back in 1983, to establish a four-lane roadway.
“It’s certainly time to update the study,” he said.
He said the traffic engineer would not be a litigation-type expert who would testify before boards, but more of an individual who would solicit bids.