Council Considers Clark Pool Concession Bids

Councilman Bill Smith, second from left, discussed the two bids received for the Clark Pool concession stand contract. Credits: Susan R. Bonnell
Members of the council listen to Business Adminstator John Laezza's explanation of the ground water monitoring well ordinance. Credits: Susan R. Bonnell

CLARK, NJ – Two competitive bids received for the Clark Pool concession contract were a hot topic during Monday night’s council workshop meeting.

As reported last week, the council had discussed the two submitted bids at their February workshop meeting.  One bid, submitted by the pool’s previous concession vendor, would pay the township approximately $7600 while the other bid would bring in approximately $11,000.

There were concerns at February’s meeting that the vendor with the higher bid had not visited the site nor could their menu be accommodated within the size and equipment constraints of the facility.

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Business Administrator John Laezza explained that the low bidder has since submitted a formal complaint to the township, challenging the high bid as it did not meet all the qualifications of the bid specification.  This complaint was sent to the township’s attorney, Joseph J. Triarsi (Triarsi, Betancourt, & Wukovits, LLC), for review, Laezza said.

Triarsi reviewed the specification and complaint and made a determination that was read Monday night by his associate, Howard Lesnik. 

“The specifications authorize the pool utility to waive any informality …. that is not detrimental to the best interest of the township,” Lesnik read. He explained that in this case, the council in its authority as the pool utility, could waive the concern that the high bidder had not done a site visit if they felt it was not detrimental.

“We investigated all the references of the high bidder,” Laezza said.  “He meets all the criteria and qualifications.  He was inspected by our health officer.  His menu is the same as the original menu.”

Councilman Bill Smith, who serves as the council's recreation department liaison, said the previous vendor, who also submitted the lower bid, has run the concession stand without issue over the last three years.

“The pool advisory board was very happy with them," Smith said.  "The management was happy with the current company.  We had all intents and purposes to continue going forward until the bid went out and we received the other bid.  Now it’s in our hands to decide what to do with it.”

Smith went on to say that everything that has been offered in the past will still be available on the menu submitted by the higher bidder.

“I have to make the right decision for the taxpayers,” said Smith.  “And it’s a significant sum of money.” Smith recommended the council move forward with the higher bid. 

Councilman Brian Toal offered a motion to put the contract out to bid again, but his motion did not receive a second.

Laezza said the downside of going to bid for a second time is that the high bidder could come down, ultimately giving the township less income from the contract.

Chris Pandolfo and his wife Andrea Nocks, the pool’s concession vendors for the past three years, were in attendance Monday evening and spoke to the council during public comments.  Pandolfo said that before they began running the concessions for the pool, the pool may have had only two or three parties each season. 

“Now some weekends they are having 2, 3, 4, 5 parties; that may be 30, 40, 60 people, a majority of which are not pool members.  So, that’s pool fees,” Pandolfo said.  “And they specifically account that to the way that we run the stand and how easy we make the food and the setup.  I don’t think you are going to gather the same experience from the higher bidder.”

“I think there’s more to consider than $4000,” Nocks added.

“It’s not a matter of the quality of work that you did or additional revenue that we made,” Council President Angel Albanese said.  “We went out to bid in a fair and open process.  And by law we are bound by the requirements to accept a certain bid unless there was some error.” 

The council moved to accept the higher bid for the concession contract.  The council will hold its final vote on the matter at its March 20 public council meeting.

In a subsequent Letter to the Editor, Pandolfo outlined his position and asked for public support before the council makes its final vote. 

At the March 20 meeting, the council will also vote on a proposed ordinance to amend and supplement Chapter 310 of the township’s code entitled “Streets and Sidewalks.”  Laezza explained that the amendments are to include the definition of monitoring wells as well as the permit process and responsibility that is included with placing them.  Monitoring wells are used to monitor the quality of groundwater and detect any seepage of contaminants.

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