PATERSON, NJ – Struggling to address its backlog of unfilled potholes, the city has decided to hire an outside contractor to work on the job.

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“This will help us catch up,’’ said Public Works Director Christopher Coke. “Our manpower is real low.’’

The city’s fiscal crisis in the winter of 2011 prompted the public works department to stop the practice of using outside contractors. Instead, the city had been using the depleted ranks of its public works department – which took a heavy hit in last year’s layoffs – to fill the potholes. 

That wasn’t working very well. During the past year-and-a-half, council members and citizens routinely complained about “craters” that they said never seemed to get fixed.

On Tuesday, the City Council will vote whether to award a $39,000 contract for pothole repairs to JAK Construction of Brick. The other bidders were Montana Construction of Lodi, which offered to do the work for $75,500, and Crossroads Pavement Maintenance of Nutley, whose price was $97,670.

Councilman Kenneth Morris said he was concerned about the disparity in the bid prices and wanted to know what assurances the city had that the Brick-based company would do the job well t almost half the price as the next closest bidder.

Coke said public works would have an employee monitoring the work and would require the company to redo any repairs that don’t meet test standards.

Under the contract, the contractor would be required to repair 1,000 square feet of city potholes. Officials were not sure how much of Paterson’s pothole inventory that would cover. In an address to address as many problem areas as possible, the city’s pothole crew would continue doing its work while the private contractor is on the job, officials said.