LOWER TOWNSHIP — Township Council — with hopes of saving money and having a local advocate when projects are completed — has hired a township engineer.
George Curvan, 30, a Middle Township native who now lives in Dennis Township, was named to the $70,000 post this week following interviews with six prospects. Curvan went through three interviews before being chosen.
Mayor Mike Beck said any of the six candidates could have been hired but that Curvan stood out.
“You could sense his passion. He wanted this,” Beck said.
The mayor said the move should save money because contracting out for engineering services for each separate project has cost almost $1.2 million over the past four years. Beck, however, said there was another reason to have an in-house engineer.
“He’ll be representing the township and not a firm,” said Beck, a political independent whose slate of independents won the council majority over the Republicans in the November election.
The move may come at a significant time, Beck noted, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is changing coastal flood maps. The process, which actually began before Hurricane Sandy but may take on new significance because of it, could have huge implications in a township fronting the ocean and Delaware Bay with just shy of 10 miles of coastline.
“We have flood problems. There are no if, ands or buts about it. Areas where we have traditional flooding that have elevation problems are a huge problem,” Beck said.
Most of that flooding is on the bayside, and FEMA’s advisory flood maps for that area have not been released.
Beck said duties will include developing a flood-mitigation plan, serving the Planning Board and Zoning Board, inspecting all municipal projects, doing an assessment of all roads, and meeting with builders weekly to review their plans. Beck said one of the first big projects will be the new police building in the Villas section of the township.
Beck said the salary of $70,000, with a $5,000 stipend for not taking health benefits — which he gets through his wife, Alison — will save money.
“We paid $1,158,000 to engineers over the past four years,” Beck said.
That sum includes $950,000 from the budget, with the rest being paid out to engineers but coming from escrow fees builders pay. Those escrow fees, Beck said, will likely be lowered, “saving taxpayers money,” and will now stay with the township instead of going to engineering firms, Beck said.
The township will still bid some engineering work for projects, so the exact savings is not known, but Beck said money will be saved.
Curvan grew up in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township and now lives in South Dennis. He has a civil engineering degree from Rutgers University. He most recently worked with the engineering firm Remington, Vernick & Walberg in Wildwood.
“I’m anxious to get my feet wet and get on engineering issues,” Curvan said.
He said his experience includes a lot of environmental work such as wetlands delineations, along with public works projects, designing roads, streetscapes, water and sewer projects, septic systems, evaluating soils, inspections on infrastructure projects and some planning and zoning board work. He is married with two children.
Neighboring Cape May also discussed hiring its own engineer at a City Council meeting Tuesday. Mayor Ed Mahaney said Upper Township and Brigantine are two other towns that have done it.
“I’m in favor of looking at that concept. It behooves you to look at that service for the benefit of taxpayers,” Mahaney said.
City Manager Bruce MacLeod, however, warned about hidden costs such as providing office space and computer programs. Councilman Jack Wichterman said it is something to do gradually since the city may lose a lot of resources they rely on from having an engineering firm behind them.
“It’s easier said than done,” Wichterman said.
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