An expenditure of about $215,000 for sewer work does not appear to have been specifically approved by City Council, Northfield Councilman Jim O'Neill said - and he wants to know when it was approved and who approved it.
Mayor Vince Mazzeo, meanwhile, said that the cost has since been negotiated down to about $184,000 and that council was fully informed of the project through engineer's reports.
O'Neill said the project, which involved moving some of the city's existing sewage system out of the way of Atlantic County's ongoing project at Tilton Road, was approved under the auspices of a 2011 "emergency" resolution and was not put out for bids in 2012.
According to the engineer's report, "Last year in October, somebody made the decision on council to approved the project, but I'm not able to find any records to correspond with the bills," O'Neill said. "I can't find anything in the meeting notes. Who approved the project, and who awarded it to the vendor?"
The contract with Weco Construction of Egg Harbor Township refers to a resolution from 2011 that states Weco would handle any type of "emergency" work involving the sewage system, O'Neill said, such as a breakage or sinkhole.
"I do not see how to use that (resolution) for this type of project, without an emergency declared," O'Neill said.
Mazzeo said that Atlantic County conveyed to the city that "time was of the essence" in moving several sewer lines in advance of its own project. Since the city had a contract in place for not only emergency work but general repairs, "perhaps it was decided to go ahead and do the work. .... I don't know who exactly did that, but I believe the council knew exactly what was going on through the engineer reports."
"Could we have gone out to bid on it?" Mazzeo said. "I guess we could have, looking back in retrospect. But I don't think it would have been less expensive."
O'Neill also said the original cost of the project was estimated at about $91,000, less than half of the later invoice for what he said was $215,000. Mazzeo said that engineer Dan Kwapinski originally estimated the work at about $100,000, but when the price came in at about $225,000 he worked with Weco to get the price down to $184,000. All but $20,000 of that has been paid, Mazzeo said.
O'Neill cited a recent meeting at which Councilman Frank Perri, who is in charge of the sewer department, said he was not invited to a meeting about the sewer project. That contention was disputed by Councilman Tim Carew.
"That was a concern of mine, why the department head was not invited to a meeting," O'Neill said.
Perri again said Monday that he was excluded from some of the decisions made prior to the contract being awarded.
"Basically, the situation is that it wasn't an emergency project," Perri said. "We're trying to (determine) the procedure used, because it did not go out to bid."
Carew could not be reached for comment Monday.
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Northfield council meeting
The Northfield City Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Northfield City Hall, 1600 Shore Road.