Mayor Pasquale Menna last night lit into what he termed a “poison pen” letter to the editor of the Hub by Gene Goellner of Linden Place.

The letter hasn’t yet been published — Goellner tells us it’s slated for to appear this week — but Goellner says he sent Menna a copy as a courtesy.

In it, Goellner criticizes the council for its handling of change orders and unexpected costs arising from the ongoing renovation of the public library, a project that’s been underway for about a year.

In particular, he calls out a comment made by Councilman Art Murphy at a meeting earlier this month.

From the letter, in which Goellner quotes from an article in the Hub.:

Councilman Murphy then adds, “‘I think we need some kind of direction when we do a project like this . . . [t]here’s really nobody over there leading up the project and checking on it.'” Are you people making a new Beavis and Butthead movie with comments like that?

According to the town’s CFO, this project is costing $1.648 MILLION. Why would anyone with an IQ above zero think the best person to oversee such a project is the town librarian? Yet that, by your own admission, is exactly what has been happening.

Download goellnerletter.doc

Menna took umbrage at what he thought was an unfair slap at Murphy, a building contractor by trade, who stepped in to examine the rationale for the unexpected costs and managed to whittle them down by about $5,000 from the amount that had been requested.

Menna said Murphy had volunteered six hours of his time in the effort, and disputed the claim that the project supervision had been left to library director Debbie Griffin-Sadel.

“There was supervision by the architect and by the contractor,” Menna said. “What we did was to put the architect’s and the contractor’s feet to the fire.

“I will take Mr. Goellner on head to head, because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Menna said, adding that the matters addressed in the letter had been discussed at a council meeting that Goellner didn’t attend.

Goellner wasn’t at last night’s meeting, either, but told redbankgreen that he was delighted that his letter had prompted Menna’s challenge.

“I’d be happy to debate this in public with him,” Goellner said. “I disagree with everything he stands for.”

Goellner said he agreed with Murphy’s comment about the need for oversight, adding that the point of the letter was that the call for oversight came near the end of the renovation job instead at the outset.

“They finally decided a year later that they should appoint someone to oversee the project?” Goellner asked. “You think?”

Murphy, though, insisted that the project, while running late, was still within budget. The spending plan called for 20 percent of the bid cost in renovation contingencies, and the job will end up having used only 11 percent, he said.

“I don’t know where the problem of out-of-control spending is,” Murphy said at the meeting. “The letter’s a bunch of malarkey.”

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