By LINDA G. RASTELLI
In a cost-cutting move that Mayor Mike Halfacre says he’s been suggesting for a year, Richard Gardella will become the boroughs engineer and the public works superintendent has been “let go.”
The “most visible example” of the need for a borough engineer, the mayor explains, was friction with its contractor, Earle Asphalt, of Farmingdale, over the height of new curbs downtown.
After an initial paving, the curbs were too shallow, and the council ordered Earle to do the job over. Strict oversight by a borough engineer could have prevented the problem, Halfacre says.
“The curbs just confirmed the direction we were heading in already,” says Halfacre, who is trying to cut costs.
Meanwhile, the now-ex-superintendent, Tom Curcio, had been asking for a raise from his $83,000 salary after two years with the borough, Halfacre says. Instead, the borough will pay Gardella who’s leaving a similar position in Neptune $90,000. He starts Dec. 17.
Curcio’s position will be eliminated because Gardella will now oversee public works in addition to his engineering duties.
Curcio, of Point Pleasant, did not return a phone call from redbankgreen requesting comment.
Engineering is the third largest expense the borough has, after Public Works and police, and Halfacre expects the reorganization to save the borough “well into six figures.
“Having an in-house engineer will be significantly less expensive than having 100 percent of our engineering done by outside firms,” he says. Now, the borough will bid out only the design of projects, and have Gardella supervise and manage them.
The town has been playing musical engineers in the last three years, with three or four different firms serving as the boroughs principal engineer, which has been “not a great experience,” says the mayor.
The borough’s dispute with contractor Earle, meanwhile, appears to be resolved. Earlier this week, Administrator Mary Howell gave a the council favorable report about the repaving and remilling of the streets and curbs in the historic downtown. Earle is handling part of a $516,000 makeover of the sidewalks, street lighting and roadway.
“The [traffic] lines are not straight,” Howell noted, but they are temporary, and the streetlights and crosswalks will be finished within two weeks.
“They did everything we asked, and worked until 2 a.m.,” Howell said of the contractor.
Some of the seams that are now visible, the mayor explained later, will be covered by the application of “tire grip,” a full parking-lane wide covering.