Existing water meters are to be replaced with new technology that includes radio transmitters for remote reading, like one already in use on this new house on Oakland Street. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank’s townwide water-meter replacement project, an effort that prompted complaints about unnecessary spending, went from proposal to reality without so much as a peep Wednesday night.
At a semimonthly meeting, the borough council awarded a contract for the work, which calls for replacing some 3,800 residential meters, and hundreds more non-residential devices, with technology that will enable borough officials to get a read on usage without leaving their desks.
There was, it seems, some backstage drama. In a solicitation that attracted four bids, ranging from $1,435,610 to $2,761,582, Lenegan Plumbing and Heating of Ocean City appeared to to be the winner with the lowest price. The company, based in Ocean City, in Cape May County, was listed on the council’s draft agenda as the prospective recipient of the contract.
But the next-lowest entrant, National Metering Services, based in Kearney, cried foul, and after some digging, borough Attorney Jean Cipriani determined that the electrician Lenegan planned to use was not licensed in New Jersey, as required, she told redbankgreen. That disqualified Lenegan, she said.
The council, without a word of comment, awarded the job to National for a sum of $1,586,832.72, or $151,000 more than Lenegan’s bid.
Elected officials have said the new meters are needed because the existing meters are long past their life expectancy, and cannot be repaired or replaced with identical instruments because they’re no longer manufactured.
In a FAQ posted in December, 2014, they also said the new meters would cut down on the amount of water that goes unaccounted and unpaid for.
The project’s most vocal critics among residents were all absent, and no comments on the project were made during the public comment period.
The council had previously authorized the issuance of $1.9 million to cover the project, which also requires the installation of radio technology and computer programs at the public utilities complex on Chestnut Street.
Council President Cindy Burnham, who had previously recused herself from voting on the bond over what was described as a potential conflict of interest — her ex-husband, who pays child support for a daughter who lives with her, works for the company that manufactures the meters — said she did not abstain on Wednesday’s vote because she has “no conflict with who installs.” She is still opposed to the meter purchase, she told redbankgreen.