RED BANK: TREES BOOST TAB FOR ROADWORK

The work to preserve trees on Hudson Avenue included bumping out curbs and extending driveway aprons. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Mid-project changes to preserve trees helped boost the tab for road work in Red Bank by more than $227,000 to this summer, officials said.

And the added expenses came in one penny below the threshold at which the entire $1.14 million project would have had to be re-bid.

Hudson Avenue, seen shortly after completion of the repaving job on July 16. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

At its August 18 meeting, the council passed a resolution that would pay Fiore Paving Company of Oceanport an additional $227,559.48 for “various unanticipated circumstances” related to the Hudson Avenue resurfacing work done in July, as well as a smattering of other jobs.

Fiore won the repaving contract a year ago with a $1.14 million bid that beat out eight contenders.

Acting Business Administrator Darren McConnell told the council that most of the extra cost reflected changes to save trees on Hudson Avenue, which the borough Shade Tree Committee and residents “didn’t want removed.”

The work involved moving the curb line away from the trees along the entire length of the block between East Bergen Place and Harding Road to avoid it “zig-zagging,” McConnell said. Modifications to driveway aprons were also necessitated.

That “substantially increased the amount of concrete work that had to be done,” said McConnell, who is also the borough’s police chief.

The tab also included higher expenses for asphalt, fuel, topsoil and grass restoration, as well as costs for additional days for police traffic and protection maintenance, according to a list McConnell provided to redbankgreen. The list does not break down costs by item.

Costs for other projects in town also contributed to the higher tab, McConnell said. They included the removal of buried stumps at the First Aid building on Spring Street, and additional paving and base repair on “deteriorating” portions of Mohawk Lane and Henry Street, he said.

Councilman Michael Ballard questioned the added spending and abstained on the vote to approve the change order.

“The whole change is significant in its scope and in its price,” he said, and questioned why work under the changes had not been foreseen.

“It was unanticipated that the Shade Tree Committee and the residents did not want to lose those trees,” McConnell said, “so we made an adjustment in the field.”

Addressing questions by Ballard about why the added work was not put out to bid, McConnell said sixty percent of the cost was attributable to work Fiore was “already doing,” making it impractical to bring in a new contractor.

“That doesn’t sound right,” said Ballard. “It sounds like we gave them a lot of extra work, and nobody gets to bid on that.”

Shade Tree Committee chairwoman Remedios Quiroz told redbankgreen last week that the advisory body “supports the extension of the curb into the roadway on Hudson Ave to preserve existing trees, especially the big ones.”

She cited four London Planetrees between 28 and 39 inches in diameter at breast height, and two Pin Oaks of 34 inches in diameter, that were retained as a result of the extension.

“The other trees of various species on Hudson Ave, although not yet as big as the ones I listed, will benefit from the widening of the planting strip,” Quiroz said via email. (The committee maintains an online inventory of trees on streets and in parks.)

“We listen to our residents about trees,” said Councilwoman Kathy Horgan. “We want our residents to be happy. And quite frankly, in life, stuff happens. A lot of things happen which we don’t expect.

“Yeah, we worry about money, but sometimes, stuff does happen,” she added.

“Those types of changes post-award are not uncommon as they come up ‘in the field’ and must be accounted for,” McConnell told redbankgreen.

Because the change order added less than 20 percent to the original bid, the contract did not have to be re-bid, said borough Attorney Greg Cannon.

The added costs were one cent below the threshold at which the changes would have exceeded 20 percent.

Asked if that was common, in municipal contracting, McConnell told redbankgreen, “I would not say that it is typical or common.”

Fiore, he said, did not have to eat other costs to avoid triggering a re-bid. The company did not respond to an inquiry sent Monday.