By LINDA MOSS
The township’s utility official plans to evaluate the physical condition of the municipal parking facilities, including the Crescent and Bay Street decks, and to recommend that the contract for operating the locations be rebid.
Municipal parking, including the North Fullerton Avenue deck, was put under the purview of Gary Obszarny, township director of utilities, last December, adding to his duties overseeing water and sewer services for the municipality. Since then, he has been taking steps to get a handle on the status of the parking facilities.
As part of that effort, Obszarny said, he is looking to establish a regular maintenance schedule for work and repairs at the decks. In addition, Obszarny said he will recommend that the Township Council issue a request-for-proposals for an operator of the parking decks, duties that are currently performed by Propark America, which is based in Hartford, Connecticut.
“Everything has to be revisited,” he said. “Another new pair of eyes, you find a lot of different things.”
His remarks came roughly a week after a resident came to the Township Council meeting to complain that her truck’s windshield sustained minor damage at the Crescent Deck after February’s blizzard. She also questioned the safety at that facility.
In response to the woman’s comments, this week a Propark official denied that there were any safety issues or structural problems at the deck, which is behind Church Street and accessible from South Fullerton Avenue and South Park Street.
In March when the township put out its annual request-for-proposals for firms to provide engineering services for the water bureau and sewer utilities, it also added that inspections would need to be done at the parking decks, according to Obszarny.
“We get professionals in there,” he said. “We evaluate every deck’s existing status. Anything that immediately needs to get done gets done and then we try to get a maintenance schedule and then follow the maintenance on these decks.”
In addition to the structural evaluation of the decks, Obszarny wants the engineering firm to help draft general maintenance agreements for them.
“I don’t have a lot of previous knowledge of what was done [at the decks],” he said. “But really these decks should be on continuous maintenance. Every so many years, this should be done. Every so many years, that should be done. … That’s what we’re looking to do in the very near future, [when] we establish where we’re at with everything. … Because some of the decks are older. I just don’t know if they were properly maintained or not.”
Obszarny also said he is in the process of reviewing the township’s contract with Propark. He said he plans to suggest that the council seek proposals from companies to manage the decks, a process that might allow him to update and revise the township’s current pact with the operator.
“First of all, it hasn’t been done in a while so it needs to be redone,” Obszarny said of Propark’s deal with the municipality. “And I want to add some items to it so I know exactly how the decks are being run. I need some conditions in there … We’re looking for the best bang for the buck for our customers.”
Last week Nancy Feldman addressed the council, saying that she and her husband are apartment dwellers who park their vehicles at the Crescent Deck. She said that on Feb. 10 when she went to get her new 2016 Ford F-150 truck following a snow storm there was a chip in its windshield that she blamed on something falling from the third-floor ceiling.
“This garage is deteriorating,” Feldman told the council. “I park in this garage because I want my vehicle to be safe, and it’s not safe because there’s junk, pieces of cement, coming off of the roof. … Somebody is going to get very hurt in this facility.”
In an interview, Feldman said that when she discovered the chip in her windshield she looked up at the ceiling and saw icicles and chipped cement. Feldman reported the incident to Propark, and filed a police report and an insurance claim.
Feldman said she isn’t sure exactly how her windshield sustained damage while parked in the deck.
“I would have to speculate,” she said. “I don’t know whether it was a piece of cement that fell on it or an icicle that dripped through the crack. But my car was parked for two days in the same spot.”
At last week’s council meeting, Feldman said that a Propark manager also told her the township didn’t have money to repair the deck, a claim that Propark denies.
In addition to the damage to her windshield, Feldman also said that from time to time she has found her truck “covered with these nickel- and dime-sized spots” from drops containing lime that fall from the deck’s concrete ceiling.
Now Feldman said she parks away from seams in the deck’s ceiling, since she has seen rain and melting snow gush through them.
“Some of it was so bad that if you stood under it you’d be drenched in a few seconds, there was so much water coming through … the cracks and the gaps,” she said.
Propark has managed the Crescent deck since it opened in 2005.
“The deck is safe,” said Alex Piech, Propark’s regional manager for New Jersey. “There’s no structural issues within the garage … I know that with this woman there was an issue with her car and she submitted a damage claim to us. Essentially it goes to insurance and goes to process from there. It’s not a major problem by any means. … The deck for being an older deck is actually in very good shape.”
The reason the municipal parking facilities were put under Obszarny’s purview was to provide more managerial oversight, according to Township Mayor Robert Jackson, because local officials are not comfortable with actions being taken on meters, maintaining parking lots and decks, and their fee structures.
“My sense of it is a lot of these problems are due to a lack of regular maintenance,” Jackson said. “If that’s the case, then we’ll have to evaluate the role the Propark plays vis-à-vis the maintenance and if they’re not performing up to par then we have to address it.”
As to any representation that the municipality doesn’t have funds to repair its parking decks, the mayor said, “This council has demonstrated a willingness to invest in infrastructure. So if there are issues at the Crescent Deck, we’ll fix them. But Gary has to tell us what they are.”
In late 2012 the council dissolved the Montclair Parking Authority, allocating its duties and responsibilities to the township.