BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Township officials have decided to proceed with its decision to use an outside engineering consulting firm, rather than hiring an in-house engineer, and have bumped up the stipend by $100,000.
When former township engineer Kim Craft resigned in May 2018 in order to work for the city of Hoboken, the council decided to try a consulting firm to speed up the hiring process in a town that is in constant need of engineering services, and as a cost saving measure.
Neglia Engineering was hired in June 2018 for a period of one year at a cost of not more than $150,000.
On June 25, after going out to bid, the mayor and council approved another year-long contract for Neglia — this time for payments up to $250,000. The vote was 4-3 in favor, with Mayor Robert Jackson, Councilmen Rich McMahon and Sean Spiller, and Councilwoman Renee Baskerville voting yes, while Councilmen Bill Hurlock and Bob Russo and Councilwoman Schlager voted against.
Township manager Tim Stafford said the increase in budget was due to the expectation for more work with township-wide curbing and paving projects, parks remediations planned through Green Acres funding, and the construction of the Midtown parking deck.
In 2018, the township paid Neglia $48,523. This year so far, Neglia has been paid $98,303, according to township officials.
The township engineer is responsible for design and construction management for capital improvements to township streets — including curbs, paving and drainage/storm sewers — and parks.
Other responsibilities include permitting and inspections for road openings and construction of sidewalk, curb and driveway aprons; maintenance of the official street map; and assistance to residents with engineering-related matters.
The township went out to bid for the engineering services with six firms responding.
In addition to Neglia, other companies to put in bids with the township were T&M Associates, Suburban Consulting Engineers, Bright View Engineering, CME Associates and CP Professional Services.
Councilwoman Robin Schlager however questioned why the township would rehire Neglia when its hourly rates were higher than the other firms.
“I don’t think that’s factual,” said Mayor Robert Jackson.
Schlager pointed to a chart compiled by Stafford that had most of Neglia’s services at the higher end of the hourly rate compared to the other five companies. Stafford said that 90 percent of the work is performed by a Neglia engineer assistant at $99 an hour, which was the lowest rate of the bidders. The senior project engineers ranged from $135 to $179, with Neglia being one of the higher rates. Only Neglia listed an engineer assistant; most of the companies had listed specialized techs ranging in rates from $85 to $168.
With the hiring of an outside firm, accessibility has been the main concern for the governing body. Stafford said that a Neglia representative is in town about three days a week, both in the office and out in the field.
“We would need two people to replace them,” said Stafford, adding that when specialized engineering services are needed, Neglia offers a broad spectrum of specialized engineers on its staff.
In 2017, the township paid $146,496 in engineering salaries and wages. In 2018, those salaries were budgeted at $153,121, but paid out $118,121.
Councilwoman Renee Baskerville has been a proponent of bringing back a full time, in-house engineer, contending she has had a hard time making appointments with Neglia. When she has been able to, she said, she felt they didn’t send the most experienced person for the problem.
The mayor however, complimented Neglia’s work, especially with in rectifying the drainage issues at Edgemont Memorial Park.