Concerns and thoughts about city’s $52.M water project

Dear Editor:

The City’s upcoming water main replacement project presents an opportunity to move away from the patronage centered procurement model currently in use and towards a value oriented, taxpayer centered procurement model. Procurement and patronage have always gone hand in hand. The problem is worsened by two key facts. First, the public has very low expectations regarding the contracting process in Hoboken so when projects fail to live up to standards or cost millions more than they should nobody is surprised or outraged. Second, the small web of well-connected contractors has a near complete monopoly on the city’s business. This web of contractors through, their political connections and campaign donations, have completely subverted the procurement process, locking out competition and artificially inflating prices.

As such I am challenging the city to do the following: 1. Commit to getting 7.44 miles of water main (20 percent more than originally planned) replaced with the current budget of 5.2 million dollars. 2. Commit to creating a through warrantee document that requires the contractor selected to stand behind their work. Too often shoddy work is rewarded by follow up contracts to make shoddy repairs to the original work. If the contractors get paid to fix their poor work, they have an incentive to be careless. 3. Commit to fully separating the development of the scope of the project and creation of the bid documents from the companies bidding. If T&M Engineering creates a bid document or a design document, it is very likely the requirements of that document will be tailored to give T&M Construction and advantage. This artificial advantage increases costs without increasing the value of the project to the taxpayer. 4. Commit to getting bids from firms based out of state. It is critical that the city has the choice to circumvent the small web of connected contractors that have complete control over the current contracting process. 5. Commit to getting bids from Union and Non-Union contractors. They city should buy based on value rather than trying to reward the Unions who have donated to the politicians at election time. 6. Commit to getting bids from true small businesses- not sham small businesses who share beneficial owners with the large construction firms. 7. Commit to finding alternatives to placing a police officer at every construction site. Putting an officer at the site generates huge amounts of expensive overtime. That expense is built into the bid increasing costs to the taxpayer. Police officers are well trained. Standing around a construction site is not a good use of their training. 8. Commit to not paying a dollar until the project is completely finished to the satisfaction of the city.

We need the work to be done correctly and we need the work to be done in a timely manner. Paying when the work is complete will create an incentive for work to be done quickly and completely. Penalties for delay in the contracting documents will re-enforce this incentive. Finally, I am challenging the city to use funds from bonds and grants with greater care.

We will have to pay back bonds- it is not like finding money on the street. State and federal grants come from state and federal tax dollars, our tax dollars. Grant money should be spent judiciously, giving the most important projects top priority. I was really disappointed by the choice to spend so much money putting down cobble stones on Newark Street when the funds could have been used for more critical projects.

Paul Lichstein

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