September 12, 2012

Township Debates Transition Finances

The question of whether or not to hire a construction manager “for a sum not to exceed $129,504” to oversee remaining consolidation operations, and whether or not to approve a professional services agreement with a cap of $107,290 to pay KSS Architects for “Phase II-Task 2” work on consolidation, generated heated discussion at Monday night’s Township Committee meeting.

The professional services agreement was ultimately approved, while the question of hiring a construction manager was tabled until the next joint meeting.

“I’m begging you,” Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi finally said to Township Committee after defending the need for the approval of both motions С particularly the KSS payment. Mr. Bruschi will be the administrator of new single municipality created by consolidation.

Township Mayor Chad Goerner, who was firmly on the side of not hiring a construction manager and had doubts about the KSS contract, pointed out that the two expenditures had not been discussed earlier. He counseled “caution” in moving ahead.

Citing a “tight time frame,” Mr. Bruschi responded that the recommendation had come from the Transition Task Force’s Facilities Subcommittee in the hope that the Borough and the Township would “run with it.”

Acknowledging that a conversation at an earlier meeting seemed to point toward not hiring a construction manager, Mr. Bruschi noted that the extent of the work that remains to be done was not known at that point. “It’s not something that we have the capability of doing in-house,” he observed. Township Engineer Bob Kiser concurred, saying that a construction manager with the right contacts is needed “if we’re going to fast track this project.”

Mr. Goerner said that he was “not convinced that we need to fast track” consolidation. He described the costs in question as “high,” and suggested that the work might not be complete by January 1, 2013, anyway. Mr. Bruschi agreed that consolidation would not be completed by that date, but suggested that that didn’t preclude “doing the project correctly” and expediting it as much as possible in order to minimize disruption. He pointed out that “$120,000” was not that significant in the context of an operation that will cost an estimated $60 million, and that “savings will only come if we have the right design.”

“I’ve never met a delay that saved us money,” observed Councilwoman Sue Nemeth, expressing concern about services like police, administration, and Corner House, that might be impacted “if we did delay.”

“We need to be cognizant” of what transition-related expenditures are costing, responded Mr. Goerner. He suggested keeping “an eye on individual expenditures” that may be occurring without the approval of the two governing bodies, and proposed that the decision be tabled until the next joint meeting. Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert suggested that in the future, potential expenditures should be presented first to the Finance Committee.

Facilities subcommittee chair Bernie Miller, who said that he has also continued to work informally with staff preparing for consolidation, emphasized that the two motions in question related to “two very distinct tasks.”

He pointed out that KSS is being asked to develop detailed drawings and specifications, while a construction manager would “coordinate the movement of many people in many departments with minimal disruption,” working, for example, on evenings and weekends. Mr. Miller’s motion to approve the resolution for outside construction management was not seconded.

Acting Township Administrator Kathy Monzo, who will be the CFO of the new municipality said that she “was surprised” at the contract amounts, but recognized that “this isn’t a simple move. Nothing is extravagant in there; they’re really just functional changes.” When Township Engineer Bob Kiser pointed out that the governing bodies do not have cost estimates for the conceptual plans, Ms. Monzo wondered why this couldn’t be done in-house, as it would be done for any other project.

Mr. Goerner cast the only “no” in the final vote to approve the professional services agreement with KSS Architects.

There was unanimity, however, in Township’s approval of a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Decision, giving “personhood” to corporations, allowing them to donate to political campaigns as individuals.