By Ron Leir
Now that Kearny has lost its top two administrators of its water utility, town officials concluded they had no choice but to tender day-to-day responsibilities for now to United Water.
Last Tuesday, after hearing a presentation by Chris Riat, senior director of environmental services for the Harrington Park firm, the Town Council voted to award an emergency contract.
The resolution says the contract is “to operate and manage the town’s water system for a minimum of 90 days until a permanent operations and management services agreement can be solicited and awarded.”
United Water, already contracted by Kearny to handle water billing, collection and meter reading services for $344,132, will now get an additional $35,943 for its 90-day contract, plus $9,000 to compile Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs) on the quality of the town’s potable water, and fixed fees for emergency sub-contracted equipment costs, as needed.
That means that if, for example, a water main ruptures in the wee hours or on the weekend and United Water calls in the contractor J. Fletcher Creamer to repair the line, the company will be paid $35.96 an hour for the use of a backhoe and $39.26 an hour for a compressor, as provided under the United Water contract.
As part of its contractual responsibilities, United Water will supervise the remaining water utility staff (two laborers and two clerks) and oversee the water distribution system, daily water flow and pressure, water testing and filing of mandated state reports – all on the strength of being a W-3 licensed water system operator.
Riat said the United Water’s contract price is premised on the assumption that Theodore Ferraioli, water utility’s assistant superintendent, would remain but that was before Kearny received a surprise letter of resignation, effective March 2, from Ferraioli, whose brother Richard retired as the utility’s superintendent, on March 1. Theodore lacks the W-3 utility operator certificate, according to town officials. Theodore’s pay, with longevity, was $99,986 and Richard was making $125,654, according to town finance records.
But Riat told the mayor and council that United Water “can backfill” to cover the assistant superintendent’s job, but said that he wanted to talk to both Theodore and Richard Ferraioli to see if there is a role they could handle within the framework of the agreement.
Councilman Richard Konopka wondered if any legal restrictions would prevent either brother – particularly Richard since he would be drawing a state pension – from working as consultants for the water utility, Mayor Alberto Santos said there wouldn’t because they’d be working for a private company – not the town.
Santos said it was unclear why Theodore Ferraioli was leaving since he has neither the age nor the years of service to qualify for a pension. The mayor added that his letter of resignation gave no reason for his action.
Meanwhile, in other issues, the council:
• Introduced two bond ordinances, one authorizing spending $1.5 million for property acquisition and design/survey related to improvements planned for the Dukes St. stormwater pump station and another providing $600,000 for water utility infrastructure improvements.
• Approved a new schedule of construction code inspection fees targeted at commercial and utility structures. The fees have been stable since 1999, according to Town Administrator Michael Martello.
• Greenlighted a 30- year PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement for builder Ed Russo’s expanded residential development on the north side of Bergen Ave. off Schuyler Ave. that will generate, initially, about $170,000 a year in tax abated revenues for the town.
• Permitted for local eateries to install “vestibules and storm enclosures” at their front entrances to protect their customers against the intrusion of drafts and the cold during the winter season.
• Applied to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – assuming that Congress fully renews its budget – for grant funding to facilitate the hiring of seven more firefighters.
• Got a report from consulting engineer Michael Neglia that he expects to file a design plan for a makeover of the Gunnell Oval recreation complex off Schuyler Ave. by the March 3 deadline. He said the plan calls for elevating the land two feet above the parking lot area, pitching it east so that water will drain into the marsh, building a small pump station to push excess water through a pipe east under the railroad track and a retaining wall along E. Midland Ave. as a buffer for the residential properties there and installing artificial turf, with stone and gravel underneath, as a new playing surface.