Santana livid over pump station delays caused by supposed part back order

Public utilities became the unhappy focus of attention at the Feb. 7 meeting of the Kearny governing body.

Second Ward Councilman Peter Santana quizzed David Silva of Neglia Engineering, the Lyndhurst-based consulting engineers for the town, at length about why the anticipated opening of the Harrison Avenue pump station was, once again, being delayed.

Silva replied that a “necessary item, a piece of electronics” containing the on-off switch for the pump, “was on back order” with delivery anticipated by July and that information “I just received today.”

What he described as a “possible substitute” item could be ordered instead and that part could arrive by April, Silva said.

A bit later, a clearly annoyed Santana complained: “For every single meeting, we’ve been assured that (the Harrison Avenue pump job) was still on schedule.” Now, to learn at a time when long-suffering residents of Sanford Avenue and the surrounding flood-prone area had expected to see some relief, they are met with yet another delay, he said.

“This is unacceptable,” the lawmaker said.

Addressing the Neglia representative, Santana said: “You guys are the project manager and you should be checking on (equipment) orders.” He then appealed to Mayor Alberto G. Santos to “enforce” what he understood to be the engineers’ responsibility to ensure that “all orders are made”in a timely fashion.

Santos said there are “target dates” built into a town’s agreement with a contractor and, addressing Silva, added, “You’re our warning system,” to provide advance notice of a project delay, “not on the eve of a groundbreaking.”

When Fourth Ward Councilman Gerald Ficeto asked if the town could go after a contractor for failing to make good on a promised completion date, Santos said: “The law makes it extremely difficult to penalize a contractor” for missing a due date.

Still, Santana pressed for a more assertive response by the town.

“We’ve been through COVID — all we hear is, ‘Oh, it’s on back order.’” If there’s a specified timeline on a project, he said, the town should have a mechanism to deal with that.

While not committing to pursue an enforcement mechanism, Santos directed Town Administrator Stephen Marks to get copies of the invoice and purchase order for the delayed part, along with the dated written notice from the contractor advising that the part wasn’t available.

The mayor didn’t say what, if anything, would happen after town officials reviewed those records.

Later, Santana said he wanted the contractor and Neglia to make sure if they do get a substitute part, “I don’t want an inferior quality product and they’re in agreement about that.”

 Santos, meanwhile, expressed impatience with another utilities project involving PSEG replacing light poles along Passaic Avenue. Silva said Public Service was supposed to have crews working last Friday but they were tied up with an emergency elsewhere and had provided no return date.

When they do return, Silva said, it will probably take “six to eight weeks” for PSEG, in tandem with Verizon, to set up new poles, re-wire them and take down the old poles.

Reporting on the status of the mandated replacement of water service lead lines, Silva said the contractor hired by Kearny has finished digging 365 of 529 outside water meter pits to check for possible lead piping and is currently working in the Manor section.  Santos called for more coverage in the town’s southern portion, such as Paterson and Devon streets and Woodland Avenue.

First Ward Councilman George Zapata and Third Ward Councilwoman Eileen Eckel recommended the contractor check the test pits for loose gravel in areas where children are playing to protect against the town’s liability.

Silva replied: “we have experienced some settling and we’ve had the contractor making sweeps to check along Woodland and other streets.”


In other business, the mayor and council agreed to create the position of Class 3 Special Law Enforcement Officer to be assigned to Kearny High School and to be paid by the Board of Education, establish an “all-way stop” at Davis and Garfield avenues and introduce an ordinance amending the Passaic Avenue Redevelopment Plan to permit a “bakery restaurant with accessory drive-through” as a condition use in the commercial center district.

That intersection has seen its share of horrific incidents, including one where a duo riding a bike failed to stop at Davis traveling east on Garfield, going in front of a mini-van and flying into high into the air and onto the pavement. Somehow, though neither teen was wearing a helmet, they both only sustained minor injuries in what could have a much worse outcome.

The retail establishment has been proposed for the inland mall on the east side of Passaic Avenue where a national clothing retailer has opened on the site of former Modell’s shop. Another national retailer —Target — offering food and general merchandise is coming to the mall on the river side of Passaic Avenue.

As a follow-up to a prior mayor/council discussion of a consultant’s report on a resident parking permit program for the town, Santos called on council members to convene “within the next month” ward-specific public sessions to collect responses to the proposal from their constituents.

After that, the mayor said the town would conduct a Town Hall meeting to prepare a draft plan that will be formulated as a town ordinance to be voted on by the governing body.

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Ron Leir | For The Observer

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc.

He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter.

He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York