Council Grapples with Budget Overruns and Delays in Turf Replacement Project

In a special meeting held on June 23, 2023, the Elmwood Park Council wrestled with escalating costs and delays surrounding a critical turf replacement project, raising eyebrows among residents. With bids for the project exceeding the budget, the focus is now on finding a viable fiscal solution.

The council, composed of Mayor Coletti, Council President Balisiri, and Council Members Dennis, Fasolo, Pellegrine, and Sheridan, with Council Member Golapek absent, had to withdraw a resolution intended for the session. Borough Engineer, Tom Le Manowitz, stated the decision stemmed from the high bids. He elaborated, “the total came out higher than the budget. I didn’t spend time going into it until the borough decides what they’re going to do.”

The turf project became the hot topic during the public comments section of the meeting. Resident Jeffrey Fry Tech expressed concern over the inflated bids and the possibility of delays pushing the project into the winter season. He also inquired about negotiating the bids if they remained high after a second round, to which Le Manowitz admitted such provisions existed, though rarely used.

Another resident, Vicki, lamented over the repeated delays and questioned the council’s handling of the bidding process. “What was communicated is that the project was going to be starting very soon… so curious to know what this bidding process had to do with months ago when we were told this was already going to be underway,” Vicki said.

Council members responded by reassuring residents that deadlines were more flexible when “they understand circumstances,” and that supply chain problems related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had influenced prices and schedules. They also explained that delays might occur due to supply issues, with one council member clarifying, “the contractor can say… I ordered this park bench… it didn’t come in till October. You can’t hold me for that.”

In defense of the council’s efforts, one member remarked, “when you take on a project like this and all the coordination that is necessary with all the different people using the fields, it’s not an easy task.” He added, weather, especially snowstorms or extended periods of freezing, could further disrupt the project timeline.

Towards the meeting’s close, the council emphasized their eagerness to move the project forward. “We’re very eager to start this project… whatever needs to be done has to be done before the end of July,” a council member declared, indicating an imminent resumption of the turf replacement initiative.

The special meeting also touched on other matters, including a discussion on the inclusion of hydroseeding—a more efficient method than traditional seeding—in the 2022 Borough Road program, and the renewal of liquor licenses for the 2023-2024 term. The council passed five resolutions on the consent agenda, including authorization for participation in the Bergen County Community Development program.

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