Palisades Park Council Debates High Costs and Risks of DOT Beautification Project

In a recent Palisades Park Borough Council meeting, discussions centered around a controversial beautification project funded by a Department of Transportation (DOT) grant. The estimated cost of the project significantly exceeded initial projections, sparking debate among council members about its financial feasibility and potential repercussions.

The Road Avenue Shri Escape Project Bid Award aimed to beautify two blocks from Central to Prentilow at an estimated cost of $649,000. This raised eyebrows, especially when juxtaposed against a previously projected cost of $400,000. Concerns heightened as the council disclosed that only one bid had been received for the project. This lack of competition made some council members uncomfortable. One offical remarked, “$642,087 to beautify for two blocks,” questioning the borough’s capacity to finance the project, especially given other pending borough needs.

The funding for the project was expected to come primarily from a state grant ranging from $1.2 million to $1.6 million. Yet, the cost overrun and single bid scenario sparked a debate about the prudence of moving forward. The council faced the risk of potentially losing the grant if not acted upon promptly.

Adding to the conundrum, discussions revealed that not utilizing the DOT grant could jeopardize future grant opportunities for Palisades Park. The council attorney warned of possible repercussions, noting, “The only negative you guys may have is that for future DOT bonds, future DOT grants, you may not get consideration from DOT. They don’t like you to cancel the DOT grants.”

While the essence of the project entailed enhancements like paving sidewalks, planting trees, and adding benches, the sole bid received was nearly double the budget. This financial strain, combined with limited bidding competition, led most council members to lean against pursuing the project.

Ultimately, the majority sentiment tilted towards not advancing with the project. A resolution was proposed, aiming to communicate the council’s situation to the DOT, with hopes of preserving a positive relationship for future grant possibilities.

Other topics addressed during the meeting included the governor’s best practice checklist, the adoption of a new building code for lead paint certification, and discussions on the pending final audit for 2022.

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