PERTH AMBOY – 11/21/16 Caucus – City Engineer, Jim Rauch was put in the hot seat to answer questions put forth by the City Council about the horrible conditions of many of Perth Amboy’s streets.
Many of questions dealt with the utility companies making the roads worse after work was done. The Council Members questioned why the utility companies feet are not held to the fire to put the roads back in the same condition before they were dug up.
The following is a synopsis of what Engineer Rauch told the Council: “There will be repaving of some of these streets with restoration which will be done in the beginning of the spring.
When Councilman Fernando Gonzalez questioned Rauch about some of the Waterfront Streets that were being done half and half, Rauch responded, “That depends on what was done before on those particular streets.”
Gonzalez continued with another question, “When streets are repaved, they are done with two different colors. If they can’t match both sides after repaving, it should be paved with the same color.”
Rauch responded, “The color is different because you have fresh, brand new asphalt with existing asphalt. You can open up the City to a lawsuit if you make the utility companies do more than what is required of them. Other towns have four feet wide trenches. It all depends how old the roads are (having the same color asphalt). Some exceptions are emergency repairs. We will be giving the Council more information on pavement restoration requirements and on other towns that have two colors on the roads.”
Gonzalez responded, “I don’t want us being treated differently than other towns. I also see a lot of patchwork being done on State Street.”
Rauch responded, “There are different types of restoration of repaving. Some of them include infrared joints of seams.”
Council President Lisa Nanton had a comment to make: “They (utility companies) should at least repave the whole street if they are going to dig up half of it and it should be repaved all the way to the intersection.”
Rauch was also questioned about the gas meters that the Council Members had concerns about that were placed in front of buildings/houses. Rauch said, “I had a meeting with Elizabethtown Gas about the meters being installed very close to curb lines. I supplied them with a list of addresses. There are grey areas that we have no control over. I’ll look at other municipalities ordinances to see how they deal with the placement of gas meters. Some things are out of my jurisdiction and should be handled by Code Enforcement.”
Councilman Bill Petrick said, “Some of the meters are placed internally. How was this done before?”
Rauch responded, “With the existing buildings, the utility companies will decided where meters will be placed.”
Council President Lisa Nanton spoke again, “On Water Street there were meters placed in front of people’s homes. Our former Business Administrator Jillian Barrack and I met with representatives from Elizabethtown Gas. They said they would move those meters elsewhere. They did remove some of those meters, but didn’t come back to move the rest.”
Annie Hindenlang, who is now a PARA Consultant said, “The utility company changed the way they read meters now. They are not required to respond as they did in the past. They use (scanner) guns now to read the meters.”
Nanton added the following comments: “They (the gas company) are having the meters on the outside which makes it easier now to read, especially since Superstorm Sandy.”
Councilman Fernando Irizarry had a concern, “We need to coordinate with Elizabethtown Gas about work that has to be done before streets are repaved.”
Rauch responded, “Code Enforcement issues the permits and then it’s handed to me until the work is completed.”
Irizarry questioned, “Can we (the City) legally not have permits issued to a company who did not do their last work correctly?”
Rauch responded, “Some are County Streets and they are responsible for issuing permits.”
Irizarry was concerned about how terrible Watson Avenue is.
Rauch said, “That street is slated to be milled and repaved.”
Irizarry asked, “With the (gas) meters that are being put in, will the utility companies be required to put in the concrete after replacing the meters?”
Rauch responded, “They will replace everything with concrete. I also met with Middlesex Water about the problem on Davison Street. We told Elizabethtown Gas that the work done has to be a full repavement restoration. We’re looking to have a five year moratorium on street repaving.”
Irizarry wondered if the City has a recourse if the utility company refuses to repave a street after the five years.
Rauch said, “We have not been rejected on our request.”
Councilman Bill Petrick said, “I would rather have them do the work and fix it. I don’t want the money that should be used for roadwork to go into the general fund.”
Rauch remarked, “We should look at a performance bond instead of going into an escrow account.”
Acting Law Director Luis Rainone suggested another option, “You should have the money available if they (utility company) doesn’t do the required work, the money can be pulled.”
Councilman Bill Petrick remembered, “Even back in the 1970’s, money was being diverted to projects that they were not intended for.”
Hindenlang came up to speak and said, “Two streets (Riverview Drive & Herbert Street) will be replaced with the new development project coming up.”
Rauch told the Council that the County DPW has two programs for repaving or milling County roads. “With this program, the County will be responsible for the curbs, too. The County DPW will be working on the Market Street Roads which will include the curbs and the sidewalks.”
Carmine Muccio, Facility Manager of the YMCA came forward to answer questions about the flooding that occurred in the YMCA a few months ago. “When they were filling the second pool, water got into the elevator pits and set off alarms. There are checks in place on the sewer pipes, but there are no water alarms on the higher floors. The sewer and injection pipes failed. Paper towels jammed them up.”
Acting City Law Director Luis Rainone said, “The YMCA and the City insurance company submitted claims. The City’s insurance company covered our cost completely and so did the Y’s.”
Muccio said, “Sheetrock was replaced and so was the tile at the Y that was damaged.”
Councilman Fernando Irizarry was concerned and said, “I don’t want any work done on the cheap. All damaged furniture was replaced, but I don’t want to see the City’s insurance money to pay for the Y’s damage.”
Councilman Bill Petrick asked, “Did the insurance company give the Council the total amount of cost for the damage done?”
Muccio also added, “Three elevators were involved.”
Irizarry also questioned, “Will the insurance pay for the fire department who responded?”
A Representative from the Fire Department stated, “The elevator shaft pumps were working.”
Muccio said, “There was flooding ranging from 6 inches to 2 feet.”
This prompted Councilman Bill Petrick to say, “Perhaps this needs to be added to the budget.”
Lance Nelson from Code Enforcement came up next to answer questions from the Council. First he gave a brief synopsis to the Council as to how Code Enforcement is handling people who have been violating some of the ordinances.
“Several summons have been issued to residents on Water Street about placements of their garbage cans. They have a limited amount of space where they can place their cans.”
Council President Lisa Nanton disagreed and said, “They all have garages and places on the sides of their properties where they can place their cans.”
Nanton also wanted to know if there is a current list of abandoned properties.
Nelson responded, “I gave you a list. Can you give me more clarity? I can give you a list of those properties that were issued notices and summons. Some of these properties have been placed back into the system and are now ratables.”
Annie Hindenlang came up to speak, “There is a difference between abandoned and vacant properties. The criteria is different.”
Nelson continued and related what steps are taken by Code Enforcement when dealing with abandoned properties. “First we have to identify who owns the property including any lien holders. They all have to be contacted first. Then they all must respond within a certain time frame. If they fail to do so, then the properties are registered to the City. Everything is documented. We also have been getting checks every day where property owners have been paying up.”
Councilman Joel Pabon was concerned about a lot of garages in the City that are filled with vehicles.
Nelson responded, “A lot of these service stations are subletting their property and don’t realize they must be registered with the State. There was a garage on Amboy Avenue that had two partners that subleted part of their property. One of the partners left and he was the partner listed as the owner.”
Pabon questioned Nelson about one particular service station on the corner of Maple and Fayette Streets, “They are loaded with vehicles and look like dumps.”
Nelson responded, “I know which one your talking about AAMCO – and they just got out of court (for violations).”
Nelson also talked about a business (Carvel) located on New Brunswick Avenue that was mistakenly listed as being in the residential zone. “We are looking to add it back in as commercial.”