Engineering firm receives lucrative Township contract and promptly donates to SuperPAC

Sewer deal may effect Parsippany's affordable housing obligation

Failed Skyview Sewer Pump Station

PARSIPPANY — In June 2013, a sewer pump station located in the Skyview section of the township failed.  Constructed in 1988, the pump station was designed to pump sewage through a force main which traveled up Meadow Bluff Road and over the western slope of Watnong Mountain to a gravity main on the other side of the mountain near Route 10.  The pump station handled an average of 50,000 gallons of wastewater each day by servicing 194 townhomes, 66 single family homes, and a bath house located in Skyview Heights.

According to Township officials, the failure was the result of a collapsed force main which was over one mile in length. The collapse caused severe pressure which resulted in multiple failure modes for pump station operations.

As a result of the failure, emergency operations were forced to install a submersible pump and via a temporary bypass line, the township pumped the waste down the street and into neighboring Morris Plains’ sewer system.  (Morris Plains officials claim that they were never notified that Parsippany was diverting sludge to its borough and state that it wasn’t until months later that they became aware of the situation).

With three options available to the township, only two were viable; repair the pump station and force main and continue to treat the wastewater in Parsippany, or build a new, half-mile gravity line to a small wastewater plant owned by the State of New Jersey  and located on the grounds of the former Greystone Hospital.

IMG_6047The projected 10 year cost of repairing the pump station and force main line was anticipated to be $2,179,695 whereas by creating a new line to Greystone, the price tag over 10 years would be around $1,187,913. Even though the price tag for sending the wastewater to Greystone was nearly half the cost of repairing the existing line, after 10 years the cost would significantly drop if the township continued treating the wastewater as opposed to continuing to pay the State for accepting the waste indefinitely.

On June 17, 2014, one year after the pump failure, Parsippany’s Director of Utilities, Paula Cozzarelli presented the Township Council with her findings, and along with Business Administrator Ellen Sandman and Mayor James Barberio, recommended that the best option for addressing the Skyview Pump Station failure would be to contract with the State of New Jersey by building a new line to Greystone.   The Council agreed, and voted unanimously to send the wastewater to the State owned facility.

During that same Council meeting, two other issues were passed. Resolution R2014-102 authorized the Township to rescind its intention to revise Parsippany’s master plan and development regulations for plan conformance for land in the Highlands Planning Area.  In plain language, the Council was required to vote out of Highlands conformity in order to move forward with building a new sewer line to Greystone.

Also voted on and approved by the Council that same evening was resolution R2014-089, which awarded a professional service contract to the engineering firm Adams, Rehmann & Heggan, Inc. (ARH). Although no specific engineering work was spelled out in the resolution, Parsippany Focus has since learned that ARH was the firm which received the lucrative no-bid contract to provide engineering work for the creation of the new sewer line to the Greystone wastewater plant. The contract was also backdated and retroactive to January 1.

Much has already been written about the influence of Super PAC’s.  When the Super PAC, America’s Future First was created in the summer of 2014 for the purpose of influencing Parsippany elections, the engineering firm Adam, Rehmann & Heggan, Inc. was listed as it’s very first donor.  In fact, ARH donated $21,000 to the Super PAC, just weeks after winning the lucrative no-bid sewer contract.  In 2014 ARH donated $33,950 to the Super PAC. Parsippany Focus reached out to ARH for comment several times but has yet to receive any response.

At the most recent Township Council meeting on August 11, 2015, Parsippany resident and environmentalist Nick Homyak asked Township Attorney John Inglesino whether opting out of Highlands Conformance would expose Parsippany to a greater number of affordable housing obligations.  Mr. Inglesino replied, “…Highlands conformance may present an opportunity to enact an ordinance that may help the town with regards to this issue [housing obligation]. We opted out of the Highlands in order to get that [Greystone] done.   Once that’s done there may be a legitimate policy decision for opting back in.”

This is a developing story.