Hatch Mott & MacDonald (HMM) senior project manager Gary Walker came to Thursday night’s meeting to address statements made by Roselle Park Youth Baseball & Softball League (RPYBSL) representative Ken Iachio at the January 20th mayor & council meeting.
HMM took over for the previous consultants ERM in order to complete the remediation job called for by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) for the little league fields across the street from Roselle Park High School.
Mr. Walker offered a summary of the work required which included raising the grade of the site, excavation, and a process called ‘capping’; this involves places a covering over contaminated material to keep it in place so it does not come into contact with people or the environment. HMM reviewed the initial design by ERM and identified several items that were not addressed including sub-service drainage, electrical, and field grading issues. The contractor used to perform the actual work was Luzon out of Sewell, NJ.
“Representatives of the Youth Baseball League were kept informed of the progress of the project and were given the opportunity for input through meetings with the borough and us on numerous occasions,” Mr. Walker stated, addressing claims made by Mr. Ken Iachio that the RPYBSL were never consulted of the design or including in meetings of the project. Mr. Walker went on to say that drawings were also transmitted to League representatives, “In addition to formal meetings, frequent on-site discussion of the project were conducted with a League representative during construction.”
The number of 35 change orders to the project which was mentioned at the last council meeting was corrected by Gary Walker to a number of 14 – with ten of them dealing with requests by the RPYBSL for various upgrades as well as items necessary to reduce safety hazards and bring the field up to code.
The issue regarding the slope between the foul line and the dugouts was also discussed. Original contract drawings from ERM had a slope of 10.7% from the foul line to the dugouts with the slope near the back stops being nearly 8.8%. HMM reduced the slope for the foul lines to approx. 7.5% which, according to HMM, falls within the acceptable range of an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards.
“It is our professional opinion that the existing slope does not present a safety hazard,” Mr. Walker stated. He mentioned that the RPYBSL added additional concrete blocks to the fronts and sides to all the dugouts following the cutting of the field elevations. He also stated that during a site meeting, the League asked if they (RPYBSL) could place additional fill on the areas between the foul line and the dugouts at their cost. The League was notified that the fill would need to be certified.
Mayor Joseph Accardi asked if HMM anticipated any problems with the NJ DEP approving the remediation before the planned opening of the little league fields in April. Mr. Walker responded that he did not expect any problems but he reminded council that the NJ DEP made it clear that the fields cannot be used until the DEP approves of the remediation.
Councilman Modesto Miranda, at one point, asked who from the RPYBSL was present at those meetings being referred to by HMM. Mr. Walker stated that Gary Bundy, the Girls’ Tournament Director for the RPYBSL, was the member that was present.
When Council-At-Large Carl Hokanson asked if more could have been reduced with regard to the slope, Gary Walker replied, “We couldn’t lower the field any more. Lowering the field would involve hundreds of thousands of dollars because of excavation and disposal costs.”
Mr. Walker added that HMM was hesitant at times to accommodate RPYBSL requests because they knew the primary goal was to get the remediation done within the funding available.
During the discussions, borough attorney Blake Johnstone, based on a question and request from Council-At-Large Hokanson, requested that HMM have their engineer submit an official statement that the pitch of the slope is acceptable with ADA standards. Mr. Walker stated that would not be a problem.
Mayor Emeritus Joseph DeIorio even wrote a letter that he wanted read into the record regarding comments made by Ken Iachio. The letter stated that the RPYBSL was involved in the process and that the League had ample information and access available to bring concerns forward. Mr. DeIorio, in part, wrote, “For the record, all parties were involved. To imply that the League did not know what was going on by commenting ‘the League was in the dark’ is not correct.”
Council-At-Large Hokanson asked if the RPYBSL was notified that HMM was going to be at the meeting. Mayor Accardi responded that he did not know that HMM was going to appear at the meeting until the day of the meeting but he spoke with Mr. Bundy on Wednesday about having the municipality review the League’s financial records; this is in line with the administrative policy to review the financials of any organization that will do business with or request funds from the Borough.
Paul Endler, a resident who is also the Borough’s tax assessor, spoke on the matter and wanted to know how the fields were remediated, “Who originally made the determination what ground to take out of there and who had the authority to say we’re not going to dig here?”
He was notified that the DEP was ultimately the party determining and approving how the remediation was to be handled. Mr. Endler expressed concern over the dugouts not being remediated. Councilman Hokanson stated he asked the same question and was told that due to the fact that the dugouts are eight inches of solid concrete, contamination did not come through.
Gary Walker added, “There was one dugout that did not have concrete in the bottom. We excavated out and poured 6-inches of concrete in the bottom. The type of contamination (in the ground) will not reach through the concrete.”
Mr. Endler also asked why ground was dug further on one field than the other. He was told that the excavation done on Adase Field down to 20 feet was to remove volatile organic contaminated soil as required by the DEP. The contamination found was in the area of 12 feet to 20 feet underground. The whole area was backfilled by the top 12 feet once the contamination was removed.
The Mayor, bringing the matter back to the original request that was not approved for $7,500 stated, “At this point, the only question that remains is the issue of the League wanting us, the municipality, to pay for filter and our position is that the Borough needs to discuss this part of the budget if we’re going to do that. We’re not willing to undertake an extra expense until we’ve ironed out the issues and our understanding was that the League was going to pay for it and now they’re reverting back to us asking for more money. So that’s the issue we’re facing right now.”
When contacted in preparation of this article, Ken Iachio had no comment; phone messages left for Gary Bundy and Joe Petrosky were not returned.