Roselle Park Youth Baseball & Softball League (RPYBSL) representatives Ken Iaichio, Joe Petrosky, and Jim Talbot came before the governing body on Thursday to ask for $7,500 to complete the Little League fields. The fields have been closed for years due to contamination at a level that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) found to be substantial enough to necessitate their closing and remediation.
Mr. Iachio, the League treasurer, stated he was willing to address any concerns council had about the latest requested funds for a project that has, to date, cost over one million dollars and had 35 change orders to the original project specifications. Mr. Iachio mentioned that although the League received one million dollars already, he believed that only about $300,000 of that was from the Borough and the rest came from the DEP. Additionally, he claimed that the issue with the fields started from its commencement. He stated, “It’s our (RPYBSL) opinion that the person building the fields did not know how to build Little League fields.”
Mr. Iachio, as a former Board Of Education (BOE) member of 15 years, said that he understood the concerns of budgetary constraints. He asked that the governing body meet with the RPYBSL to review the budget and the plan but wanted to stress that the matter is time-critical since the fields are scheduled to be open this spring. Ken Iaichio added that a private organization, the George C. Chatzopoulos fund, has donated money to the project by paying the contractor directly, not giving the funds to the RPYBSL.
“You did not get $1,000,000 worth of product. You were short-changed, corners were cut, and that’s the result of all these change orders, ” the League treasurer stated, voicing his criticism of the project, “It’s nobody’s fault. They (the contractor) built it to spec. They did what they had to do to make a profit but we (RPYBSL) didn’t make out on this deal at all.”
Mayor Accardi responded to the comments, “Nobody is more interested in making sure that our kids get to play on our fields than members of mayor and council.”
The mayor stated that the total amount paid by the Borough for the project was $766,546.56 – more than double what was claimed by the RPYBSL.
“If you were to go to every household in this community and ask them to give you $250, they would smack you,” the mayor continued, referring to how much each household contributed so the fields could be repaired. The mayor also stated that the RPYBSL was invited to meetings with the engineer and the contractor. One change order in particular was mentioned where it was decided to retain a portion of a building and pour a footer for an additional building to put on the fields which was not on the original specifications.
“We are facing some very tough budgetary times and I hope that you all understand our concerns with putting out additional money for the fields,” Mayor Accardi said. He mentioned that the governing body would like to review the League financials to see what the League had on hand. The treasurer responded that as of December, the RPYBSL had $8,606.28 on hand.
“Our books are open at anytime for anybody,” Mr. Iachio claimed, “The problem is we don’t have the money now to do what needs to be done to open in April.”
During the discussion, Mr. Iachio referred to a conversation he had with then mayor-elect Accardi at a field ceremony in December, “I spoke to you at the field and you indicated to me that you would not approve the money. You said you were against it.”
When the mayor stated he said that he does not vote on the matter unless there is a tie, Mr. Iachio responded, “The exact conversation was ‘Who do I have to talk to to get the support?'”
“I believe what you said was, and I quote, ‘Who’s the new girl I need to talk to?'”, The mayor clarified, referring to Mr. Iachio’s statement regarding 3rd ward councilwoman Tanya Torres.
“I said that as well,” he quickly responded, “Now I’ve met her. I’ve met her twice.”
The mayor pointed out that the issue at this point was who was going to bear the cost of the additional change order. Mr. Iachio indicated that the RPYBSL had issues with the project specifications from the beginning.
Borough Clerk Doreen Cali spoke regarding that comment stating that the raising of the whole level of the ball field was know from day one, “From the beginning, the dirt and the grade (issues) were known. The Little League was going to get the dirt.”
The latest amount of $7,500 was then discussed. It is then that the mayor stated that some of the issues mentioned by Mr. Iachio, including a warning track, were not included in the change order.
Jim Talbot of Willow Avenue in Roselle Park then spoke for the League, “We’re at a point right now where the field is 98% completed and we’re just looking to make it 100%. We appreciate everything that the council and the past mayor have done for us with construction of the slab, with the extras as far as the warning track, but I believe that Hatch Mott Engineering did not live up to their end of the deal.”
Mr. Talbot was notified that council could not specifically address his comments since they could lead to potential litigation.
The mayor concluded by stating, “There is no money in the budget. So it’s something that we need to try to figure out and will get resolved because everybody wants the children to play on these fields. The questions is, is this the source that you should be looking at now or if we should look elsewhere for it?”
Mr. Iachio previously stated that there were other options available which included providing a loan that the RPYBSL would pay it back. He even mentioned that the League was also soliciting donations so this might become a moot point.