Outgoing Township Administrator James Moran Outlines Projects, Issues Stafford Will Face in 2019, Beyond

Dec 26, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

As a courtesy to the incoming governing body, Stafford Township Administrator James Moran has laid out open and pending matters throughout the township in a comprehensive memo he released last week after announcing his retirement. When he leaves his post Dec. 31, he takes with him a tremendous amount of knowledge and insight, although the new mayor, Greg Myhre, has already informed Moran his help will not be needed during the transition.

Capital projects currently underway or in active planning stages, from east to west, include:

Paving of Railroad Avenue on Cedar Bonnet Island would raise the road several inches to reduce the flooding of Railroad Avenue in storm tides. Moran’s concerns are the damming of the water that flows over the road, preventing it from running back into the bay when the tides recede. The council had decided the affected property owners should sign a document acknowledging they understand their properties would also need to be raised. He is also concerned the streets behind Railroad are likely to be affected, “so that should be evaluated and addressed before paving takes place,” he advised. “Fortunately, because of weather, time has run out for 2018 and will pick up again in the spring,” he said.

Five Points triangles in Beach Haven West, i.e. the intersections of Morris, Walter and Jennifer, were landscaped in the fall of 2018 but will need cleanup and seeding in the spring, he said. Permanent irrigation is still needed.

Mill Creek Park Pavilion is under construction by in-house staff and nearing completion, significantly under budget. The driveway to the water tower and a pickleball court were paved. Electric service is being run to the nearby community garden.

Directional drilling of Beach Haven West lagoons. Seven lagoon crossings need to be replaced, according to Moran – two water and five sewer. A contract has been awarded for the two water lines and the most problematic sewer crossing at Beach Haven West Boulevard. The other four crossings should be replaced as soon as practical, he said.

Replacement of water mains on Newell and Jennings. The first 3,000 feet of water main on Newell Avenue has been replaced by the water and sewer department in preparation for the lagoon crossing on Jeannie Drive; permits have been obtained for the rest. Installation should continue in the spring. Once paved, Moran said, he anticipates the cost of the project is two-thirds less than using an outside contractor.

Replacement of sewer mains throughout Beach Haven West. “We have encountered and repaired a number of failures in the main and laterals over the last several years, and given the pipe is transite, it is only going to get worse,” Moran said. “The original pipes were lined, but we are now seeing the failure of the lining or the outright disintegration of the pipe. The long-range plan anticipates this project taking between 10 and 15 years, at a cost of $1.5 to $3 million per year.”

Lagoon dredging in Beach Haven West. The first issues to resolve are determining the ownership of the lagoons and securing the right to dredge, he said, which could require significant legal work and expense. Next would be the design and permitting from the Department of Environmental Protection and possibly the Army Corps of Engineers, followed by the construction estimates and bidding phase. Every step of the process would require funding, he noted.

If the governing body decides to fund it through a development ordinance with an added assessment to the property owners, “you would be well advised to decide how you are going to do that and then present the idea to the affected community so they understand the buy-in before you proceed. Undoubtedly, there will be those who believe the entire town should pay the bill, so that is something you should be prepared to address.”

Colony Lakes dam structures. Although not of immediate urgency, the lakes’ wooden drainage structures are old and in need of repair or replacement. They are not the township’s responsibility, according to Moran, but at some point before he was administrator, Stafford was “drawn into this problem, and ever since it seems to be the township’s issue.”

Rehabilitation of sewer pump stations. The Jane Drive station is in the process of wrapping up its rehab.

Drainage structure on William Cook Boulevard was installed at the recommendation of the township engineer about 12 years ago, according to Moran. “It was put in place to stop the scouring in the lagoon but has now created an excess of siltation. We involved the state because most of the drainage is from Route 72, but they still have done nothing.”

Drainage issues on Route 9, south of Oxycocus Road. The township has been working with the state to address the problems there for several years. “Factually speaking, there is only one solution, and that is to pipe the water to another location, e.g., Manahawkin Lake; however the state has not been willing to go down that path. The situation is dangerous at any number of times during the year and efforts should continue to force the state to address.”

Drainage issues on Route 9, adjacent to Newell Road came to light due to the high-volume storms of the summer and fall and are steadily worsening. A drain runs under Route 9 and into the woods to the east, near the gas main transmission facility, causing extensive flooding on the western branch of Newell Avenue. “Apparently McKinley Avenue and Perry’s Lake were designed to drain to this line, and it just runs into the woods, causing the flooding,” he explained. “The line needs to be extended beyond the Atlantic City Electric facility to drain into the woods. We have been in contact with the state, and they are addressing the drains on Route 9, but they anticipate issues with the DEP with extending the pipe.”

The Walters Group’s affordable housing units on Back Road, behind the Holiday Inn, will be fed by the newly installed water main up to Cedar Run Apartments and Bolton Lane. “Between the connection fees for Cedar Run Apartments and Bolton Lane, we have completely covered the work to date,” according to Moran. “Additionally, with the installation for the affordable complex, we will have positive cash flow for the entire project in excess of $50,000. The project should be complete after the first of the year, and we are in the process of giving them a price for the installation of meters and taps.” Another 30 units will be built in phase 2 of the project at no additional expense to the town.

Perry’s Lake water meters. “The residents of Perry’s Lake have been upset with their water arrangement for as long as I have been here,” Moran said. They have been billed based on one master meter. “Recently, they were told billing would be based not on usage but divided by the number of units. They appealed to the township about the unfairness of this arrangement, and we agreed. We negotiated an agreement with Davis Associates, where each home in Perry’s Lake will be metered by us and billed through the township system; Davis Associates will contribute $200,000 to cover the cost of the meter install.”

Reconfiguration of East Road, at the intersection of the Exxon Station and Route 72, which stretches to the Garden State Parkway junction, has been 15 years in the making and, when finished, about 18 months from now, should correct the traffic issues in that area, according to Moran.

The Stafford Business Park water tower is the responsibility of the Walters Group, as part of the builder’s original commitment. Stafford’s own engineers were used for the design to protect the town’s interests, he explained. Walters agreed to an estimate for services and an escrow was established, so the town incurred no costs. The design is nearing completion, and Moran anticipates construction beginning in the spring of 2019. “As the design has progressed, it is apparent some improvements could be made to the tower to enhance its operation,” he explained. “These improvements would come at some cost to Stafford Township (not to Walters, because they do not exist in the original tower and are not part of the agreement), but should be small in the course of the overall project. Once the new tower is complete and operational, the existing million-gallon tank will be dismantled.”

Business Park Affordable Senior Housing. The construction of this project is nearing completion and will contribute to Stafford’s overall affordable housing profile.

Intersection of Barnacle Drive and Route 72. Two years ago, construction began on Barnacle Drive that included converting the existing intersection to a “right in/right out only” intersection, Moran explained. “After a year of communication with AC Electric, the initial island was installed. The project cannot be completed until the Verizon pole is removed. After much back and forth with Verizon and a debate over cost, Verizon has agreed to waive the cost of removal, and they are moving forward. Once they are done, Earle can complete the project.”

Health Village traffic light. When Health Village received its approvals many years ago, a traffic light was required on Route 72 at Barnacle Drive. According to Moran, that light would have necessitated the removal of the light at Mermaid Drive, “which would have been disastrous.”

“A plan was subsequently put forth to convert Mermaid to a four-way intersection, but it will involve both the Pinelands Commission and the DEP. In the spring, we were able to acquire a piece of property by donation that would be a perfect offset contribution to be able to facilitate this as any DEP or Pinelands applications progress.”

Neptune basin. Stafford had plans to expand the Neptune basin on the opposite side of Route 72. The bids for the job came in at more than $1 million higher than the original estimates, and the guaranteed grant funding was reduced, due to the four-year delay in approval by the Pinelands Commission, Moran said. Flooding problems there have been helped, thanks to the cleaning of the 600-foot drainage line, he noted, but issues still arise during any “flash-type storms, particularly this fall with the leaves in the street, however, increasing the number of e-type inlets, and cutting the berm, and replacing a small area at the gate with rip-rap should help those instances significantly.”

Ocean Acres paving. All that remains to be paved are the areas southwest of Nautilus Drive and north of Treasure Avenue. Atlantis Avenue is still pending completion under the state grant. Ocean Acres has the most significant paving issues, he said, because, with minor exception, the streets have been opened for installation of water and sewer and were never fully repaved.

Fields in Nautilus Park. Three items should be examined for Nautilus Park: first, the creation of two all-purpose fields with funds received from Walters; second, the addition of restrooms, given the significant increase in use of the facility; and third, the completion of an overall irrigation plan.

Parkway crossing. Permits have been obtained by township engineers at CME Associates, and the project could be ready for bid if proceeding forward is deemed necessary. The prior administration had set this in motion 11 years ago, but the new administration should examine whether the need really exists, Moran said.

Fairview Terrace is technically not laid out properly, but moving it would “place the road on the front porch of residents on the south side,” according to Moran. At the same time a water line should be run to the cul-de-sac and road paving finished in order to allow for development on several lots on both sides of Fairview. Normally, the water extension and the road improvements would be done by the developer of the lots, he noted, because there is no compelling public purpose.

Public works yard. Much work has been done in the public works yard in the last two years, including the removal of underground fuel tanks and the installation of a new gas dock. A floor drain system has yet to be completed. Additionally, planning has begun for the construction of covered shelters for the vehicles and the relocation and replacement of the salt shed. Finally, there have been discussions of a truck-wash facility to help bring the town into compliance with DEP regulations.

Bids have been awarded for an armed forces, police and first responders memorial, and construction will start sometime after the new year, weather permitting. Funding will come from both the bond and the police foundation. The bond is funding the awarded contract, while the foundation will contribute up to $70,000 to offset cost and to fund the in-house work for drainage, electrical and flagpoles.

Police range. According to Moran, the original budget was $1.2 million, based on estimates obtained through both the engineers and companies recommended by the police department. During the design process, the price of steel has increased by 40 percent, and the company selected to complete the interior now insists the walls be concrete, which has increased cost estimates further. Ultimately the cost is now in excess of $2 million, so if the project is to proceed, a supplemental bond ordinance would be required.

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Among numerous outstanding legal matters are several injury lawsuits due to accidents that have occurred on township property, Moran reported. All of these matters are being handled by the municipal Joint Insurance Fund. The most significant legal matter, he said, is the lawsuit against former township employee Robert Yak, for the return of $200,000 in back pay the township paid him before the appellate court decided in Stafford’s favor. The lawsuit associated with the police promotional process is being finalized, with a settlement having been reached and final payments being made. A number of water and sewer summonses for failure to hook up are scheduled for Jan. 11. And finally is the outstanding matter of the challenge over Myhre’s billboard-sized campaign sign on Route 72 during the election, for which zoning summonses were issued and are being assigned to a special prosecutor, to be heard out-of-county by order of the court.

With regard to the budget process, initial budget documentation has been turned in by the department heads. The next step is a review by the administrator and meetings with the department heads to discuss and adjust as necessary. From there, an initial budget is prepared for council review and input. The budget must be finalized by the end of March to remain in compliance with state law. Once the council has decided on a final budget, a public hearing is scheduled for April or early May. Temporary budgets will be put in place to keep the government operating until a new budget is complete.

The police department’s On Point program has proven very successful as a pilot; unfortunately, the grant funding under which the program was initiated has run its course. This year the council contributed $30,000 in support of the On Point program, which would need to be reflected in the budget if it is to become a regular part of police operation.

About the capital budget in particular, whereby all major equipment and project purchases are funded, the goal is to finalize it by mid-February in order to get bond ordinances completed and projects underway in a timely fashion. The capital bond ordinances can be completed and authorized prior to the completion of the entire budget, once the governing body has decided what to include as capital appropriation.

Cellular antennas on water towers provide a “great source of passive revenue for the water and sewer authority,” Moran said. Stafford has several cellular antennas on water towers already, and Verizon, among others, is seeking to install additional equipment, for which the town has been working with telecommunications consultant (and state senator) Declan O’Scanlon to prepare specifications.

— Victoria Ford


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