Two stalled Jersey City public infrastructure projects should be getting renewed attention this week as city lawmakers turn their attention to plans for a new Bergen-Lafayette firehouse and restoration of the old Reservoir No. 3 site in the Heights.
On Wednesday, the City Council will be asked to extend a contract with Netta Architects of Mountainside in support of the design and construction of the new firehouse for Engine 10 and Ladder 12 at 627 Grand St.
Council members will also consider a proposal to build a pedestrian bridge “to provide for stabilization at the Jefferson Avenue breach and provide a continuous loop walking trail for public access, emergency services and maintenance” around the reservoir.
Expenses for the firehouse project have steadily mounted since the council first hired Netta in August 2018 to, as described by council resolution, “provide schematic design, design development, construction documents and construction administration services” over a 3-year period for $498,500.
That price was bumped up to a total of $597,000 after the city determined there was a need for a “geotechnical and environmental evaluation of the site, geotechnical classification of soil for the seismic requirements and a redesign of the firehouse,” with the time on the job extended by 58 days.
In August 2020, the council again amended the contract “due to contaminated groundwater discovered at the site and the design of a sub-slab vapor mitigation system” which increased the overall tab to $626,900.
Finally, in March 2021, the council contracted with M&M Construction Co., of Union, which has built the Union County Police Headquarters & Forensic Lab and Elizabeth Emergency Response Facility, to build the new firehouse for $5,642,000 and complete it by September 2022.
But the difficulties associated with the project only continued to deepen “due to the COVID-19 pandemic supply chain issues, unforeseen subsurface conditions and a stop work order issued by the (city) Building Department at the project site (causing) extensive delays.” Those issues ultimately led to the council voting in September 2022 to declare M&M in default of its contract and to terminate the contract.
That chain of events triggered yet another contractual change-order for Netta, with the council granting the firm another adjustment, bringing its total bill to $696,153 and extending its contract through April 2023.
Its latest proposal, submitted to the city June 7, 2023, is “to provide geotechnical investigation services and modifications to previously submitted contract documents along with additional bid assistance and construction administration services” for an additional $384,676, extending its contract by two years, through June 2025, and thereby bringing its total fees to $1,080,830.
On Wednesday night, the council is expected to approve this latest contract revision, with the city still without a new fire station, much less a contractor to build it, five years after the project was conceived.
The old 116-year-old firehouse on Halladay Street that housed Engine 10 and Ladder 12 was condemned after the floor collapsed inside the single-bay structure, which originally housed a horse-drawn fire apparatus, according to the city.
Its planned 12,000-square-foot replacement has been designed to accommodate three fire rigs, along with advanced decontamination and hose extraction equipment, turnout gear and housing for firefighters.
Also on Wednesday, the council is being asked to approve a contract with Marturano Recreation Co., Inc., of Spring Lake, for $879,534 “for the fabrication and delivery of a 6-foot-6 to 7-foot-wide pedestrian bridge with a steel bar railing for Reservoir 3 which had been used as a source of drinking water for city residents for nearly 100 years until the 1980s when the city began drawing water from the Boonton Reservoir in Morris County.
Much of the interior and exterior infrastructure of the 14-acre site has decayed but an advocacy group, the Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance, has helped get it placed on both the state and national historic registries and the city, aiming to redevelop the space for recreational use at a cost estimated at $6 million, got the ball rolling with repairs to the stone walls surrounding the property in 2018.
As previously reported by Jersey Digs, aside from restoring two gate houses, the city is contemplating developing a walking path around the perimeter of the reservoir, lawns and seating areas, a terraced wetland garden and areas for fishing, a kayak launch ramp, boathouse and lavatories.
The resolution authorizing the deal says the span “is needed to provide for stabilization at the Jefferson Avenue breach and provide a continuous loop walking trail for public access, emergency services and maintenance ….”
The city plans to tap $1 million from the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund, along with about $800,000 from the New Jersey Historic Trust, $750,000 from the state Green Acres program and $400,000 from the city’s Open Space Trust Funds, supplemented by local funds to pay for the project.
As of now, the site remains off-limits to the public.