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Judge Says He'll 'Butt Out' of Hockey Rink Decision

Basking Ridge resident Doug Wicks fails to convince a judge to order Bernards Township to further study plans for local roller hockey rink.

A state Superior Court judge in Somerville on Friday said he will "butt out" of the Bernards Township Committee's decision to seek bids for an asphalt, rather than a tile, surface of a closed roller hockey rink.

Specifically, Judge John Coyle denied resident Doug Wicks' motion asking that the township's engineer, Tom Timko, be required to do futher study into whether there is a drainage problem at the rink at Harry Dunham park that could prevent plastic tiles from being placed on the surface now.

Wicks and his attorney, Jonathan Burnham of Glen Gardner, had argued that the township's taxpayers could save up to $100,000 if the township followed the manufacturer's directions properly for installing a plastic rink surface instead.

But, taking a larger view, Coyle said that from a legal viewpoint, "This court has no business telling the township what it's supposed to do." He said the Township Committee members, elected by the public, made a decision to resurface the rink with asphalt after hearing the recommendation of its licensed professional engineer.

Coyle also said it was a "moot" point to try to halt the acceptance of a bid submitted . John Belardo, attorney for the township, said there has been no decision by the Township Committee whether another proposal will be sought.

Coyle said that Wicks failed to meet the legal requirement that Bernards Township's elected officials had acted in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable matter in selecting how to proceed with plans for fixing up the cracked hockey rink.

Attorneys for both sides sparred on the issue of Township Engineer Tom Timko's basis for recommending to the township that an underlying drainage problem must be addressed first before the rink could be resurfaced.

Burnham, arguing Wicks' motion, said that Timko's recommendation had been based on observation and that further study, such as conducting soil borings, should be required prior to spending taxpayer money on addressing drainage at the rink.

Belardo disputed Burnham's assertion, and he said that affidavits had been submitted with court documents showing how Timko had investigated conditions at the rink. Following the decision, he said the engineer had spent 18 months working on plans for the rink, closed for the past two years.

Belardo also said that Wicks had been given an opportunity at a public meeting to state his case for the tiles, and the engineer had fully researched installing tiles as an option. In 2011, one of two sets of bids that the Township Committee rejected last year for the project included an alternate bid for tiles, which came in at a higher cost than for the asphalt surface. That bid was rejected because even the lower bid came in at more than the $125,000 budgeted at that time.

He called Wicks' conclusions about the tiles the "conjecture" of a layman, and said that the resident should have hired his own professional engineer if he wanted to dispute the township's engineer's conclusions.

Wicks has steadfastly maintained that the township has not followed the manufacturer's specifications writing bid proposals for resurfacing with tile. After decision, he said he will consider his options.

This past Tuesday night, Bruce McArthur said that other than a mistake in the bid bond, the $115,000 bid received in mid-July was a legitimate proposal from a legitimate company.

This latest bid also was the first bid to fall within the township's budget, which has been changed over the past two years. The proposed limit on the project was set a $125,000 last year, then increased to $175,000 after initial bids in 2011 came in too high.

In order to bring costs down, the most recent bid advertisement called for the township's public works department assisting with a plan to resurface a cracked asphalt topping, address drainage and replace moldy sideboards, officials said earlier.

doug wicks July 28, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Maria-it isn't the bickering that has stalled this project its the utter incompetence of the people specifying and bidding the project- It is obscene for a project to be bid four times without being awarded.
HG July 28, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Doug, Then please stop suing the town and insinuating that this engineer has lied. You said, "Now if the Monmouth engineer does not support Timko's version..." when you discussed whether the engineered lied. If you have evidence to the contrary, please bring it to the appropriate authorities. If not, you owe him an apology. Either way, I'm beginning to see this more as a resident who has a strong opinion not accepting that he 's not actually on the township committee. At some point, you should just stand for election. "Incompetence" (in your opinion) is not corruption. If you don't like who is there, run for office.
doug wicks July 28, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I'm in the process of bringing it to the authorities -I wanted the case to be ended before it will be brought to the authorities and let them get the evidence because its there. . As for standing for election I have been asked many times and had the support of the organization but I don't want to govern its not my interest-keeping them honest is my interest and in Bernards believe me that's hard work! Just look at the school district where $3 million of taxpayer's money was embezzled right under their noses and no one knew about it?????? Really !!!! Wake up and smell the roses!!!!
HG July 28, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Your embezzlement example supports my point. You’re not claiming that the township committee and the employees are stealing money. You’ve shown no evidence that anyone is monetarily benefiting from the decision that was made. You’ve shown no corruption. You’re claiming (amongst other things) that the township committee and the employees are incompetent because they won’t go along with your proposal. As an example, suppose that the school board wanted to hire another language teacher. Someone shows up and states that they shouldn’t do that but should set up a room where all of the students can be monitored and use Rosetta Stone (a language learning software). The software proponent comes in with all sorts of evidence that the software way of learning language is superior to the teaching model. They also provide testimonials from other school districts that are using the software. They also show that the software is considerably cheaper than hiring a teacher. The school board consults with its experts and finds that they want to continue with their teacher-based model of teaching. In that case, the school board is governing. They were elected by the people of the town. There is no impropriety. The committee made a choice that you don’t like. You want the power to govern (to change that choice) but you don’t want the responsibilities of governing. In doing so, you are costing me money. I don’t need any coffee to see that.
doug wicks July 28, 2012 at 08:24 PM
That simply was not the case. It’s a matter of the town engineer complying with the established law. The township committee agreed to bid out the tiles in June of 2011 and the tiles were included in the bid documents. So it is clear that the committee wanted the tiles included in the bid package But the town engineer failed to comply with the law and specify it in compliance with the engineering standards set forth by the tile manufacturer, as he is required to do by the NJ Engineer’s code and the NJ building code. The tile manufacturer ‘s recommendation and thus the engineering standard did not require any drainage work, but rather indicated to install the tiles directly on the existing asphalt surface, as was done in more than 200 other installations, but the town engineer ignored and circumvented the engineering standards set forth by the manufacturer by adding excessive and unneeded drainage work not required by the manufacturer’s engineering standards and thus made the bid for the tiles come in at a cost that exceeded the budget amount. Had the engineer simply complied with the manufacturer’s engineering standards the bid would have come in well below budget and been awarded and the project completed in 2011 for a cost less than $100,000 and likely about $80,000. And that was the thrust of my complaint. With the school district stay tuned in!

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