At its October 15 meeting, West Windsor Council pulled a resolution to approve an $81,700 contract for the supply of rock salt as Councilman Bryan Maher and Councilwoman Kristina Samonte both questioned the recommendation for timing and necessity. In February Council approved a contract for $81,700 to stock up on rock salt (WW-P News, February 3). The two newest members of Council see no need to stock up on salt right now.
“Some of us also toured the Department of Public Works around that time and we saw almost an entirely full shed of salt,” Maher said.
Maher asked Schmid about the amount of salt remaining for this year, with no significant snowfall all of last winter. He also asked Schmid to state how long the current stock of salt might last, but she was not able to answer.
Maher used the pending salt purchase as an example of there not being enough financial controls in place in West Windsor.
“I think that when a department asks to buy $81,000 worth of snow salt they should refer to the previous purchase (in February) and say how much we have, and how much we expect to use — tell us the net amount we need to buy. There’s none of that accountability — there’s no rational financial explanation other than resolutions to give more money,” Maher said.
Schmid then agreed with Maher’s request to have Alex Drummond, head of West Windsor Public Works, come to Council and answer a few of the questions about the salt needed.
With another item pertaining to winter weather up for discussion, Samonte and Maher raised more questions about West Windsor’s process for managing its snow removal. Council voted 3-2 in favor of a 1-year, $80,000 contract extension for Scheidler Excavating Company although Maher and Samonte voted against the new contract. They questioned the necessity of the move at this time.
“It was my understanding that this was a contract put in place a few years ago and that this would be at least a second extension on this. My question is why is this not being bid out again? Lots has changed over the years, the recession has hurt a lot of these businesses. It is my expectation that if this was put out to bid, we might get better pricing on this,” Maher said.
Maher asked Schmid how the snow removal is administered and overseen on the township’s side. “We’ve bought a lot of equipment for DPW, including very expensive snow plows, so who is to be held accountable? Is it our DPW or the guys we are contracting with? There needs to be more financial tracking and more bidding for this type of business in this town.”
Samonte reviewed 300 pages of township invoices for snow removal with the times of services. “Controls are in place, so for me it’s more of a matter of understanding the operational side of this — are we going to do more snow removal in-house or are we continuing to bid this out and use contractors?” she said.
Again Maher called for Drummond to come to Council and provide an overview for both the salt stock and snow removal services. The Councilman also said it was not appropriate for the township to be making such decisions just as winter approaches.
“Mid-year is the appropriate time to do it because if we hit any problems, there would be plenty of time to clear it up without a chance that it might snow.’
Councilman Borek countered, saying that in his experience seeing residents have to approach Council during harsher winter weather, having supply and services on hand had helped West Windsor. “There were many times where I would see blacktop in town, yet when I’d go to Princeton, Lawrenceville, or Hamilton and it was nowhere near the services we had for clearing out snow,” he said.