Water treatment facilities see rising costs as township pushes for 2020 completion

In 2018, Moorestown Township Council passed a pair of ordinances appropriating more than $30 million in bonds for proposed upgrades to the township’s water treatment facilities. At its most recent meeting, council revealed that the $30 million isn’t quite enough to take them over the finish line. 

On Monday night, council passed a pair of ordinances on first reading amending these 2018 ordinances to account for rising construction costs. The amendments call for more than $3 million in additional appropriations. Township Manager Thomas Neff said the bids came in higher than they’d anticipated back in December 2018. 

The North Church Street bids came back approximately $3 million higher in construction costs than anticipated while the Hartford Road Water Treatment Plant came in $1.3 million higher than anticipated in construction costs. 

Neff said these rising costs didn’t come as a total surprise. At the end of 2018, the township found itself in a bit of a time crunch. A consent order from the state Department of Environmental Protection required them to commence construction by Jan. 1, 2019. So, the township went out for bonding before receiving bids back. Neff said at the time, they thought they might need to increase that authorization down the line. 

By contrast, the township has seen some savings on the project in terms of their contingency funds. Neff said they’re currently about halfway through plant construction at North Church, and at this point, their contingency costs are tracking about $500,000 less than they’d anticipated. Similarly, Hartford Road is tracking around $200,000 in contingency cost savings. 

Neff said Monday’s amendments to the ordinances are what the township’s Chief Financial Officer Thomas Merchel thinks will keep them funded through their estimated 2020 completion. 

Councilman Michael Locatell said the “bad news” was that the bids came back higher than they’d initially anticipated, but they’ve got a strict timeline they’re holding their engineers to.

“Things seem to be moving pretty smoothly, so we can actually reduce the contingency, which is a good thing,” Locatell said. 

Neff reassured those in attendance that the township doesn’t take rising costs lightly. He said the township meets with the contractors, engineers, project managers and their engineering consultant Alaimo Group every three weeks. In addition, they have an additional engineering consultant, Environmental Resolutions, Inc., take a second look at the project. When the contractors ask for change orders, they go through three levels of scrutiny getting challenged by Alaimo, ERI and the township. 

Neff said to date, they’ve been “fairly successful” in holding down change order expenses and minimizing the cost increases as the work progresses.

In other news:

  • Council passed an ordinance on first reading amending the township’s “alcoholic beverages” codes to provide for the regulation of club licenses. In September, the Moorestown Field Club approached council asking the township to amend its current liquor ordinance to offer club licenses. Any organization applying for a club license would still have to meet stringent criteria from the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control to acquire the license. These criteria include that the club must be a nonprofit with a charitable or beneficial purpose, must have 60 or more members, must have been active for at least three years and must have had a site for at least three years. The ordinance will give the township jurisdiction over club licenses moving forward. 
  • The next meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.