Belmar loses outfall pipe grant appeal

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BELMAR — The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] has rejected appeals by the borough to recoup $600,000 in grant funds which it hoped to apply toward engineering fees associated with the Lake Como Outfall Pipe project.

“We were informed that they are refusing to pay us because of how the project was set up with the engineering firm,” Mayor Mark Walsifer said at the borough council’s meeting on Tuesday night. The fight is not over, he said, but “some of it could involve litigation so we can’t talk too much more about that.”

An Aug. 26 letter from New Jersey Lt. Governor Shelia Oliver informed the borough that the state’s Department of Community Affairs [DCA] had been notified by HUD that it could not reimburse Belmar for engineering fees charged by Maser Consulting because Maser had also been the sole bidder on construction management for the project.

“The central matter stems from a series of actions in which Maser Consulting prepared specifications for the Lake Como stormwater management project and then Belmar awarded the contract to Maser, as the sole bidder, to manage the construction and administer the grant for the same project,” the letter read.

“In every case, including Belmar’s, HUD declined to grant any waiver of what it opined to be a clear violation of federal procurement law.”

The Lake Como outfall pipe was constructed by the borough with the goal of alleviating flooding around the lake, by having the outfall lead out to the beachfront. It is located at the southern end of the borough and near the border of Spring Lake.

In 2015 the borough received a $6.185 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Flood Hazard Risk Reduction & Resiliency Measures [FHRRM] grant program, with funds for the grant provided by HUD.

That same year the borough awarded a contract to Maser Consulting, of Red Bank, which at that time also served as the borough’s engineering firm and designed 75 percent of the bid package.

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