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Home Uncategorized PRINCETON: Town facing potential lawsuit by AvalonBay over environmental consultant’s invoices

PRINCETON: Town facing potential lawsuit by AvalonBay over environmental consultant’s invoices

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PRINCETON: Town facing potential lawsuit by AvalonBay over environmental consultant’s invoices
<p>Pictured is the AvalonBay development on Witherspoon Street in Princeton.</p>

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton faces a “potential” lawsuit by developer AvalonBay over roughly $100,000 that went to a consultant the town hired to monitor the residential construction project on Witherspoon Street and paid with AvalonBay’s money.
Like with any other developer, AvalonBay created escrow accounts that the town could use to pay for professionals, like an engineer to inspect the work at the job site. But the company is challenging invoices for work by an environmental consultant, a firm called Whitman, did last year into this year.
In a Dec. 9 letter to town administrator Marc D. Dashield, AvalonBay senior Vice President Ronald S. Ladell sought to make his case that his company was never properly billed and that the escrow accounts should be “immediately replenished” to the tune of $100,233.
In the letter, he recalled raising concerns about Whitman invoices to Mr. Dashield in late August and asked for back-up material to support what the costs were for.
“Once we reviewed the incomplete back-up, which consisted of field observation reports completed by Whitman’s employees, I believed that anyone reviewing the same would immediately conclude that such tasks were not even remotely related to the engineering inspection work that is performed by licensed engineers and then paid for by applicants/developers,” Mr. Ladell wrote in part.
To illustrate his point, he pointed to how one Whitman employee submitted a field report indicating things he observed, including watching crews do grading, listing the time he went to lunch and watching more grading work later in the day.
“Frankly, how can anyone review this very typical field observation report and assert with any credibility that AvalonBay is responsible for such work?” Mr. Ladell wrote. “How can anyone review this typical field observation report and claim these tasks are engineering inspection services?
“Rather than trying to justify these expenses, after Princeton has unconscionably withdrawn monies from AvalonBay’s escrow account, what should be occurring is an internal review as to how and why any Princeton employe would allow this type of work to continue for years without any appropriate oversight and review knowing that Princeton taxpayers would be on the hook for these unnecessary and inappropriate charges.”
The company filed an appeal with the Mercer County Construction Board of Appeal challenging the charges on seven invoices by Whitman. In the letter, Mr. Ladell indicated he hoped AvalonBay and the town could resolve the matter before it goes to the appeals board, before Feb.1.
The council was scheduled to discuss the AvalonBay matter in closed session Monday night.
At Mayor Liz Lempert’s press conference earlier in the day, Mr. Dashield said the issue deals with what is being charged to the escrow accounts for “engineering inspections.”
He said he did not “want to go into a lot of detail because it is potential” litigation.