Cranbury Township Committee approves pre-qualifications for Brainerd Lake project bidders

Scott Jacobs

As Cranbury Township prepares once again to go out to bid for the dredging of Brainerd Lake, a public hearing was held on proposed bidder pre-qualifications regulations for the project.

The Cranbury Township Committee voted to approve a resolution on the regulations at a Township Committee meeting on April 12. Additionally, the Township Committee also approved a resolution that evening authorizing a settlement agreement and release, where the township would pay $110,000 to Tricon Enterprises, Inc., who had been selected as the bidder for the project previously scheduled for 2020.

Cranbury Township officials had terminated a $3.79 million contract bid from Tricon in 2020, which delayed the dredging of Brainerd Lake.

In 2020, officials indicated that the termination was due to not receiving adequate dewatering (removal and discharge of sediment-laden water) plans for a number of reasons they had declined to discuss in detail. The township had not been presented with dewatering plans even after repeated requests for them, officials had claimed.

“As designed, the project involves multiple steps, including lowering the lake, ensuring dry conditions on the lake bed, removing and disposing of some of the sediment and returning the water to the prior level,” said Ephram Levin, attorney for the township from Parker McCay. “Because of the high visibility and complexity of the work the township seeks to ensure that the contractor that is awarded the contract for the project has sufficient dredging experience and expertise to complete the project according to its specifications.”

Levin added that under the local public contract law the township can pre-qualify bidders for the project.

“The regulations allow the Township Committee to establish reasonable pre-qualification criteria that are both pertinent to and reasonably related to category of work is to be performed subject to approval by the director of the Division of Local Government Services,” he said. “Qualifications can concern financial ability, experienced capital and equipment available to bidders.”

After the materials are sent to the director of the Division of Local Government Services for approval, if the regulations are not disapproved within 30 days after being received the pre-qualification will be approved, according to the public hearing.

Levin described the specific pre-qualifications that had been drafted by Township Engineer Tom Decker.

“The contractor who is to perform the project must conform to the project’s unique specifications and perform its work in the timeframes allowed by applicable environmental permits. The scope of work consists of a single contract for all labor, materials, equipment, supplies, transportation and all other items necessary to complete the work,” he said, “including general conditions, acquiring permits, and approvals not acquired by the township, providing temporary facilities and controls, dewatering and dredging the lake and related earth work all according to the project manual, plans and specifications.”

The primary qualification recommended is that only firms who hold one of two credentials are deemed qualified to bid.

The first credential is from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT), a contractor specialty class code for dredging (Class Code 12). The work consists of removal of earth in wet or submerged areas using conventional earth moving equipment. The second optional credential is the Division of Property Management and Construction (DPMC), classification code CO85 for dredging similar to the DOT qualifications.

“To be classified for any given trade by the DPMC a firm must have successfully completed at least two significant projects in that trade in the previous five years,” Levin said. “In addition to possessing one of the two credentials, applicants will need to show that they have not had any material change in circumstance that would impact their pre-qualification status since either they last renewed pre-qualifications for when they first got it. They must not have wrongfully defaulted on a project or have work terminated for non-performance in the last five years.”

The firm would also need to provide names and titles of principal staff from the prospective bidder and indicate the availability for each of the principal staff for Cranbury’s dredging project; and they must show that they currently adhere to schedule, quality and procedural requirements for projects they currently have underway.

When the township went out to bid for the lake project, officials did previously receive seven bids from various companies to provide the services needed to complete the dredging of Brainerd Lake. The Township Committee officially awarded Tricon the project at a Township Committee meeting on July 13, 2020.

The Township Committee, back in February 2020, adopted a bond ordinance that appropriated $4 million for the dredging of the lake. The $4 million in funds would remain in the capital account until the project begins.

According to state law on contracts being awarded, the township or governing body can only award a contract to the lowest responsible bidder (vendor). The awarding of the contract through a resolution from the governing body occurs after an advertisement by the township and review of the submitted proposals.