No bumps in the road

North Bergen clamps down on utilities' sloppy pavement repairs

Officials said utility companies have been making haphazard road restorations in town.
Officials said utility companies have been making haphazard road restorations in town.

Has patchy paving been making your car’s suspension scream for mercy?

North Bergen officials approved spending more than $900,000 in grant funds for street repairs at the May 8 Board of Commissioners meeting.

They also addressed a related concern. Municipalities across the state have little power to make sure private utility providers restore roads after their repairs.

North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco said that there were instances in which the township laid down fresh pavement on roads, only to have a utility service project roll into town on short notice, and rip up the fresh roadwork to make improvements to gas or water lines. Like any New Jersey municipality, the local government constantly has to spend extensive resources in paving repairs.

“This is a major problem when the utilities come in,” Sacco said. “The county just came in and did Palisade Avenue right in front of my building. The water company then comes in, rips up the road, and now it’s broken. In some patches, it’s still broken. They fail to leave the roads in the condition we had them in before. Sometimes, you can’t even make it down 79th street.”

Clamping down on road rippers

The commissioners passed a unanimous resolution at that meeting to provide more strict regulation aimed at ensuring that private utility companies replace the roads they tear up during service jobs, restoring the same quality paving from curb to curb.

That resolution states that anyone who needs to open the surface of any street “should be required to restore the street surface to, at a minimum, the condition that existed immediately prior to the street opening … There is a need to adopt this ordinance so that street openings do not negatively impact township streets to the point where they become a series of uneven patches that are not only unsightly, but also lead to potholes and uneven pavement which are dangerous to both persons and property.”

The new ordinance would require utility companies to restore road surfaces under the township engineer’s directions. Those companies will also have to apply temporary pavement for three months with smoothed approaches to manholes and valve boxes before applying a final layer of asphalt.

Any company that does a street opening on an area that hasn’t been paved in three years or longer will have to mill the entire length of the opening, from curb to curb.

If a job is deemed incomplete according to the new town ordinance, North Bergen reserves the right to carry out completion of those road repairs, and tack on an extra 25 percent of that cost for overhead expenses.

For each day that a company is in violation of the ordinance, it will be fined a maximum of $1,000.

“This is a pretty aggressive ordinance,” North Bergen Township Administrator Chris Pianese said. “But it’s a frustrating thing. The law says you can’t interfere with their work, but we need to be more aggressive to force them to complete the job.”

North Bergen isn’t the only town with this problem. Union City recently passed a measure that gave anyone doing work on roads and sidewalks more stringent deposit and permit requirements, to ensure that those parties will carry out exact replacements of the finishes that those streets currently have.

In 2015, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who had a similar issue with PSE&G, ordered a full stop to nonessential utility projects for a brief period due to what he deemed haphazard road resurfacing.

In other news …

North Bergen adopted its fiscal budget for the upcoming year, which comes with a 1.3 percent tax increase in the wake of a 2.6 percent increase in spending. The budget is identical to what was introduced at the March 20 meeting, as The North Bergen Reporter previously reported.

The township’s budget highlights can be viewed here:

Making up for lost levies

The North Bergen Board of Education held an annual school board election on April 16, in which residents voted down a tax levy of $50,893,344, by a reported 3-1 margin. In turn, the Board of Commissioners appropriated $400,000 from the township’s general fund. They deemed the funding necessary to provide a thorough and efficient system of schools for the 2019-2020 year.

The ordinance specified that the money would be appropriated to the debt services budget.

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