After the city council demanded an explanation as to why mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration was seeking to appropriate an additional $160,397 on top of a $50,000 electrical contract, public works director Manuel Ojeda told council members on Tuesday evening the contractor was tasked to retrofit and replace lights at Buckley Park to avoid losing federal grant money.
Ojeda said Towaco-based J & J Electrical Construction and Design was issued the $50,000 to handle electrical work at city owned buildings. He said the contractor was called in whenever there was work that the city could not do for itself.
The director said the $160,397 was specifically for electrical work at Grace Buckley Park field. He said the company handled wiring work, installed 50 stadium lights, and deployed a mechanism that allows the city to remotely control the lights.
“With all the software, it’s expensive. You can turn them on and off even from your house,” Ojeda told council members.
The director said the company replaced everything except the poles.
“I’m happy to see this field is upgraded. It’s much needed,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, who represents the area where the park is located. “$160,000 seems excessive.”
Jackson said he didn’t like the last minute scramble to spend grant money after Ojeda told council members the work was done to have the needed expenditure paperwork to draw down Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.
Ojeda said the city had until the end of this month to get the work done to expend the grant money.
“If we don’t use this fund, we lose this grant at the end of the month,” said Alex Mendez, councilman at-large.
Council members said the stadium lights at the park in the corner of Chamberlain and Redwood Avenues were much needed to allow city athletes to utilize the field in the evening.
“Last year, we couldn’t use Buckley at all at night,” said Ojeda.
Council members approved the additional $160,397 for J & J Electrical Construction and Design on Tuesday night.