The half-dozen large holes remaining at the former Leader Dye site on Madison Avenue has led some to raise questions about the quality of the $1.1 million demolition project.
Under the bid specifications, the contractor has to tear down and remove the entire building to the basement walls. After demolition, all cavities should be backfilled with clean soil. That hasn’t happened at the Leader Dye site.
Councilman Michael Jackson became the first official to raise questions about the demolition on Tuesday night.
“The job was not done to the extent that was expressed,” said Jackson referring to the bid specifications. “I’d like to know where that responsibility and liability lies within our city departments.”
Two Brothers Contracting of Totowa was hired for the demolition. In February the company began demolishing the long-abandoned structure. The firm has received much of the $1.1 million payment. Less than $10,000 remains unpaid, according to officials.
There is at least $200,000 to $300,000 worth of work that remains to be done at the demolition site, said a rival contractor, who has handled large demolition projects in Passaic County. He sees much of the payment having been made to the contractor as a red flag.
The contractor, who declined to be identified for fear of losing future municipal jobs, described the work as questionable.
Sava Mladenovic, president of Two Brothers Contracting, did not respond to a call for comment on Tuesday morning.
Mladenovic’s company has handled big projects throughout the state. It has handled jobs for Fort Lee school board, New Jersey Transit, Plainfield Housing Authority, and the College of New Jersey.
“We haven’t been briefed on it. That would be a concern,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, when told much of the funds have been disbursed for the project. He said former economic development director Ruben Gomez should have an explanation.
Gomez provided an explanation on Tuesday
“It’s easier to get soil samples while the foundations are open than when the foundations are closed,” said Gomez. He said the city plans to hire a licensed site remediation professional (LSRP) to gather soil samples from the site. He plans to go before the council in the coming weeks to obtain approval to seek proposals for a LSRP.
This professional would also file an application with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) to secure funding to clean up the contamination at the site. McKoy said 20 years ago, when the school district inspected the site to potentially construct a building, it uncovered contamination.
“Once we get the soil sample, file the application, then we’ll engage the demolition company again to crush the foundation and fill it,” said Gomez. He said the city will not have to pay additional funds to the contractor. There’s a six-month time frame for the contractor to return to finish the job.
Gomez said the contract remains open, but has been put on hold until soil samples can be taken. “It’s not very common to do this,” he noted.
The city hasn’t released the performance bond, said Gomez. The site is secured using a fence that has a green covering, barring anyone from looking in. Gomez said extra fences were installed around the pits for safety.
There was a change order dated May 2. The contract increased by $26,400 for additional fencing for the five pits, according to some of the 600 pages of documents the city released last week in response to a records request from the Paterson Times.
“Technically, it’s not finished,” said construction official Jerry Lobozzo. He said his role in the project was to issue permits and declare the crumbling factory an imminent hazard. “I wasn’t called for a final inspection.”
Lobozzo visited the site on Tuesday after speaking to a reporter. He described what he saw at the site as a scene from a war-torn Middle Eastern country. He said a Certificate of Approval certifying the demolition has been completed hasn’t been issued.
The construction officials said a finished demolition site contains even soil and grass. There are bundles of scattered hay, used for what’s called mobilization after demolition has been completed to allow grass to grow, at the site indicating there may have been presumption that the job has been completed.
Mayor Andre Sayegh said he has called on his staff to deliver a report on the demolition. The demolition was started under his predecessor.
Jackson also sought a report from the administration.