Montgomery chooses firm for NPDC site remediation

Environmental investigation work could begin Monday

By: Jake Uitti
   MONTGOMERY — Environmental investigation work could begin Monday at the former North Princeton Developmental Center following the selection of a remediation firm Thursday night by the Township Committee.
   Working under a tight timeframe, the committee voted unanimously to authorize the township staff to negotiate a contract with Weston Solutions Inc. of Westchester, Pa., provided the company could begin work at the NPDC site Monday. The firm has an office in Edison.
   In addition to Weston Solutions, the committee also conducted interviews with TRC Companies Inc., with offices in Irvine, Calif., Houston and Lowell, Mass., before making its Thursday decision.
   Early this month, the New Jersey State House Commission approved the sale of the 298-acre property to the township for $5.95 million.
   Township officials met for about two hours with representatives of the two firms on Thursday afternoon.
   "It’s a big contract," Mayor Louise Wilson said of the agreement.
   A lot of questions were asked "regarding how much the cleanup will cost," Mayor Wilson said. "We’ve had good guesses in the past, but now it’s coming down to the wire," she added, citing a 60-day period agreed to with the state in late December to conduct environmental investigations.
   "We will know shortly, after we select a firm to do the work, what the final cost will be," the mayor said, prior to the decision.
   The terms of Montgomery’s purchase agreement of NPDC from the state, Mayor Wilson continued, presuppose that the township will enter into a fixed-price contract for the cleanup, as well as obtaining environmental insurance for the property.
   The contract most likely will be separate from the contract for the demolition of the dilapidated buildings on the site, she added.
   "The insurance we get and the premiums we pay will be very much influenced by the final due diligence the cleanup company does," she continued.
   The second of the special meetings of the Township Committee devoted to discussion of the redevelopment of NPDC is scheduled for 8 a.m. today. Mayor Wilson said "there may be some discussion of the outcome of Thursday’s meeting" at today’s special session, "but I expect we will be dealing with other issues, as well," she noted. "For example, will the cleanup contract be with the township or with a third party? How will the finances be structured? And what will be the process for selecting a redevelopment team?"
   Since the township intends to recover what it spends on the cleanup of the site once it sells some of the land for development, the township has two options regarding the cleanup. The first is that the developer will pay the township back for what the township spends on the cleanup; the second is that the developer will pay for the cleanup directly.
   "My preference," Mayor Wilson said, "is the former." That way, she said, the township will retain control of the cleanup.
   "We should continue on the course we set a couple of years ago that presumes that the cleanup contract will be between the cleanup company and the township so that the cleanup company will be answering to the township, and the township is dictating the timeframe," she said.
   If the option of contracting directly with the township is accepted by the committee, it will have to designate someone to oversee the cleanup, as well as the interaction between the township and the cleanup company, the mayor noted. "It is a big job," she said.
   It is reasonable to assume that any of the costs the township incurs for the cleanup of the site will be recouped, Mayor Wilson added.
   The mayor said the project has generated "lots of interest" from developers.