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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

‘Electrical issue’ for roadwork

At parking lot on Vine Street near town hall


HAMMONTON—While discussing the paving project on Vine Street at the November 17 meeting of the Public Works and Transportation Committee, Town Engineer Mark Herrmann noted that the contractor—Think Pavers Hardscaping—encountered an “electrical issue.”


According to Public Works Manager Robert Vettese, the contractor—while digging along the curb on Vine Street next to the parking lot across from town hall—hit an unmarked electric cable.


“They hit the one for the lights in the parking lot. They didn’t hit or damage the one to the main here,” Herrmann said.


Councilman Steven Furgione inquired further about the exact nature of the electrical service in the area.


“We have a private service across the street servicing town hall?” he said.

Herrmann responded in the affirmative.


“We pulled the easement agreement, and the map says ‘private.’ We can’t quite figure out why it was done that way,” Herrmann said.


Mayor Stephen DiDonato, who was on the building committee when town hall was constructed, explained.


“We did not have anywhere to locate the transformers on this side. We located them in that parking lot, and we back-fed the panel from across the street. There was an easement that the town signed at that time—somewhere between 2006 and 2007. It is private; the town had to pay for the transformers,” DiDonato said.


DiDonato said that such activity is common in commercial construction.


“You pay for the transformers, and you run the underground feed and the underground conduits across the street to hit the panel,” DiDonato said.


DiDonato said that the transformer is owned by Atlantic City Electric but paid for by the town of Hammonton.


Councilman Edward Wuillermin asked why such a line would not be marked during a utility mark-out, and Herrmann replied.


“It’s not theirs,” Herrmann said.


Furgione inquired further.


“If you call for a mark-out, how is that not included as part of the mark-out? I understand the transformer is owned by them but it’s a private service to us, but that’s a big transformer for them not to include in a mark-out,” Furgione said.


DiDonato said that when there is an easement owned by the individual, it is not recorded for the mark-out.


“It’s a loophole in the system. It’s a gray area. I know it stinks, but you will not get mark-out on a private line,” DiDonato said.


DiDonato asked how much damage was done to the line.


“Was it ripped out of the ground?” DiDonato said.


Herrmann said that the damage was minimal.


“They hit it, but nobody got hurt. I don’t think we lost power here,” Herrmann said.


Vettese said that repair costs from Electri-Tech Inc. have not yet been submitted to the town.


DiDonato questioned the competency of the machine operator who hit the line.


“What idiot was on the backhoe? Because I’ll tell you why. I personally watched that line go in that fed the building. There was a ribbon 24 inches above that was marked ‘electric line.’


There was a ribbon he ripped out first before he hit the electric line, so who was the idiot trying to dig like an animal on a machine going two or three feet deep?” DiDonato said.


Wuillermin agreed.


“What did they think that big, green box was sitting in the middle of the parking lot? When they hit the first one, why didn’t they stop and say ‘hey, look at this’?” Wuillermin said.


Furgione concurred.


“Once you get yourself into an entanglement, you’ve got to stop and say, ‘hold on, let’s take a look at this,’” Furgione said.


Vettese replied.


“They dug next to that transformer and they found two lines—and they stopped at those two lines. Below that, at a different elevation, are another two crossing ducts, and they can’t fit the pipe in between them,” Vettese said.


Vettese said that different options were being investigated to either relocate the electric line or the proposed stormwater sewer lines, but DiDonato said relocating the electric line was improbable.


“To relocate that line, you’re going to have to rip a ton of stuff out on the town hall side because of the location of that line ... When we did the transformer, we also had to do some pole work to make sure we had enough power that came up Vine Street. We did not have enough power to feed that transformer to satisfy the town hall building and the chillers on the roof,” DiDonato said.


To move the line and the transformer, DiDonato said, would be prohibitively expensive.

Furgione asked if the line could be modified enough to allow room for the stormwater sewer line, and Herrmann replied.


“That’s what we’re looking at: can we raise or lower it four or six inches,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann said that the proposed pipe was 15 inches in width.


“We’re trying to sneak in dual-12s or maybe dual-10s. If the parking lot gets water and gets backed up, at least those pipes would give it relief,” Herrmann said.


DiDonato asked Herrmann if he knew when the contractor planned on completing the rest of Vine Street and School House Lane.


“We’re going to try to top everything next week,” Herrmann replied.


Councilman Sam Rodio asked for clarification.


“We’re going to top School House Lane now? I thought we were letting that go until next year,” Rodio said.


Furgione asked if School House Lane was compacted enough for full paving, and Herrmann said that the road was deemed to have “over-compaction.”


“We had it tested—so far, from Bellevue to the bend—and we’re actually over 100 percent compaction,” Herrmann said.


Furgione inquired as to the depth of the dense-graded aggregate (DGA), and Vettese responded.


“It’s six inches of DGA, then also two inches of stab base and four inches of the top. That’s probably the thickest road we have in the town of Hammonton—and probably the least amount of traffic,” Vettese said.


During his report, Vettese gave an update regarding the contaminated wells in the Lakeview Gardens section of Hammonton.


“There are five or six people who said they would be interested in getting the town to use the town’s lab to take the water samples, so I’ll contact them again and see if they’re still interested in that,” Vettese said.


Vettese said that the public information meeting regarding the issue will most likely be at the December 19 meeting of town council.


After the meeting, Vettese discussed two agenda items not covered at the meeting with The Gazette.


The first regarded a letter of deficiency sent to the town of Hammonton from the New Jersey Department of Transportation regarding railroad crossings.


“There is a letter that DOT had sent to town. Part of those are county responsibilities, and one of them we’re going to do with the bike path. The state DOT did some work on 11th Street, and we’re going to do some additional work on 11th Street,” Vettese said.


Vettese said that the letter addresses every railroad crossing in the town of Hammonton.


“They listed a couple of county roads—a couple of county crossings—that are actually not the town’s responsibility, and the county said they would handle theirs. I told DOT, ‘Can you come down? We can look at each of the crossings and then determine who the responsibility is—and what you actually want done.’ We haven’t done that yet,” Vettese said.


The Gazette requested a copy of the letter, but Vettese denied the request.


“I’d rather not give it to you now until we square away who’s responsible—because right now it says the town’s responsible, so it might be a little misleading,” Vettese said.


The second agenda item was listed as “Downtown NPP, discussion w/Atl Co.”


Vettese said that item referred to the intersection of Central Avenue, Vine Street and Third Street.


“The people in the downtown are saying that it’s not a safe intersection, so we sent a letter to the county saying that it’s not a safe intersection. Can we meet with you—because Third Street is a county roadway and Central Avenue’s a county roadway—and we also wanted to do something maybe in front of the post office if we could to ease the turning movements and the parking there,” Vettese said.


Vettese said that he talked with county officials who advised him to send a letter to Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson to request a meeting. Vettese said that such a letter was sent.


“We’ll come down, and if they say it’s OK and they look through their files, we’ll meet with you guys to look at options. There might not be. We might have to leave it the way it is, but we’ve got to at least talk,” Vettese said.


The Gazette asked if this issue is associated with the proposed Central Piazza project, and Vettese replied.


“It might involve that, eventually, but since that’s on a county roadway—depending on what they say makes sense for us to do—I don’t know if it’ll be a piazza or what. But, if we can tell them, ‘Here’s what our vision is of that,” what’s allowable?” Vettese said.


Vettese said that he spoke with Atlantic County Planning Advisory Board member Ranae Fehr on November 17 to inquire about a meeting date.


“She said, ‘I’ll check that out and get back to you.’ November, December—the holidays and stuff—is probably not the best time, so it’d probably be sometime next year,” Vettese said.


The Public Works and Transportation Committee meets on the Thursday before town council meetings.


The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, December 15.


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