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CREST HAVEN – At the Jan. 29 freeholder caucus, a resolution for a change order in the amount of $106,100 to the contract with South State, Inc., of Bridgeton, for Rio Grande Avenue entrance improvements, from the George Redding Bridge to Arctic Avenue, in Wildwood, was a topic of debate between two freeholders.

The resolution was passed at the regular meeting.

Three factors necessitated the change order, according to County Engineer Robert Church. They were:

* Electrical upgrades

* Additional traffic control

* Stamp-colored sidewalk

Plans called for raising the Susquehanna Avenue intersection “up 30 inches by successive levels of asphalt paving,” said Church. “When we went to the two-phase construction, there was no longer the need to get in there, in a couple of nights, and raise that intersection up with paving.”

He added that they switched to conventional means, “so we built the road up like it normally would, so there was about a quarter million dollars in savings doing that.”

“How did the paving get approved when the freeholders disapproved that $210,000 for that paving?” asked Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton.

Freeholder Will Morey indicated that he approved the paving.

“You don’t have that authority,” responded Thornton.

“I think I do,” said Morey.

“You don’t have the authority to overturn three votes on the board of freeholders,” said Thornton. “It never came back to the board to approve that change order for $210,000, and the problem that we had with that is because it went from $6.5 million, that project, up to almost $19 million, and when the board makes a decision, one freeholder does not have the authority to override the board. Do you understand that?”

“I understand it very well,” replied Morey.

“Then why are we sitting here talking about it?” asked Thornton.

“Because I don’t think I did that,” said Morey. “I think your numbers are not correct. The project estimate was much more than the project bid. The project was running better than estimate. It’s running probably better than budget.”

Thornton said that, at the time, Freeholder Vice-Director Leonard Desiderio and Freeholder Jeffrey Pierson expressed concern over the cost of the paving.

“Here we are, back here and now, without the approval of the board, and you tell me that you simply decided that you (Morey) were going to make that change,” said Thornton.

“We approved to put it in as an alternate, so if the project were to cost an acceptable level, we could, at that point, make it part of the project. That’s what we agreed to,” responded Morey.

Thornton said that they didn’t. 

Morey suggested they check the record.

“Nonsense,” replied Thornton.

“I don’t think it is,” countered Morey. “I don’t act outside this board’s authority ever.”

“That’s more nonsense,” said Thornton.

“We bid it as an alternate. The project has commuted substantially less than was estimated. I think it’s well within my discretion,” said Morey. “I discussed this with you (Thornton). You (Thornton) told me you didn’t think it was in my discretion, and I said, ‘Gerry, if you want to take it to the board, will you be supportive of this,’ because I laid out all the numbers to you. I gave you all the information, all the data, the estimates, and you said ‘I want to reserve my issue ’til we go to the board,’ so I think it’s within my discretion. I approved it.”

“It’s just not so,” said Thornton. “You continually, very often, misrepresent what took place here.”

Morey mentioned a separate incident where “you (Thornton) thought I was usurping my authority. I asked counsel to please check into the matter, and state for the record that was the case. It was not the case.”

“I’m not acting outside my authority. I don’t have a history of that, and I don’t think this is either if you check the record,” Morey added.

When asked if they understood the situation differently from Thornton, Desiderio and Pierson indicated that they did not, affirming Thornton’s recollection of events.

Morey, again, suggested checking the record, to which Thornton replied, “There’s no checking the record, Will. That’s what’s wrong here. You’ve got the majority of the freeholders that sit here and confirm just what I said, and suddenly now you’re doing you’re dance and mispresenting the facts and ‘check the record.’”

“Records don’t mean anything anymore, Gerry? It’s just recollection?” asked Morey.

“It’s your recollection that I always have trouble with,” replied Thornton.

“Let’s check the record, OK?” said Morey. “If I’m incorrect about it, I’m happy to state so.”

Consensus on the board was to check the record.

Pierson asked if they were going to move forward with the concrete.

“It’s done,” said Thornton.