County Engineer Bob Jasek said dirt resulting from the 1987 to 1990 construction of the jail was placed on an unused portion of county jail property, covered with a tarp and left there in an effort to hold down costs of the original construction.
The dirt became an issue again when county officials sought to include its removal in the cost of the current expansion project and found that they needed to cut costs again.
"We cut this from the current contract and said we would find another funding source," Jasek said. "This is the alternative funding source."
Instead of being financed through a proposed capital bond - whose price tag has been rising from $30 million to nearly $40 million over the last year - the county sought out federal and state grants to cover the soil removal costs.
Freeholder William O'Dea, however, asked why the soil had been left in place for so long and why the county hadn't pressed to have the original contractor handle the situation.
Jasek said the dirt would have been used for fill at another location, but because contamination was found in the soil, removing it became a much more expensive proposition.
"The dirt was unsuitable for fill so the county decided to cover it and leave it," Jasek said.
County Administrator Abe Antun said the county had received a credit for removal costs from the contractor, thus reducing the original 1987 contract by leaving the dirt unmoved.
Freeholder Al Cifelli asked Antun to research the paper trail as to what exactly happened and how much was saved.
The new contract, slated to be awarded to Clean Venture, Inc. of Elizabeth, was put on hold until the matter could be resolved.
Plan said to be full of pipe dreams
In another matter, O'Dea also got the freeholders to table a matter that would have funded a planning project for development of various urban enterprise zones in Hudson County.
The county office of Strategic Revitalization had requested the services of a professional planning consultant to assist in the implementation of the objectives set up in the Hudson County Urban Complex Strategic Revitalization Plan.
"Many of the things they have proposed here are pipe dreams," O'Dea said. "They just can't be done."
The $50,000 was to Heyer, Gruel & Associates of New Brunswick, but O'Dea claimed some of its proposed objectives could not be achieved under current political conditions, while others did not fit the criteria set by federal regulations.
He said the firm was seeking to create new urban renewal zones at a time when state officials are seeking to cut back on them. He also said the proposal submitted by the company wanted to create a countywide UEZ, something he said could not be done under federal law because several areas in the county did not meet financial guidelines.
Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons said areas like Hoboken and Secaucus would never be considered, but that he wanted to move ahead with hiring the firm because of traffic studies and other positive aspects to the proposal. "We need to make sure these people focus on things that can be done, and not waste time on those that can't be," Fitzgibbons said. "I like their ideas for traffic and parking studies."
The firm, which the county hired last year, only billed the county $7,000 from a possible $75,000 contract. Antun said the firm is expected to push ahead with various projects this year, but he had cut the proposed contract from $75,000 to $50,000. O'Dea asked that the county cut the contract another $25,000.
Fitzgibbons asked the matter to be put off until the freeholders could look more closely at the contract and perhaps give the firm an idea as to what direction should be pursued.