The redesign of Memorial Park and surrounding parkland is set to begin with a $62,000 price tag
after narrowly getting the approval of the Livingston Council on Monday.
The council voted 3-2 to approve a contract with Arterial LLC, of Montclair, to create a blueprint for what Livingston’s parks will look like for the next 20 years as part of the township’s master plan.
Councilwoman Deborah Shapiro, who voted against the contract along with Councilman Michael Silverman, said it was not the time to make the investment when taxpayers will see their taxes rise 5.7 percent next year.
“There is a limit to how much I want … to pick the pockets of the people in the town,” said Shapiro. “There is a time and a place. I don’t think it is the time.”
Shapiro and Silverman also criticized choosing Arterial’s $62,000 bid, when the township had bidders offering to do the job for half as much.
“It was 100-percent more to choose Arterial over one of the top three contenders” for the project, said Shapiro. “We are picking the costliest of the ones that were available.”
Deputy Mayor Michael Rieber and Councilman Alfred Anthony voted for the project, and Mayor Rudy Fernandez cast the deciding vote with them.
Rieber said 80 percent of residents use The Oval and the project was an investment for the entire community.
“This is the time to do it,” said Rieber. “We want to continue to make this town beautiful. … Everybody is using it [The Oval] and everybody will benefit.”
The mayor added that the lower bidders would not offer the kind of services the township would expect for such a significant project.
“There was some great concern that the services they [the lower bidders] were offering really weren’t going to give us the product we were looking for and — quite frankly — would have been a waste of money.”
Arterial's design also received support from assistant township engineer Jeannette Harduby in July.
"I think we go with the low bidder most of the time," said Harduby at a July meeting with the council. "In this instance, when we reviewed the proposals, we thought that Arterial offered more. We felt they had really innovate ideas," such as vegetable gardens and farmers markets.
David Lustberg, principal for Arterial, said the redesign will establish a long-term vision for Memorial Park. While Lustberg said he and his team will bring forward some initial ideas about how to improve Livingston’s park, community input will be the driving force behind the entire project.
“The community will be able to come out and provide input into what they believe their needs and visions are for the park,” said Lustberg. “It’s a really important project for the town and we are honored to be a part of it.”