Friday, May 14, 2010

Brownfields Work to be Outsourced

The city recently advertised for RFQs (Requests for Qualifications) for "Management Services for the Brownfield Development Area" and "Environmental Consultant for the Brownfield Program."

The legal notice appeared in the Courier News, but has yet to appear on the city web site except as a brief flash before the main page comes on. The web site section devoted to RFPs and RFQs does not have the Brownfields RFQ.

Brownfields are sites where environmental remediation must take place before development or redevelopment. With its legacy of industrial uses, Plainfield has quite a few.

Until a layoff plan was announced this year, April Stefel managed the extensive accounting for management of Brownfield sites. Although the Plaintalker report excerpt below indicates she did a good job, it will now most likely go to an outside source.

Here is the excerpt from a City Council meeting that included comments on the layoffs:

"Several residents spoke in favor of retaining April Stefel, a certified landscape architect in the Planning Division who is staff liaison to the Shade Tree Commission and manages several other programs, including brownfields studies.

Shade Tree Commission Chairman Gregory Palermo praised Stefel for her “marvelous success” in coming up with grants for tree planting and maintenance.

“The grant money should be thought of as found money,” he said, “but it is not going to be found unless someone is looking for it.”

(Disclaimer: I am a member of the Shade Tree Commission.)

Stefel herself explained that she is responsible for more than $5.6 million in grants and that she had suggested her pay could be given back from various grants, but an analysis she made in December was lost or never given to the administration. She detailed the work she puts in to report to state agencies on grant-funded programs, saying the brownfields work alone takes up half her 63 part-time hours per month."

The scenario above points to yet another possible assignment for a favored engineering firm instead of having a highly qualified Plainfielder on the case.

When the Brownfields issue first emerged, it seemed to almost a vital element for redevelopment. Click here for one of several Plaintalker reports on Brownfields.

But at this juncture, maybe the best thing for the city would be for Stefel to become the consultant, although she would not have benefits.

The city in the last couple of months has published a number of RFQs and RFPs, including several that would apply to Stefel's previous duties.

Anyone working on the FY 2011 budget should take stock of these choices between in-house staffers and outside consultants, for every-day monitoring of ways to save money.

--Bernice Paglia


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