Work on sewer lines in Princeton put on hold

Princeton officials’ attempt to nullify the town’s contract with Integrated Construction and Utilities of New Jersey to repair sewer lines on Linden Lane and Spruce Street has run into a roadblock.

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson issued a temporary restraining order following a court hearing July 8.

The town and the contractor landed in court after ICUNJ sued the town for attempting to pull its $2.7 million contract with the company. The contract was awarded in May, but work has not yet started.

ICUNJ filed the lawsuit June 28, after receiving notification from Princeton Administrator Marc Dashield on June 12 that the town was terminating its contract with the company. The town alleged that ICUNJ had been illegally dumping hazardous materials and other solid waste at the Princeton Sewer Operating Committee’s River Road site.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office has been investigating allegations of improper dumping and improper use of town equipment and staff at the request of Princeton officials, according to Planet Princeton. Three municipal employees, including the director of Infrastructure and Operations, have been fired.

Responding to reports of illegal dumping, the Princeton Health Department, along with county and state environmental officials, had inspected the River Road site to determine if there were violations of environmental regulations, according to Planet Princeton.

The town received a notice from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on June 11 that material had been disposed of at the River Road site without proper approvals, Dashield said.

In its June 28 lawsuit, ICUNJ countered that it has worked for Princeton since 2008 and had been awarded 10 contracts to replace sewer lines. In each case, at the direction of town officials, the company bagged the material – some of which contained asbestos – and put it in a dumpster at the River Road site to be removed later.

The company also announced that the Princeton Council could not rescind the Linden Lane/Spruce Street contract because it had not yet started the project and thus could not have violated a section of the contract cited by the town as grounds for terminating the contract.

The section on which Princeton is relying states that it shall be considered a “default by the contractor….whenever he shall persistently disregard laws, ordinances or rules, regulations or orders of a public authority having jurisdiction.”

ICUNJ responded that “termination for this reason is particularly inappropriate since the language relied upon pertains specifically to this contract which ICUNJ has not even started and all of ICUNJ’s actions prior to this project were done at the express authorization of Princeton (officials).”

“Everything performed by ICUNJ at the PSOC River Road site during the past decade was at all times directed by Princeton employees and ICUNJ has never been cited for having disregarded any laws or ordinances,” the lawsuit said.

At ICUNJ’s request, Judge Jacobson issued the temporary restraining order that prevents Princeton from rescinding the company’s contract for the Linden Lane/Spruce Street project “pending further order of the Court.”

“Counsel shall confer and notify the Court by July 19 as to the parties’ position regarding discovery and further proceedings,” Judge Jacobson wrote in the court order issued July 8.

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