Engineer Acknowledges Drains That ‘Don’t Go Anywhere’ Were Installed on Hawkins Road in Tabernacle, Ones Creating Safety, Flooding Concerns

Waterlogging continues to form on Hawkins Road despite there being a storm drain nearby. Photo by Douglas D. Melegari

TABERNACLE – Drains installed on Hawkins Road in Tabernacle Township, which township engineer Tom Leisse confirmed are actually “going nowhere” during a March 25 Tabernacle Township committee meeting, are not only raising concerns about dangerous road conditions there by flooding, but also consternation and questions as to why such a project was allowed to be designed and carried out.

And the council has now received grants to rehabilitate the road, but the lack of a plan to address drainage has led to concerns in the committee that any new asphalt will only deteriorate quickly.

In a separate article covering the same road, officials acknowledged that a previous committee request to create a four-way intersection at Hawkins and Old Indian Mills streets to curb speeding was premature and that the township initially wanted one had to take such a measure traffic study, which she finally commissioned on March 25th.

Brian Serafine, who lives on Hawkins Road, had raised the drainage and speed issues at committee meetings late last summer and early fall. He previously described how workers had torn up the road between Route 206 and Carranza Road to install storm sewers, but that no resurfacing was done afterward, resulting in uneven road conditions. He had also described flooding since the storm drains were installed.

Hawkins Road in Tabernacle Township was flooded immediately after heavy rains last week.  Photo by Douglas D. Melegari

Hawkins Road in Tabernacle Township was flooded immediately after heavy rains last week. Photo by Douglas D. Melegari

These floods have reportedly been exacerbated by recent heavy rains.

“I would like to know when this road is going to be paved,” Serafine said as she returned March 25 to the committee’s temporary quarters set up at the Tabernacle Firehouse, which happens to be on Hawkins Road. “I would like to know when the drainage on this road will actually work properly because it is a danger. I’m tired of coming down this road with traffic cones on the road, blockades on the road, things like that.”

Serafine warned it was only a matter of time before “someone gets killed on this road,” claiming to the committee: “It’s up to you.”

“Because nothing is done in time,” Serafine explained. “When this road was torn up – we did it back in the summer – we were told that this improvement would be taken care of,” Serafine said. “And nothing was done. These drains are inefficient. The road is still not paved. You said you would receive grants. I don’t know if it’s being backed up or has been backed up.”

The Hawkins Road resident claimed he and his neighbors were “not aware of anything that is going on on this road.”

“I want answers!” Serafine demanded. “I’m based here! I pay my taxes! I want to know what's going on! Our path is a disgrace! You're jumping all over the street! There's water everywhere on the street! It is ridiculous! You have made the decision to destroy this road! And I have to make a living from it! None of you live on this street except one gentleman here, (CFO) Mr. (Rodney) Haines. It's a shame! Something has to be done!”

Serafine also urged the governing body and its officials to let him know “when this road will be paved” and “when this drainage system will actually work.”

“It’s not fair for us residents to have a road like this,” Serafine explained. “It was torn and not treated properly. They spent money to demolish this road and never raised (money) to pave the road. Then we beg for grants to pave this way! And six months later it still hasn't been repaved! Nothing was done! We don't have an answer! Why don’t we have an answer?”

Serafine asked whether the grants were allocated for road resurfacing, whether safety was provided, whether road signage was installed and speed limits were installed.

“What do we do with this road?” Serafine asked. “Can someone answer me?”

It took more than an hour into the meeting for some of his questions to be answered. Finally, Leisse announced that the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) recently awarded a $217,600 grant to resurface the road.

In response to the awards announcement, Leisse submitted a $30,250 proposal for the committee's consideration on March 25 to allow him and his firm, Pennoni Associates, to “perform the engineering services,” including conducting the survey , the creation of the design and the implementation of the project to offer.

“We don’t have a timeline for it yet,” Leisse said. “But doing the survey, submitting it to NJDOT for approval and then putting it out for bid is what I would call wrong.”

Committee member Samuel “Sammy” Moore asked if the improvement project would address the “water issues.”

“We will try to address the problem,” Leisse replied. “This grant is for resurfacing only. We will try to solve the problem with asphalt. Drainage work is excluded from this.”

The NJDOT Municipal Aid Program, the municipal engineer said, does not allocate funds for drainage improvements.

Committee member Noble McNaughton questioned how one could “do asphalt work without drainage,” and Moore claimed that rehabilitating the road without removing drainage “would just create a problem.”

“The drainage is because the drains don’t go anywhere,” Leisse said in remarks that apparently stunned the public. “We can’t make it do something it wasn’t designed to do.”

Serafine, who previously voiced his opinion during the committee's public comment period, excoriated officials from his seat upon hearing the township engineer's revelation, shouting, “So they put all these catch basins on Hawkins Road two years ago and they Going absolutely nowhere?”

He continued that they “do not function efficiently because they are all at different heights, which are too low” and it is “already known that they are too low and that the entire street needs to be completely redesigned.” to the point of “getting the water where it needs to go.”

It was not immediately clear why NJDOT officials applied for a project without the plans accounting for required drainage work, even if the drainage portion was to be done at the township's expense.

In response to Serafine, Mayor Mark Hartman asked the resident to let the committee “end our meeting here” and yell “please stop.”

However, Deputy Mayor Natalie Stone said she was also “concerned about the drainage part” and if the scope of the project only includes asphalt, the drainage problems would only “pop up again” and the “water problems” would also “crack again” in the new one Cause asphalt.

Moore expressed his belief that the community needed to conduct “another comprehensive study” or else the water would “run into people’s homes.”

Leisse, for his part, denied having any blame for the apparent failure of the drainage system, claiming that the design work and pre-construction meetings with the contract were carried out by two previous engineering firms of the municipality and that he and Pennoni at the time and Pennoni were selected for the job “Contract was in effect.”

But the current township engineer's denial of blame caused Serafine to scream again, this time declaring, “And no one stopped this – no one stopped it!”

“When we came in it was already under contract, so there was no way to stop it,” Leisse claimed.

It is unclear why the city attorney was not consulted about possible actions if there were concerns about the project. In response to Leisse's claim that there was no way to stop the project already underway, Serafine shouted again: “Their engineer knew it was wrong when they introduced it!”

“Sir, please stop!” Hartman asserted, prompting resident Ryan Jeffrey Sherry to snap back: “You swore an oath to protect his and my right to speak!”

McNaughton asked the township engineer a question: “How much would it cost to replace this drainage?” It was something that made the engineer a little irritated.

“What are we talking about?!” Leisse replied. “These are catch basins in which they simply collect water and allow it to seep into the ground. I don’t know what anyone is talking about by ‘re-engineering’!”

Moore explained that McNaughton's intent was to potentially allow the water to “drain into other areas.”

But Leisse responded that the drains “cannot be made larger” and that while they “can be made lower, that will only collect more water.”

Leisse once again called on the committee to approve his proposal for the technical work related to the grant, promising to conduct a “survey” that he claimed will “gather the information” in the meantime he will look at information about the design and the existing drainage.

The engineering work was ultimately approved 5-0.

Leisse, however, had another proposal he sought approval from the governing body, one for $8,350 that would include “engineering and traffic studies for Hawkins Road.”

Township Administrator Maryalice Brown added to Leisse's request, saying they wanted to study the feasibility of a four-way stop at the intersection of Hawkins and Old Indian Mills streets to “try to stop some of the traffic” or slow it down over concerns Speeding and noting that the committee had already approved creating a four-stop intersection there in the fall, he said, “We didn't know at the time that NJDOT was going to require a traffic study.”

“We have since found out that this is the case,” she said. “…The request is simply to conduct a traffic study, not to exceed $8,350.”

This was also approved unanimously.

You might also like

Comments are closed.