A delay in payment to a consultant for East Hampton Town has contributed to a delay in the development of a comprehensive wastewater management plan, according to at least one town official.
Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, in a recent interview, said that Pio Lombardo, the president of Lombardo Associates, the environmental engineering firm hired by the town in a $200,000 contract to study wastewater management, water quality and the town’s aging and costly scavenger waste plant—and devise recommendations on how to address sewage—had stopped work, as per a clause in his contract that allows him to cease work for lack of payment.
Mr. Lombardo, meanwhile, disputed the charge that he stopped work—he said it was just protracted, but did acknowledge that his firm put the town on notice because it was not getting paid. He has since received a payment.
Budget Officer Len Bernard confirmed that Mr. Lombardo was recently paid $52,622 for his firm’s work to date, more than 26 percent of his total contract amount.
The problem, explained Mr. Bernard, was that Mr. Lombardo submitted an invoice too late to make the next warrant. East Hampton, as a “second class town,” can do only two warrants, or payments, per month. Also, the town recently instituted a new policy whereby all bills submitted by outside professionals are first audited by internal auditors to make sure the bill is being paid in compliance with the contract.
These two factors resulted in Mr. Lombardo getting paid 30 days after he submitted his invoice, Mr. Bernard said, adding that he believed Mr. Lombardo had continued working throughout.
Nevertheless, the consultant has fallen well off track of a timeline presented to the town in late August.
According to Mr. Lombardo’s original time frame, a series of meetings focusing on specific study areas in town, starting with Montauk, was supposed to take place starting in late September. It was then pushed back to October 2, and then canceled for reasons unspecified at the time. Subsequent proposed meetings have also been delayed.
Mr. Lombardo last week attributed the delays largely to having to wait for a subcontractor, FPM Group, to collect water-quality and groundwater data.
He said he would update the project’s website, www.ehwaterrestore.com, to reflect the new dates and said he expects to continue the series of meetings to pick up again in December.
“Once we get the data, we’ll be able to move very quickly,” he said, adding that his team is actively focused on the scavenger waste plant and expects to have a preliminary recommendation about what to do with that in late November or early December.
He said he estimates the entire plan to be completed in the first quarter of 2014.
Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who spearheaded the wastewater study initiative and is seeking reelection in November, said last week that he could not confirm that the delay resulted from an issue related to lack of payment, but would not doubt that what Ms. Quigley said was true. “The two may be a coincidence,” he said.
He added that he believes progress on the study is “proceeding as scientifically as one can expect.”
It’s “full steam ahead, as far as I can tell,” he added.
Resident Carole Campolo questioned the board earlier this month about the October 2 meeting, which she said was “abruptly canceled.”
“The people of Montauk were never told why,” she said. “And now that I see this payment here, I just really hope that Mr. Lombardo did not hold hostage the Montauk community, awaiting a payment.”