New Vernon council president says bicycle pump track is ‘ill-conceived, poorly planned, poorly sited and rings hollow’

Vernon. Spohn Ranch, the track developer, strongly disputes Council President Patrick Rizzuto’s claim that it did not meet the bid requirement.

| 11 Feb 2022 | 05:18
UPDATE: Spohn Ranch counsel contacted the paper, which has agreed to run this update. The attorney for Spohn Ranch said, “Spohn Ranch is a recognized leader in the action-park design and construction industry having built hundreds of action parks over the course of 30 years, including more than enough bicycle pump tracks to meet the requirements of the Vernon contract. It has designed and built cutting edge equipment for the X Games and the Dew Tour, among other major events. The Vernon project is a relatively small and simple action-park project for Spohn Ranch. Spohn vehemently denies that it lacks the qualifications to build this pump track, or any pump track or action sports facility. It similarly denies that it made any misstatement about its qualifications, and that any Spohn Ranch employee made any admission of the same.”

While construction of Vernon’s bicycle pump track is on hold for winter, the township council has flagged a possible violation of the bid specifications that would have required the contractor to have built three prior tracks.

According to Township Council President Patrick Rizzuto, Spohn Ranch, to whom the council awarded the bid for $150,000, has admitted to not meeting the requirements.

When the bids were approved, township engineer Cory Stoner recommended that the council approve the Spohn Ranch bid. His Aug. 4, 2021, letter to Mayor Howard Burrell said the firm provided the most complete proposal, met all the administrative requirements, and best outlined how the project would get to full completion in 2021.

Spohn Ranch’s portfolio, posted on its website, shows only one bicycle pump track, the Pacific Highlands Ranch pump track in San Diego. The only other facility in the portfolio is a combined Armada Skate & Bike Park in Armada, Michigan.

“It states that this company that is going to do this needs to have completed three pump tracks, and now we’re finding out that it doesn’t matter,” Councilman Brian Lynch said. “This is typical Vernon. This is typical like what happened back when we had the Town Center go up, and we spent $30 million, and we’re still paying for it.”

‘Emotional and political feelings’

Rizzuto said the pump track was “ill-conceived, poorly planned, poorly sited, and rings hollow with most of the township voters.” He said the project will require substantial road construction costing $425,000.

Burrell said pump track opponents have never “provided anything other than their emotional and political feelings as support for this constant phrase.” He said the pump track is an investment that will attract a host of visitors to the Town Center. The new customers pulled in by the track will motivate enterprising business owners to develop new businesses in the Town Center, he said.

“The truth is, the municipal bicycle pump track has been positively conceived, is very well planned, and is sited on an excellent piece of town-owned property located in the Town Center,” said Burrell.

The work at the site so far was done by the township’s Department of Public Works with either township-owned or -rented earth-moving machinery. Rizzuto said those labor and equipment costs must be added to the project total.

Earth was moved two days before the Upper Delaware Soil Conversation District approved the township’s soil erosion control plan, but written notification was required 48 hours before any soil was to be disturbed.

Stoner said in November there was a miscommunication between his office and Spohn Ranch, which was going to apply for the permit.

“I believe this project should be tabled and its future reconsidered,” Rizzuto said.

Burrell said he understands that Rizzuto does not support the pump track.

“He has said that several times and in several different ways,” Burrell said. “I have heard him and disagree with him.”

Pump track opponents have never “provided anything other than their emotional and political feelings as support for this constant phrase.” Mayor Howard Burrell