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MIDDLETOWN In a victory for Weehawken-based ferry operator NY Waterway, a panel of judges on Tuesday nullified Monmouth County’s $2 million contract with rival SeaStreak LLC to operate ferry service from the Belford Terminal to the West Side of Manhattan. the contract did not comply with state law.

SeaStreak, which also operates ferry services from Highlands and Atlantic Highlands to the east side of Manhattan, took over the route in December 2022 from NY Waterway, which had operated the service for more than two decades.

NY Waterway was the lone contender in 1999, when it successfully won a contract to operate the route from the Monmouth County-owned Belford Terminal in Middletown. The contract had a term of five years, with three five-year extensions. The service started in 2001.

Monmouth County rejected NY Waterway’s proposal in 2022 and instead awarded the contract to rival SeaStreak, despite SeaStreak’s higher rates and fewer crossings. The current contract has a term of two years, with two one-year extension options.

When proposals were solicited for the current contract, SeaStreak proposed 11 daily weekday trips, with a one-way fare at $28. NY Waterway proposed 16 daily weekday trips at $21.50 each way.

NY Waterway today released a statement saying it has successfully operated ferry service from Belford for more than two decades and plans to resubmit a proposal.

“In December 2022, in response to a Request for Proposals, we submitted a proposal that, while providing better service at lower rates than any other bidder, was rejected by the county due to a technical issue,” NY Waterway said .

“We are grateful that the New Jersey Court of Appeals has now vacated this rejection and ordered a rebid of the contract,” NY Waterway’s statement said. “We look forward to resubmitting our proposal for consideration based on its merits. We remain confident that we can provide superior service at reasonable rates and hope to have the opportunity to serve Monmouth County residents again.”

SeaStreak president James Barker said the company is reviewing the latest development.

“We are reviewing the information and I believe Monmouth County will make a statement, and I will defer that,” Barker said.

John M. Glynn, special counsel for Monmouth County, promised no disruption to ferry service from Belford, but he did not indicate whether the county will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court or file a new request for proposals.

“In the wake of the Appellate Division’s decision, the province will further review the Appellate Division’s determination and evaluate possible next steps,” Glynn said. “In the meantime, there will be no interruption of service during this interim period, and SeaStreak will continue to provide ferry services under its contract with the province until final resolution of this lawsuit or until a new contract for these services is awarded.”

Monmouth County said in 2022 that it rejected NY Waterway’s bid for non-compliance because the company failed to acknowledge that it had a bond to guarantee continued service if it encountered financial difficulties. NY Waterway challenged the denial in court, saying it had a letter of credit from a bank to prove its financial stability.

Although state Appellate Court Judge David F. Bauman rejected NY Waterway’s 2022 argument, Judges Maritza Berdote Byrne and Avis Bishop-Thompson of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court ruled Tuesday that the county must redo the bidding process.

The judges said the province used a hybrid process with two exceptions to government contract law, thereby failing to comply with the law.

Under one of the exceptions to government contract law, the competitive bidding exception, the county has not submitted a required report, written by a purchaser, counsel or administrator, containing the names of all potential vendors who submitted proposals, a summary of the proposals and a recommendation for the selection. from a salesperson, the Appellate Division said.

Under the other exception, which concerns a contract for ‘an extraordinary unspecified service’, a designated official would be required to submit a certificate to the governing body explaining why it was not reasonably practicable to prepare specifications , the appeal judges said. Such certification was submitted regarding Belford’s ferry contract, while the county’s request for proposals included 14 pages of technical specifications, the report said.

“We reverse the trial court’s decision, concluding that all bids were rejected and that the contract should be reexamined for bidding,” the appellate judges wrote.

A reporter in New Jersey since 1985, Kathleen Hopkins covers crime, trials, legal issues and virtually every major murder case affecting Monmouth and Ocean counties. Contact her at khopkins@app.com.

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