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Officials Cry Fowl on Painting Holdup

Thursday, April 24, 2014

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If only industrial scaffolding didn’t look so cozy and inviting—a place to curl up and call home.

But apparently, it does—at least, if you're a raven—and now, the town of Fair Lawn, NJ, will shell out an additional $20,000 to keep just such a structure up and painters away until the raven family that is nesting there can leave.

Fair Lawn Water Tower
News 12 screen grab

A raven parent circles the nest of chicks that have taken up residence on the scaffolding enveloping the Fair Lawn, NJ, water tower. The nest has temporarily halted a $1.5 million tower coating project.

The scaffolding surrounds the town's water tower, which had been in the middle of a long-delayed, $1.5 million maintenance coating project until a mama raven recently decided that it was the perfect spot to build a nest for her eggs.

'Respecting their Nesting'

A local resident spied the nest earlier this month and called the Bergen County Audubon Society, which then alerted the state. Although ravens are not endangered, they are a protected species under state and federal law. That means an active nest may not be disturbed.

And that means that the water tower coating project is on hold until the now-hatched chicks leave home.

"What we're doing is just respecting their nesting time," Don Torino, of the Bergen County Audubon Society, told News 12 New Jersey. "Once they've nested here, they'll leave the nest."

Project on Hold

he state Department of Environmental Protection has told the town to hold off on painting the tower for about a month, until the baby ravens can fly. - See more at:

That could take four to six weeks, but the town has no choice. New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection has ordered the coating project halted until the babies can fly. The county Audubon Society is observing the nest and will give the all-clear when it's empty.

Wikimedia Commons / Donar Reiskoffer

The Common, or Northern, Raven is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and New Jersey law. Adults average 21 to 27 inches long. New Jersey's raven population is stable, but not plentiful.

Meanwhile, the delay will mean an unbudgeted additional $20,000 in scaffold rental, Mayor John Cosgrove has told reporters.

"I'm all for preserving wildlife, but the cost to the borough of an additional $20,000 of this project because of a nest that has some birds in it to me seems a little outlandish," Cosgrove told The Record of North Jersey.

Cosgrove called the state directive an unfunded mandate and said he was considering passing the tab along to DEP.

Scope of Work

The nest will also mean another delay in a complex and messy project that the town has been planning for years. The tower has not been painted since 1995, and maintenance coating is long overdue, offiicals say.

The $1,495,369 coating contract was awarded in September to U.S. Tank Painting Inc., of Millstone Township. That award was made after the project was put out for bid a second time, the local Patch reported.

The first time, the low bidder withdrew because of a "misinterpretation" in the specs, and the second-lowest bid exceeded the budget.

Fair Lawn Water Tower

The Fair Lawn (NJ) Water Tower was last painted in 1975. Interior and exterior maintenance coating are underway.

The project involves cleaning and painting interior and exterior surfaces of the one-million-gallon storage tank. Separately, the town awarded a $78,300 inspection services contract to Utility Service Co., of Bridgewater, MA.

Cosgrove said in September that he hoped the project could be completed by the end of 2013.

Flying Upside Down

DEP told The Record in an email that New Jersey's raven population is stable, but not "numerous."

Torino believes the chicks will be gone in mid-May, and he seems happy to defend their home until they can vacate it.

“They’re highly intelligent birds,” Torino said. “You could get addicted to watching them. They play with each other like dogs. There’s an intelligent connection you can sense. They’ll fly upside down, throw sticks to each other.” - See more at:

“They’re highly intelligent birds,” Torino said. “You could get addicted to watching them.

"They play with each other like dogs. There’s an intelligent connection you can sense. They’ll fly upside down, throw sticks to each other.”

“I’m all for preserving wildlife, but the cost to the borough of an additional $20,000 on this project because of a nest that has some birds in it to me seems a little outlandish,” said Fair Lawn Mayor John Cosgrove. - See more at:


Tagged categories: Bidding; Government contracts; Inspection; Paint application; Painting Contractors; Program/Project Management; Tanks and vessels; Tower

Comment from Richard L Hatch, (4/24/2014, 1:40 PM)

Maybe in good faith the scaffold company donate the cost of the rental and show there support...I`m sure it won`t break the bank

Comment from Car F., (4/24/2014, 1:49 PM)

Absurd!!, people are concerned about a crow nest, while thousands of humans are roaming the street homeless or living in their vehicles. Perhaps the Audubon Society should be called to protect humans and provident those with the same degree of respect and care afforded to the ravens: it is the ultimate hypocrisy.

Comment from Karen Fischer, (4/24/2014, 2:49 PM)

Apparently the interior is already done? If not, there would be no disturbance of a nest if operations were limited to the interior. Would give the contractor something to do (minimizing down time) while waiting for the fledglings to leave the nest.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/25/2014, 11:51 AM)

International migratory bird treaty of 1918. Really not much flexibility.

Comment from Billy Russell, (4/25/2014, 12:28 PM)

Smiling, a crow really ? SMH

Comment from John Fauth, (4/28/2014, 12:24 PM)

It’s an easy decision to make when spending someone else’s money (the taxpayer). Quoth the raven, “Nevermore”.

Comment from Mark Bowen, (4/28/2014, 2:59 PM)

Maybe we could get a raven to nest in the affordable care act.

Comment from Karen Fischer, (4/29/2014, 10:46 AM)

No one mentions the body count (migratory birds) beneath the "green energy" windmills cropping up all over the country. Where's the outrage there?

Comment from Andrew Piedl, (4/30/2014, 10:38 AM)

New Jersey is used to having others spend their tax dollars; they rank at the top for outlay to the Federal Government (this money is spent in other states). These are not crows - they are ravens. I'm from New Jersey and have never seen one in the wild. I'm siding with the birds on this one. There's plenty of room for improvement around the windmills and at buildings, which are responsible for a lot more bird deaths. Not sure if posting a link is permitted here, but here is a source with a lot of info:

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