2010-08-28 / Editorials & Letters

A no brainer!

That’s what Buckeye Lake Mayor Rick Baker called our concerns about how Buckeye Lake streets are being repaved. And he’s right.

Residents and visitors alike were thrilled when work finally started about two weeks to repair streets damaged by the installation of the village’s first-ever water distribution system. We’ve long been concerned about this project given the original condition of our streets, the poor to non-existent management of storm water and the poor quality of the material used repeatedly over the last 9-12 months to fill water line trenches across and along our roads. That material never compacted properly, requiring trenches to be refilled again and again.

It’s obvious to even casual observers that repaving our streets won’t be easy. Water, particularly freezing water, destroys more roads than anything else. Most roads are designed with crowns in the middle so storm water runs off the road and away from its base. Many Buckeye Lake streets are below the surrounding grade so water flows onto the streets, rather than off them. In addition, few streets have aggregate berms which can disperse some storm water.

I think you’ve got the picture – our streets were poorly designed, constructed and maintained, plus there is little room to make major changes. The $722,000 question (Chemcote’s low bid) is why didn’t our village officials and professional engineers get the picture.

Instead of recognizing and attempting to minimize the impact of our existing deficiencies, our contractor – with little or no oversight from village officials or our engineers – ignored basic ODOT specifications and industry good practices. We learned Monday that Chemcote was not applying a binder or tack coat to the existing road surface. The binder or tack coat helps the new asphalt stick to the existing roadway. That’s critically important in all resurfacing projects, but particularly when the new layer is so thin. Buckeye Lake officials dropped an earlier plan to lay two courses of new asphalt totaling three inches for one two-inch course that is compacting to about an inch thick.

Nor was Chemcote sweeping the roadway in front of the paver. ODOT Specification 407.05 states that the roadway surface be “thoroughly clean and dry when the asphalt material is applied.” Chemcote is using a rotary broom to cleanup following the roadway grinder, but it can be several days before that section is repaved, allowing debris like dirt, asphalt millings and loose gravel to build back up.

Unfortunately, our own observation Tuesday morning on Central Avenue confirmed Monday’s report. No binder or tack coat was being used and the paver was laying new asphalt over whatever was on the ground down roadway. Often 6-12 inches of new asphalt on each side of the roadway was laid directly on dirt, either flush with or below the grass level. Water will quickly get under that asphalt and with a little help from vehicles driving on the edges, it won’t be long before asphalt starts breaking off. As one piece breaks off, the new exposed edge becomes vulnerable to the same fate. In a couple of years or less if we have another tough winter or two, our $722,000 in new roads will start looking a lot like what we have now.

We emailed Mayor Baker with our concerns about 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. He replied in about 30 minutes and we saw a Chemcote tack coat truck on East Street around 4 p.m. His immediate action is gratifying, but fails to answer several critical questions

In his response, the mayor said it’s “unfortunate that the mayor position is not a full time job so I could physically look at the progress of the streets.” Buckeye Lake Village is not a one person show. We have a paid service director and a development director. Why weren’t they periodically checking on Chemcote? This isn’t brain surgery. Anyone with reasonably good eyesight could tell that a binder/tack coat wasn’t being used and that streets aren’t being swept just before the new asphalt is laid.

In addition, Buckeye Lake has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars with ME Companies for engineering services for the water distribution system project and street repair. An ME employee is on the scene regularly with the street project and was present Tuesday morning as Central Avenue was being paved without a binder/tack coat and proper cleaning. They are supposed to be professionals! What are we paying them for if they ignore or look the other way when standard industry practices and specifications are being ignored?

Here’s what’s at stake. Buckeye Lake cobbled together two grants, a no interest loan and nearly exhausted its permissive use fund to come up with the repaving money. The grants accounted for more than 50 percent. Unfortunately for most village streets, it will be a very short-term fix. That’s because we failed to address the existing design flaws. Putting down a thin layer of asphalt over the old problems will look good for awhile, but it won’t hold up. Failing to even meet basic standards (no binder/tack coat or cleaning) will cut its limited life even more.

It’s doubtful grants will be available in a couple of years to redo a botched job. We had our chance and it looks like we blew it. The next repair will likely have to be funded by local taxpayers and it won’t be cheap.

A one mill property tax in Buckeye Lake Village raises $45,590 per year according to the Licking County Auditor’s office. Let’s just say that we’ll need $1 million to properly fix our streets. To raise $1 million over three years will take a 7.3 mill levy. Even waiting five years and likely enduring several years of broken up streets will require 4.4 mills. The prospect of voters approving street levies at those levels is dim. We barely approved a one mill levy for street lights

It’s long past time for our elected officials to concentrate less on getting along and congratulating each other, and start paying attention to what is actually happening in the village. Thanks to their inattention we have likely squandered a big chunk of $722,000. We will all pay dearly.

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