2010-12-25 / Editorials & Letters

Buckeye Lake is M•E Companies’ Santa Claus

It seems it’s always Christmas for M•E Companies on Buckeye Lake Village projects.

As regular readers know, The Beacon has been a persistent critic of M•E ’s performance and oversight on the village’s $756,000 street repaving project. That total includes a sweet $85,000 for M•E. Shortly after Chemcote, Inc. began paving in August, we wrote that the contractor was ignoring contract and Ohio Department of Transportation specifications for use of a tack or binder coat and to “thoroughly clean” the roadway before asphalt is applied. This was going on in front of M•E’s inspector who is charged to Buckeye Lake at $70 per hour.

Our concerns, brought first to Mayor Rick Baker privately, were called a “no brainer” and work slowed for a week or so. But little actually changed when work resumed except for a token amount of tack being applied at intersections. Paving was still being done over whatever was lying in the street – dirt, grindings, gravel and other debris. Our $70 per hour inspector was still there, ignoring it. It appears Buckeye Lake paid just about $20,000 for “blind” inspection work on this project.

Our third editorial urging council members to withhold payment from Chemcote and M•E did get a bit of traction with village officials. Public Service Committee Chair Kaye Hartman asked M•E to address some of issues at an Oct. 4 committee meeting. Only Hartman and council member Donna Thompson seemed concerned. Council President Charlene Hayden even thanked the two stonewalling M•E representatives for their work. M•E did say the unused tack coat would be deducted.

M•E generated a change order on Oct. 15, reducing the contract price by $50,988.22. Council approved an ordinance accepting the change order at their Nov. 8 meeting, apparently without even doing the math. We looked a little closer. The change order included a credit for planing since some streets like Mill Dam Road, Maplewood Drive and Fairoaks Lane weren’t planed. Chemcote charged $1.40 per square yard for planing and grindings removal. However, the credit was for only $1.03 per square yard – Chemcote took a 26 percent discount on the credit. That out-of-the-air discount reduced Buckeye Lake’s refund by $5,816.40. This writer raised the issue with Service Director Tim Matheny who couldn’t explain the discount, but thought the bid line item might include work not related to planing. The bid line item is an ODOT specification and ONLY covers three tasks specifically linked to planing. The ODOT references and our original question were emailed to Matheny on Nov. 30 and he responded on Dec. 2 that our email had been sent to M•E for comment. Since then M•E has approved another payment to Chemcote, leaving just $3,302.50 unpaid. Matheny hadn’t heard back on the issue as of Dec. 16.

The change order also credited Buckeye Lake for 65 percent of the tack coat specified. That seems low based on our observations, but it is impossible to check without access to the inspector’s log if he even noted it. M•E claims the log is private; that’s an issue for another day. Tack coat was to be included in the price of the asphalt in the bid which makes sense since it is routinely used. Chemcote’s credit values tack coat at $1.40 per gallon. That seems to be a pretty cheap price, given that the much larger Shelly Company bid tack coat at $1.80 per gallon to Walnut Township in May. Chemcote’s “discount” price versus The Shelly Company’s bid cost Buckeye Lake $2,015.72.

M•E inspector Jack Christy acknowledged during the Oct. 4 committee meeting that Chemcote finished two days late after adjusting for weather. The contract had a $760 per day late penalty. Christy said it would up be up to council to seek the $1,520 late penalty. Somehow M•E’s $85,000 fee for this project doesn’t include seeking contractual penalties for finishing the work late.

That’s a total of $9,352.12 more due Buckeye Lake at a minimum on this project. There’s more!

It’s been a battle to get copies of M•E’s bills. Village officials claim they don’t have them – either they are being disingenuous or they don’t even review them. I don’t know which is worse. We eventually got the bills from the Ohio Public Works Commission. Charges for an intern billed at an incredible $51 per hour started showing up on the bill for September. Seven hours were billed for September, 15 for October and 34.25 for November. Remember paving was essentially completed by very early October. There is something else strange about the intern hours. The space that lists the tasks performed is blank for EVERY intern charge – a total of at least 14 days. He has quite a few four hour days charged to Buckeye Lake. The “stealth” intern cost Buckeye Lake $2,868.75 through November. Maybe he was fixing lunch or giving massages. Was he even being paid by M•E?

The big money is tough to document without access to the inspector’s log. What are the odds that Chemcote would pave EXACTLY 77,060 square yards as specified in the contract? Not very good, but that is exactly what they billed, not a yard over or under. That’s an incredible job of estimating for two companies that seem to have major problems getting the basics right.

Call us the Grinch if you want, but it is time to stop playing Santa to M•E and demand they meet their obligations to us. They can start by writing a check for $12,220.87 to the village. That’s peanuts compared to what they have cost us in fees and poor performance, but’s it a start. We’ll have more to say next year.

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