2011-01-22 / Editorials & Letters

Who is Hayden working for?

Last week Buckeye Lake Council President Charlene Hayden spent most of her President’s report defending her friends at M•E Companies. We’ve reprinted this portion of her report nearby so you can read her own words.

She begins by referring to our ‘alleged criticism.’ There is nothing ‘alleged’ about it; our criticism has been very specific in our four editorials about M•E’s poor performance on the street resurfacing job. Hayden goes on to give M•E jack-of-alltrades (construction administrator, contract administrator, inspector, paving designer etc.) - Jack Christy - quite an endorsement for his willingness to address questions.

We decided to give Christy a try last week - politely and concisely asking him three questions that we’ve been raising for a couple of months in editorials and directly with Buckeye Lake Service Director Tim Matheny who passed them on to M•E some six weeks ago. The still unanswered questions are:

• Why is Buckeye Lake charged $1.40 per square yard when street planing is done, but is only credited $1.03 per square yard when the work isn’t done. That’s a $5,816 question!

• How did M•E verify that the $1.40 per gallon price for the unused tack coat represented fair market value for that material? The much larger Shelly Company bid $1.80 per gallon for tack coat in May to Walnut Township. That’s a $2,016 question.

• How did Christy calculate in the field the actual quantities of asphalt and tack coat being applied? Chemcote claimed and M•E agreed that they paved EXACTLY the 77,060 square yards specified in the contract - not a yard over or under. Chemcote also claimed to have used 35% of the tack coat specified which sounds high by our observations. This question is potentially worth tens of thousands of dollars.

We can’t claim to be surprised, but it’s been a week and we haven’t heard anything from Hayden’s Mr. Answers.

Hayden did address one of our questions - why wasn’t the $1,520 late penalty pursued. She concludes, “It would probably cost more to collect than we would get.” That doesn’t make sense; even the most costly M•E employee - project director Kevin Wood at $180 per hour - could write a letter to Chemcote in less than a hour requesting payment of the penalty. That would still net the village $1,340.

Yes, we even agree with Hayden that M•E’s hourly charges are probably similar to other engineering firms though we wonder how many charge out an intern at $51 per hour. Our primary concern is the large number of hours being charged to the village and the poor quality of their work product.

Hayden adds that Christy said Chemcote followed the contract specifications and did a good job. I guess that’s his story and he is sticking to it. Unfortunately for him, that isn’t what is happening in the real world where our repaved streets are breaking up along the edges and ripples are starting to show up in the new pavement. They certainly won’t look new by the time Spring finally arrives.

She also claims that Christy told her that when Chemcote accidentally damaged anything, they paid for it immediately. To most of us, “immediately” means right now, but to Christy it must include weeks later. On September 29 (a week after work was substantially complete), Christy sent Chemcote a list of nearly two dozen items that had been damaged and still needed attention.

Hayden also said that an unnamed M•E vice president wrote letters to all Buckeye Lake’s funding agencies “to see if they had a problem with anything ME had done with regards to the work they performed for the Village of Buckeye Lake.” She added, “None of them had a single problem.”

Well, there is a big single problem. The Ohio Public Works Commission is the primary funding agency for the repaving project. Their loan officer told us, “We have not received or replied to any such letter.” So now a cover-up campaign is underway. How big is Hayden’s role?

Hayden climbs further out on the limb for M•E stating, she has “no problem with anything ME has done,” and then scoots further out there by adding “...we have gotten our money’s worth, and more.”

Hayden talks about trust, adding that when an engineering firm is selected “you put your trust in the guidance that firm will give.” She has clearly forgotten President Reagan’s admonition to “Trust, but verify.” Hayden and Mayor Rick Baker apparently have blind trust in M•E, or even worse turn-your-head trust. There’s been no attempt at verification.

M•E’s explanations don’t make any sense, such as it will cost more to collect the late penalty than we will get and then there is their whopper on the use of tack coat. Using tack coat is an environmental issue due to the proximity of Buckeye Lake streets to the lake, M•E claimed after we raised the issue. M•E charged Buckeye Lake tens of thousands of dollars to develop the paving specifications that included the use of a tack coat. Are we to believe that somehow Buckeye Lake streets moved closer to the lake after those specifications were developed? That is pure, unadulterated BS!

Hayden says her bottom line is that M•E, Stillion and Chemcote only need to satisfy the funding agencies and the Village of Buckeye Lake.

Our bottom line is Buckeye Lake is owed tens of thousands by its engineers and the contractors on both the water and repaving projects. Hayden is ignoring the fiduciary duty that she and village officials have to ensure that both grant funds and local funds are spent properly and that contract specs have been met. Local officials are the first and most important line of defense against shoddy work and fraud. Ohio’s major funding agencies have hundreds of projects underway. They can’t be on site and must rely on local officials for oversight.

If Hayden wants to continue to defend M•E, Chemcote and Stillion, she is free to do so as a private citizen. If she wants to retain her position of trust, it is time for her to start demanding real answers for our very legitimate questions. There are thousands of dollars out there that are due Buckeye Lake. She can either work for M•E or she can fulfill her oath of office. She can’t do both.

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