2011-07-09 / Editorials & Letters

Time to check the air!

It’s time to check the air in Buckeye Lake Village Council chambers. Something is amiss when two of the three members of council’s Public Service Committee name M•E Engineers as their first or second choice to design and oversee the village’s upcoming storm water drainage project. The firm – which has charged the village hundreds of thousands in fees for the water distribution system and street resurfacing projects – has cost the village hundreds of thousands more by ignoring/allowing poor quality work. For example, cracks started appearing in Cranberry Lane a few months after resurfacing. Similar cracks and some break-outs are now evident all over the village. But beyond a few vague promises to fix the streets, NOTHING has been done nor publicly discussed with council members.

Yet, M•E hopes to bag another fat village contract, charging $62,000 to design and oversee a project to replace 3,688 linear feet of the village’s existing storm water system. Existing rights-of-way and easements will be used and no permits are required. That’s almost $17 per foot for a very simple job.

Incredibly, Finance Committee chair Hilde Hildebrandt, who prides herself on her financial prowess and groundbreaking career, lists M•E as her first choice. Member Clay Carroll has M•E as his second choice. Thankfully, chair Kaye Hartman and council member Donna Thompson haven’t succumbed to M•E’s vapors. We may get a chance Monday night to see what the rest of council has been breathing.

Council President Charlene Hayden must be living on Cloud 9 with M•E. Actually, we recently heard a more plausible explanation for her unrelenting praise for M•E and a couple of weeks ago, ChemCote. After publishing another photo (we have more) clearly demonstrating that M•E allowed ChemCote to ignore critical specifications – failure to clean the surface being repaved and not using the specified tack or bond coat – AND permitting ChemCote to shortchange the village on the thickness of the new asphalt by as much as 40 percent, Hayden declared at the June 27 council meeting, “ChemCote did what they were asked to do and then some.”

Yes, we would have to agree with the observation that Hayden’s judgment has become totally obscured by her hatred for this newspaper and former council member Peggy Wells who has also dared to criticize her. Hayden needs to immediately remove herself from any discussion, debate or vote concerning M•E or ChemCote. Her comments, both during council meetings and in her council president’s report, have single-handedly killed any chance of the village recovering excessive fees from M•E and overpayments from ChemCote in a legal action. Thanks to her intemperate remarks, an attorney defending ChemCote or M•E from a village recovery action has a virtual treasure trove of Hayden’s praise for their work available as evidence to dismiss the suit.

Some of those M•E vapors may be slipping under the door into the administrative office. Service Director Tim Matheny told council members June 27 that the newly repaved streets are deteriorating because there was no good base beneath the asphalt. That’s just one of the reasons why repaving fails. It fails because the new asphalt doesn’t bond well to the existing surface, allowing water to get between the new and old surfaces. Water is asphalt’s biggest enemy. Bonding is certainly compromised when the existing surface isn’t cleaned properly nor is the specified tack or bond coat applied. Repaving also fails when the specified thickness of asphalt is not applied. Too thin asphalt layers crack, again allowing water to enter. Of course, all three occurred daily on this project.

Matheny’s excuse fails to explain why M•E’s specifications called for planing off 1- 1/2 inches off the existing pavement of every street. If you have a poor base to begin with, that situation is aggravated when you plane off 1 - 1/2 inches. The routine planing significantly reduced the thickness and often the structural integrity of the base. A few streets weren’t planed – Mill Dam Road, most of East Street, Maplewood Drive, Fairoaks Lane. Mill Dam and East Street also appear to be holding up better than others which is likely due to having a better base – an unplaned base.

Matheny’s excuse also fails to address the $85,000 question. That’s what M•E was paid to design and oversee the repaving project. That included $36,400 for the final design. What did we get for that $36,400? Basically, ONE plan sheet with some Pavement Notes, four types of typical sections and two details – one for butt joints and the other for shoulder treatment. That’s maybe a day or two of work. The rest of the plan sheets simply provided dimensional information on the streets to be repaved. In most cases, that data could be simply pulled from the plan sheets for the water distribution project which obviously had to note the location of streets, underground utilities, etc.

What should we have received for that $36,400? It’s an easy, straight from the textbook answer – an evaluation of the structural capacity of the existing pavement. Any competent pavement engineer is familiar with nondestructive testing. To quote the Asphalt Institute’s Asphalt Overlays manual, “Over the last 10 to 15 years, nondestructive deflection testing of pavements has gained favor as a rapid, reliable method for evaluating flexible and rigid pavements.” There are several equipment options including a hand-held Cone Penetrometer and trailer mounted devices. A proper design would have evaluated the existing structural capacity of our streets and then based the decision to plane or remove 1 -1/2 inches of the base on objective measurements. Planing was clearly a mistake on Cranberry Lane, nearly destroying its entire base in some areas.

We paid top dollar for engineering services and got a one-size-fits-all design that M•E didn’t even bother to enforce. It’s not our fault – as Matheny hints – that our streets are failing. It is M•E and ChemCote’s fault.

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