2014-03-08 / Editorials & Letters

Buckeye Lake Village faces rough road

Buckeye Lake Village is facing some rough roads - literally and figuratively. For your literal experience, drive down Hunts Landing Road or Cranberry Lane. Hunts Landing is a virtual minefield of potholes and broken up pavement. Cranberry Lane will look like Hunts Landing in another year. After months of ignoring it, Buckeye Lake recently put a bandaid on Cranberry Lane’s ever-growing sinkhole that had almost grown large enough to swallow a 1970’s Fleetwood.

Ignoring Hunts Landing Road is no longer an option. Maple Bay resident Tony Spring put the village on notice quite publicly on this page two weeks ago. Failure to address the deep potholes and deteriorating road surface will make Buckeye Lake liable for damage done to vehicles and any accidents caused by attempts to avoid the potholes. So far there is little indication that village officials understand the seriousness of their responsibilities.

Mayor Clay Carroll’s first communication to council dated Feb. 28 lead the list of Activities, Programs and Projects for 2014 with “Street/road repairs for areas such as Cranberry Lane, Hunts Landing Rd. and others as resources become available.” His list also included such major village initiatives as the Ryan-Braden Park softball season, the summer lunch program, “Trunk or Treat,” the fire prevention parade and the Christmas lighting project.

Carroll is apparently hoping someone will bail out the village on the critically needed repairs for Hunts Landing. Licking Township Trustees have wisely declined to pay for the village’s negligence. Much of the damage is a result of Buckeye Lake’s failure to require a road damage bond from the original developer of the Landings at Maple Bay. The developer’s heavy logging and excavation equipment cracked the road surface and then water and Buckeye Lake’s inattention did the rest.

Additional grants aren’t very likely and shouldn’t be considering how poorly Buckeye Lake managed its $750,000 grant to repave streets about three years ago. Then Mayor Rick Baker and Council President Charlene Hayden were very poor stewards for that huge investment by taxpayers throughout Ohio. Our reports that specifications and industry best practices were routinely ignored gave them both an opportunity to fix the deficiencies WHILE work was still being done and many months BEFORE final payments were made. We should note that both Carroll and new Council President Jeryne Peterson were among the council majority that agreed to pay paving contractor Chem-Cote and engineer M•E Companies EVERY PENNY they billed. Hayden even declared in writing that, “Chem-Cote did what they were asked to do and then some.” Thankfully, Baker and Hayden are gone, but their legacy endangers anyone using village streets.

Carroll & Co. can’t simply wait for resources to be available. They need to take steps to make them available. We brought up one source last June and were greeted with deafening silence. The statute of limitations still hasn’t run out on legal claims against Chem-Cote and M•E Companies. ORC 2305.06 allows Buckeye Lake Village to pursue a contract violation claim against both Chem- Cote and M•E “within eight years after the cause of action accrued.” Chem-Cote’s failure to install the specified two inches of compacted asphalt combined with their assertion that they met all the contract specifications appears to constitute fraud. ORC 2305.09 gives Buckeye Lake Village five years to bring an action “for relief on the grounds of fraud.”

As we offered last summer, The Beacon will pay for the first two hours, up to $400, for a forensic engineer to check the thickness of the asphalt installed in August/September 2010 and to evaluate compliance with the contract specifications. We have photographs that will help with that process. Time is running out and each month of delay makes these claims more difficult to pursue. Hayden’s statements that the work was done well will make our efforts to be compensated for our losses even more difficult. But it can be done and what’s the alternative. Hunts Landing must be fixed or we’ll soon be paying out thousands in damage and possibly injury claims. We can’t even wait to put a street levy on the ballot in November.

The figuratively rough road is the village’s poor financial condition. Officials must get serious about village finances. Years of subsidizing the police department out of the general revenue fund have nearly depleted it. We either need to match police department expenditures to levy revenues or ask voters to approve more money for the department. Council members must watch and evaluate every significant expenditure. Village officials must pay attention to details. Residents can’t afford anymore blunders like last summer’s failure to recover the some $37,000 village property owners were paying to Union Township. That money would have gone a long way toward fixing Hunts Landing.

An excellent council resource is available. Peggy Wells is back on council. She asked about the Union Township tax payments years ago. Wells is detail oriented and does her homework. She understands the village’s precarious financial condition, yet her request to chair the Finance Committee was rebuffed.

In the meantime, council members should take the cost-free step of changing the name of Hunts Landing Road to Baker Hayden Way so no one forgets the high cost of poor leadership and management.

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