Most Buckeye Lake Village officials apparently believe in miracles. There simply isn’t a rational explanation for their failure to take ANY meaningful steps to address our rapidly deteriorating streets. A portion of Cranberry Lane is basically a gravel road. Several hundred yards of Hunts Landing Road more closely resemble the historic National Road in 1800’s than a paved road in the 21st Century.
A new mayor is elected and a few faces change on council but nothing happens. The village bought a few loads of asphalt millings earlier this year to fill in the holes on Cranberry Lane and Hunts Landing Road that were threatening to swallow some vehicles. The failure to even try to seal the every increasing pavement cracks ensures that our streets will continue to turn into gravel roads as water seeps further into the pavement.
The only new asphalt in town came courtesy of ODOT as Ohio 79 was resurfaced. Hopefully our officials were paying attention and took some notes. The contractor used a mechanical broom to sweep the milled roadway clean before applying a tack coat. No BS about the tack coat somehow getting into the lake as Buckeye Lake’s engineering firm (M•E Companies) claimed four years ago after we caught them ignoring their own specifications. ODOT engineers and technicians were also present to monitor the quality and thickness of the asphalt.
M•E’s inspector on the Buckeye Lake job did a great Ray Charles impersonation as he stood by day after day, blindly ignoring the paving contractor’s continuing failures to meet basic contract specifications: clean the surface to be repaved, apply a tack coat and apply a two inch (after compaction) surface course of new asphalt. For weeks, he somehow failed to see that the milled surface was not being swept, that no tack coat was being applied and that the asphalt measured about 1.5 inches BEFORE compaction. His blindness was apparently contagious as former Mayor Rick Baker and former Public Service Director Tim Matheny were unable to make the connection between the contract specifications and what was actually being done. We privately tipped off the mayor a couple of days after work started that the specifications were widely being ignored.
Buckeye Lake officials apparently believe that hundreds of thousands of dollars are going to fall out of the sky so we can fix our streets. Or maybe they think they will somehow get another big grant after so poorly managing their last one. Or maybe they think driving on gravel streets will give the village a special ambiance.
We have been recommending for more than three years that the village seek compensation from their engineer and paving contractor for their joint failure to meet contract specifications. We also offered up to $400 to pay for the first hours of a forensic engineer to build the village’s claim. Council member Peggy Wells is apparently the only village official who believes that we should have received what was specified in the contract.
For M• E Companies, that means a paving design based on our specific conditions and needs, and an inspector that ensures that the paving contractor meets contract specifications. Buckeye Lake paid M•E Companies nearly $85,000 for basically nothing. M•E’s specifications called for every street to be milled without considering whether the street would have enough base left to support the new asphalt surface course. Destruction of the road base coupled with poor installation practices and a too thin new asphalt course are why our streets are crumbling and will continue to do so.
In June, there was a hint of a possible breakthrough. Public Service Committee chair Arletta Ruton said the committee is considering possible legal action against M•E Companies and Chemcote. Members were to review contract specifications. Fast forward to August 11. Two months later members still don’t have copies of the specifications. Mayor Clay Carroll doesn’t even know when the work was done; he claimed it was five years ago when it was just four.
M•E’s chief defender and former council president Charlene Hayden now claims that the project was for just “cosmetic” resurfacing. The contact specified a two inch surface course which is clearly not ‘cosmetic.’ Carroll claims he can’t find a description of M•E’s responsibilities. It appeared on every monthly invoice from M•E. It listed its scope of work as: “Buckeye Lake street paving includes detailed plans and specifications, cost estimate, assistance with OPWC funding, contract documents and bidding forms, bidding process, construction administration and inspection.”
We reported in our story last week that we have copies of M•E’s invoices, contract/plan sheets detailing the specifications and other project documents. Village officials, who were contemplating on August 11 asking M•E for copies because they can’t find their copies, have not asked us for our copies. We’ll be happy to give them everything we have.
The continued foot-dragging and seemingly intentional ignorance of some village officials raise critical questions about what really happened. We have demonstrated that both contractors failed to meet basic specifications. Why are some key village officials so reluctant to even look at the project documents? Hundreds of thousands of dollars were lost to contract fraud. We have a responsibility to the taxpayers who paid for our grant to seek restitution. It’s also our best chance to come up with some funds to start fixing our streets.