It was another pay day for Chemcote and M•E Companies Monday night. Incredibly, five Buckeye Lake Village council members – Clay Carroll, Charlene Hayden, Hilde Hildebrant, Jeryne Peterson and Arletta Ruton – agreed to make the final payment for the street repaving project – $3,302 to Chemcote and $2,660 to M•E. Both companies have now been paid EVERY PENNY that they have billed.
It’s tough to ignore the continuing breakup of Cranberry Lane and the cracks starting to appear on other well-traveled streets, but the Blind Five were up to the task. They also continued to ignore our long-standing questions about the 26 percent discount taken on the credit to Buckeye Lake for work not done and the likely ‘low ball’ cost for unused tack coat. Plus there is the $1,500 in late completion penalties that village officials were too shy to impose on Chemcote. A corner-cutting contractor gets a $1,500 gift, but those same officials weren’t too shy to impose $1859.45 in late fees on water bills last year. Give the contractor a pass, but make residents pay up seems to be their practice. The residents paying that $1,859.45 in late fees should ask for the same deal Chemcote got.
The Blind Five also ignored our recent discovery – thanks to the breakup of Cranberry Lane – that the work literally doesn’t measure up to the specifications. The contract calls for two inches of asphalt, specifically referencing an ODOT spec. Two former county engineers, including one who also served as an ODOT Deputy Director heading up District 5, told us that the specified two inches means two inches in place AFTER compacting. Our efforts to calculate the effect of compacting – a .25 to .5 inch reduction from two inches – compared to more than a dozen 1.0 to 1.25 inch field measurements on Cranberry Lane vastly understated the shortfall in asphalt. We had calculated a 25 percent shortfall in asphalt worth some $144,000, when it should be closer to a 50 percent shortfall, worth nearly $300,000.
Council members Kaye Hartman and Donna Thompson stood up for accountability and taxpayers state-wide, opposing payment until the now very obvious problems with the project are resolved. Residents should thank them for standing up for what is right. Peterson made the motion to approve payment and offered a lame excuse, quickly echoed by Hayden, for the crumbling Cranberry Lane. She cited winter weather and construction traffic as key factors.
That brings us to the $83,000 question. Just what did Buckeye Lake get for the $83,000 paid to M•E Companies? The quick answer is “not very much.” On their invoices, M•E describes the scope of their 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.”
Construction traffic on Cranberry Lane should not be a surprise to anyone even vaguely aware of what’s happening in the village, particularly not to Peterson, Hayden and Mayor Rick Baker. Hayden and Peterson built new homes on Cranberry Lane and Baker has done two major renovation projects in the area. M•E’s Jack Christy, who accounted for 57 percent of the hours charged on this project, has demolished a house on Cranberry Lane and plans to build a new one.
Consequently, the “detailed plans and specifications” should have accounted for construction traffic on Cranberry Lane, its status as one of the most heavily traveled village streets, its narrow width and two-way operation. Anyone who has driven it a couple of times knows that vehicles often have to pull off to the side to let traffic going in the other direction pass. That means a berm should have been excavated on each side of the street, then filled to grade with compacted aggregate to provide a firm foundation for the edge of the street and to reduce storm water flowing under the street. But M•E’s slapdash plans and specifications called for planing the existing surface and a new two-inch asphalt surface on every street in the village. It didn’t matter whether it was a short dead-end street with minimal traffic like Cliff Street or the only access (Cranberry Lane) to a busy and popular neighborhood (Cranberry Bay). Planing was a mistake on Cranberry Lane as it reduced the foundation for the new surface as can now be seen in several spots where the pavement has totally broken through to mud. Rather a leveling course(s) of asphalt should have been done to provide a good base for the new surface. Of course, a better base will support more and heavier traffic.
Yes, it would have been more expensive but we would have a street that would last years rather than months as well as a good foundation for future resurfacing. A good engineer would have assessed each street based on its current condition, amount of traffic and its future. Instead we got a one-plan that obviously didn’t fit all.
Baker’s vague verbal assurance that Chemcote has pledged to fix the Cranberry Lane damage once weather warms up is not convincing. The problems are not limited to Cranberry Lane – they just showed up there first.
The crazy decision Monday night to pay both companies in full could also torpedo any future legal action taken by the village. It would be reasonable for a judge to ask why the village agreed to pay everything when the problems were showing up across the entire project.
The village needs to quickly shore up its legal case. The scope of the needed repairs will be far more than some areas on Cranberry Lane. Buckeye Lake should immediately hire an INDEPENDENT forensic engineer to fully assess the specification deficiencies and poor engineering practices. That report would then be the basis for claims for recovery from both Chemcote and M•E. Their contributions should total in the hundreds of thousands and would be used to fix the $756,000 mess they created.