We’re pleased to see that Buckeye Lake Village Council President Charlene Hayden is finally asking some questions about recent village projects. She devoted about half of her Council President’s Report at the June 13 meeting to the “local news media,” whining about negativity at a time when more people than ever are trying to improve the quality of life for residents.
Call us negative, crazy or whatever you want, but we believe that taxpayers – both nationally who will be footing the bill for the stimulus and locally – should get what they paid for. That hasn’t happened on the village’s last three major projects – installation of the water distribution system, resurfacing most of the village’s streets and extending a water line down Hunt’s Landing Road. Nor will it happen if M•E Companies remains as the engineer on the upcoming storm water management project.
M•E is the common thread on all these projects, but is not the only culprit. All three contractors – Stillion Brothers, ChemCote and Perry Reclaiming – to varying degrees, ignored key specifications. Meanwhile, M•E was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in inspection fees at $70 per hour to make sure specifications were met and they failed to do so miserably. Project contractors, particularly ChemCote, got a pass while we paid both M•E and ChemCote, getting crumbling streets in return.
Hayden’s cites two specific “media articles” to be reviewed and verified by the Public Service Committee. Actually, neither are “articles.” The first is a May 21 Letter to the Editor from former council member Peggy Wells. The second is a May 28 editorial. Both are fact-based opinions.
Hayden faults the May 21 letter for failing to note that a May 16 Public Service meeting put out a RFQ. Hayden apparently doesn’t understand even the basic tenets of government. The Public Service Committee can only recommend actions to council. A RFQ can only be put out when a majority of council members approve such an action which they did on May 23. Our May 28 editorial praised council for that decision.
Hayden proceeded to list five questions or statements that “need to be verified.” We’ll help the Public Service Committee with their homework.
Hayden’s questions/statements are listed first:
• When and how did council authorize ME to apply for more funding? Wells asked that question in her letter after a couple of council members couldn’t recall taking that action. It turns out it was done properly via council resolution last fall.
• Why was the water pre-assessment necessary? A pre-Hayden and Wells council in the 1990’s borrowed money from the Ohio Water Development Authority for water system plans and studies that the village could not repay. It’s a reminder from Wells that village property owners are ultimately responsible for repaying debt incurred by village officials.
• Locate the invoice stating the ground-breaking ceremony cost of $6000. Hayden has obviously not reviewed M•E’s monthly bills to the village. We’ve looked at every one of them starting in January 2009. Each monthly bill includes an attachment listing the date, the M•E employee providing the service, the hours spent on that date and a brief – often too brief – description of the work done. The invoice in question is No. 04371-00057 dated 6/30/09 for $19,610.73.
We actually understated the charges for the groundbreaking. Here’s the details:
6/23/09 Stephan Moore 3.0 hours for “Groundbreaking signs”
6/24/09 Stephan Moore 1.0 hours for “Groundbreaking signs”
6/03/09 Kevin E. Wood 3.0 hours for “ARRA issues/set up ground breaking”
6/08/09 Kevin E. Wood 4.0 hours for “Funding/ground breaking”
6/09/09 Kevin E. Wood 2.0 hours for “Ground breaking”
6/10/09 Kevin E. Wood 1.5 hours for “Ground breaking”
6/15/09 Kevin E. Wood 4.0 hours for “Ground breaking”
6/16/09 Kevin E. Wood 6.0 hours for “Ground breaking site visit/ARRA”
6/22/09 Kevin E. Wood 4.0 hours for “Ground breaking prep/funding
6/24/09 Kevin E. Wood 6.5 hours for “Groundbreaking”
6/24/09 Randy A. Stoll 8.0 hours for “coordinate and attend ground breaking”
Moore, Wood and Stoll are billed at $70, $180 and $135 per hour respectively. Moore’s four hours total $280; Wood’s 31 hours come to $5,580; and Stoll’s eight hours cost $1,080. The total is $6,940.
• Determine the billing rates for other engineering firms. I would suggest calling a professional organization for engineers, or call the OSU school of engineering. Once again Hayden misses 90 percent of our concerns. While M•E’s billing rates are at or near the top of the range for central Ohio – particularly so for an inspector at $75 per hour and an intern at $51 per hour – that’s not the central issue. It’s the often incredible number of hours that M•E bills to complete a task AND the poor quality of that work, particularly for inspection. After praising council members for doing a RFQ, our May 28 editorial focused on M•E’s charges totaling $62,000 for a project to REPLACE about 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 an incredible amount of money – more than 14 40-hour weeks of engineering services – for such a simple job.
• Determine why the road repairs have not been completed by this time. We can’t help the Public Service Committee on this one. This is a question that Mayor Rick Baker and Hayden should have been asking M•E for months.
Hayden also whines that “this type of media coverage puts this company (M•E) at a “disadvantage” when reviewing Requests for Qualifications. It’s their performance and overcharges that have put them at a “disadvantage,” not media coverage. Their performance should disqualify them entirely. Our coverage has only replaced the oversight that should have been done by village officials. If that’s being negative, you can expect a lot more of it.