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Time to get serious

It’s taken nearly four years, but Buckeye Lake Village Council’s Public Service Committee is supposed to discuss the failed street repaving project at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 22, at the village office..

Back in June, Committee Chair Arletta Ruton said the committee is considering possible legal action against the project engineer, M•E Companies. The paving contractor is out of business. Committee members were to review the contract specifications. Two months later, village officials were considering asking M•E for the specifications. Thankfully, village officials managed to come up with the bid documents and the plans/specifications. They are available for public review at the village office.

We spent about an hour total on two visits to make sure we hadn’t missed something four years ago. We had not. It’s all there in black and white: A twoinch asphalt surface course (that’s two inches thick AFTER compaction), a tack coat, and thorough cleaning of the surface “immediately” before placement of the asphalt.

These steps “shall be witnessed by the engineer without exception.” M•E/ Chemcote got one of the four steps right – M•E’s inspector, charged out at $70 per hour, was there without fail, consistently ignoring the cleaning requirement, use of tack coat and the required thickness of the new asphalt.

Some village officials have claimed that M•E wasn’t supposed to inspect the work. Every M•E invoice 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 (our caps).” We have copies of most of the invoices if the village can’t find the originals.

Our recent review reminded us that M•E claimed to have made 48 bore holes to determine the thickness of the existing asphalt on the streets to be resurfaced. Assessing current conditions is a critical element in developing “detailed plans and specifications.” According to the bore holes, existing asphalt ranged from two inches thick (Anchors Way, Cottage, Rosebraugh, Spring, Tanner, Northbank and Church) to 6 1/4 inches (Union Avenue at Ohio 79). Most streets had three inches or less existing asphalt. Cranberry Lane, which has deteriorated the most, had 2 1/2 inches of asphalt.

Here’s why we question whether the bore holes were actually done. The plans include nearly 100 pages listing the elevations of every street to be repaved. Each sheet includes the same specification: “1 1/2” mill and re-pave.” That means some streets were left with about 1/2 inch of existing asphalt and a majority were left with 1 1/2 inches or less. Cranberry Lane was left with one inch. No wonder it started breaking up within weeks.

Asphalt is only as good as its base. M•E’s one-size-fits-all specification to mill 1 1/2 inch from every street left most streets with too little base. That combined with their failure to enforce the installation specifications (2 inches of asphalt, tack coat and thorough cleaning) is why our streets are turning into gravel roads. The two best repaved streets are Mill Dam Road and East Street. For some reason, they weren’t milled, even though the specifications called for it.

M•E was paid nearly $85,000 for this project. They failed miserably on their two most important responsibilities – “detailed plans and specifications” and “inspection.”

With the village’s finances for everything, except fire and water, deteriorating as fast as our streets, village officials need to get serious about seeking compensation from M•E for their fraudulent work. Waiting for money to fall out of the sky or to get bailed out by another grant isn’t a strategy. Buckeye Lake failed to properly manage a very generous grant and it is unreasonable to expect other taxpayers to pay twice for the same work. Government grants don’t come out of thin air; someone is or will be paying taxes for the grant.

M•E Companies is a very substantial firm with four offices in Ohio. M•E recently became part of Toronto-based IBI Group, Inc. – described as “a multidisciplinary global leader” with 80 offices around the world. It’s time they meet the commitment that they made to Buckeye Lake.

Our village officials have a fiduciary responsibility to Buckeye Lake residents and taxpayers around Ohio to seek restitution. Come out Monday night to hold their feet to the fire. It’s our best chance to keep from driving on gravel streets.

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