The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 5, 2012

Austinburg sewer project moves toward completion

County, contractor work out deal on road flaw

Star Beacon

JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — A long-standing roadblock to closing out the Austinburg Sanitary Sewers Project was removed by commissioners on Thursday.

Commissioners Peggy Carlo and Daniel Claypool voted to approve a $6,657 change order with Mr. Excavator, contractor on the project. The increase in the cost is essentially an accounting entry that amends the contract with Mr. Excavator to $2,355,819.30, which will a balance of about $39,000 in the retention fund that would otherwise go to the contractor. Rather, that money will be used by the county to address puddling and other issues on at least three streets in the township that were not restored to the satisfaction of trustees and residents.

Ashtabula County Engineer Tim Martin, CT Consultant’s Shawn Aiken and Larry Meaney, director of the county’s department of environmental services, did an on site review of the puddling issues after a rain shower Monday. Claypool said they came up with an estimate of cost to repair the flaws and worked out a deal with the contractor that withholds the money from his final payment. Austinburg Township Trustees accepted the offer Monday night by a unanimous vote.

“At this point, we have a financial solution to the road problem,” Claypool said in a work session prior to the commissioners’ vote on Thursday.

“I think it’s a very good solution. We do not have to go to court, we don’t have to hire a lawyer. Everybody should be satisfied with the results,” Claypool added.

Not quite.

“Here’s the problem I have with it,” said Trustee John Kusar Jr. “They are accepting it as defective work. ... From the get go, (commissioners) told us ‘Don’t worry, we have a maintenance bond. If something goes bad two years after we accept the project, we have a maintenance bond.’”

Kusar said that the deal the county cut with Mr. Excavator will be outside the maintenance bond, so once the $39,000 is expended on fixing the streets, responsibility for any additional problems will fall upon the township.

Engineer Tim Martin said the plan is to grind down any spots where the water puddles, patch the damage and reestablish a proper crown. He said the county’s highway department, perhaps working with the township’s road department, should be able to do the work in house. If extensive grinding is required, an outside contractor may be needed.

The work won’t be done until next spring, so any settling that occurs during winter will be addressed.

However, this fall the county will re-adjust the height of manhole covers on the affected streets so snowplows do not cause damage to them.

Martin said that if the cost of materials and outside contractors consumes the $39,000, the county will have to perform the work as in-kind service to the township and county.

The affected roads at this point are Maple, Betts and Mill, Martin said.

Commissioners accepted the sewer system as “substantially complete” earlier this year and about a dozen users have tapped into it already. The project was plagued by a long punch list of items, mostly restorative in nature, that delayed completion by more than a year.

Despite Kusar’s objections to the deal, commissioners lauded the cooperative spirit that should write the final chapter in the mandated project.

“It’s the best of all worlds,” Carlo said. “I think it is a good resolution for everyone; it’s going to meet the needs of the township trustees and the residents. And it does save money because we won’t be paying for going to court.”