by pete edwards
Local governments are once again redoing at taxpayer expense what could be described as shoddy workmanship. Shoddy workmanship, ineffective design, or bad advice is increasing the cost of managing our community. But what are officials to do when promises don't live up to expectations?
A detention pond in the city is having to be redesigned and reworked because it is not performing as planned. The Cleveland City Council rehired the same company that messed up the first time to try again with a different design. The city council were told that water channels that serve the pond are eroding due to unexpected water flow and need to be stabilized using a concrete liner or rock. The firm that designed the system claim that the problem occurred because the design was done during an unusually dry period. Consolidated Technologies Inc., which designed the pond say they had no way of knowing the actual water flow and therefore should not be held responsible for repairs. They offered to reduce the fee for the new work by about $5000 of the $16700 for the latest design but said they could not estimate the project's final cost to the taxpayer.
Detention ponds are needed to control water flow when natural drainage is changed due to construction with ground covering concrete slabs, roofs or parking lots. The detention pond or basin temporarily holds run-off water releasing it slowly so as not to overwhelm the natural drainage system. Although the maximum water flow is difficult to assess, design engineers typically use readily available storm data to calculate a worst case scenario. That is the primary reason a design engineer is needed. Basically, Consolidated Technologies Inc. are using the excuse that it was dry when they designed the system and therefore they didn't allow for rain. A ridiculous excuse for design engineers to make for a detention pond. It is like designing an interstate bridge that collapsed and claiming they didn't know heavy trucks would use it because there were none there when they designed it.
Now more than ever, city and county officials are hiring professionals to help them solve everyday problems that occur in the normal running of a community. Technology has changed, problem solving is becoming specialized, so public officials are finding they need help planning the best solutions when faced with a problem. Solving difficult problems has created problems of its own. Who can you trust to give you knowledgeable and accurate advice and who can you trust to stand by that advice? Apparently city officials have made bad choices.
The City of Cleveland is not entirely helpless when dealing with drainage engineers and consultants. Jonathan Jobe, city storm water director and project development manager should be experienced enough to assess the professionalism and expertise of Consolidated Technologies and alert the City Council to any misgivings. It would not have hurt if he had been firm with Consolidated over rework costs and pointed out their obvious failings. Presumably he is hired to advise the city on storm water issues and get the best deal for the taxpayer.
It happens too many times where professionals drop the ball and taxpayers pick up the mess.
Almost monthly news breaks of a project that has failed to meet requirements after officials had hired professionals to minimize problems. The $27 million Walker Valley High School was shrouded in controversy after overrun costs were associated with faults in construction. This is an example of a cover-up being discovered and the truth being disclosed by a conscientious School Board member. County commissioners were told this month of structural problems with the courthouse that were exasperated by shoddy concrete repair work. Water had seeped through cracks prematurely corroding the reinforcing metalwork. No one seemed to know or care who was responsible but it is likely to cost the taxpayer plenty.
Over the years of watching local government action, with the exception of some concrete work at Walker Valley High School, I can't remember one time city or county hired professional companies have been held accountable for shoddy work. They get away clean every time.
There is now an army of companies specializing in helping governments resolve their problems. Most of them only work for public entities and are being paid solely with tax dollars. They profess to being the answer to government's problems and present themselves well, but don't seem to provide much benefit to the community. The bad ones, which there seems to be many, tarnish the name of the reputable companies to the point of distrust for all.
Public money is tight and taxpayers are demanding value for every penny, while at the same time some of our elected and hired officials are facilitating scamming of taxes by companies performing at best, mediocre work. Who in Bradley county recommends the hiring of these incompetent firms? Maybe if we remove the culprits and employ conscientious people that don't pull consultants out of a hat, we would get better value. In any case, it is now time to demand quality from the companies we hire and for them to fix the problems they leave behind. At their expense.
That's what I think. What do you think?