Monday, February 14, 2005

North Canton Taxpayers Pay For Mistakes of Developers & Contractors

Prepared Comments Made To
February 14, 2005

In November, 2004, the City of North Canton abandoned an 8-inch water line loop that ran between Wynstone Circle and Wynstone Circle cul-de-sac to allow for the construction of a home. This is noted in a letter, dated January 27, 2005, from Mr. Michael Miller, the Director of Administration for the City of North Canton to me. The incorrect location of the 8-inch water line, had it not been changed, would have put the line just one or two feet away from the foundation of the home that was to be built. The small size of this lot did not allow for relocating the placement of the new home on the building lot.

The city abandoned the 8-inch water line loop and put a 2-inch water line loop in the centerline of the utility easement at the expense of North Canton taxpayers. The 2-inch water line loop was routed where the original 8-inch water line loop should have been installed and where plats approved by the city purported it to be located.

I contend that in spite of the fact that the City of North Canton assumed ownership of the utilities when the plat for this development was approved in 1998, that the City of North Canton should not be financially responsible for rectifying this problem.

In this instance, the city should have either required the developer to correct his error by relocating the 8-inch water line loop at his expense or refused a building permit for the construction of a home on this lot.

With no home on the lot, the 8-inch water line loop presented no problems for the city.

If the developer had wanted to save the sale of this building lot, the developer should have been financially responsible for relocating the 8-inch water line loop.

Had the developer located the 8-inch waterline loop more precisely in the centerline of the utility easement, there would have been no problem whatsoever.

And given that the building lots are small in this development, the developer should have realized that the location of utilities in this development was critical if high-density development was a high priority.

I have spoken to North Canton city officials and their reply is that they wanted to minimize potential risks to the city and the new homeowner in the event that there would be problems with this waterline. I can certainly concur with their foresight in that regard.

But, public monies should not have been used to benefit the developer.

I requested and received from the city a list of time and materials that were expended by the city to relocate this loop between Wynstone Circle and Wynstone Circle cul-de-sac. I have asked for an accurate costing of items on this list to determine a total cost to the City of North Canton taxpayers, but city officials have declined to provide these, stating that “No complete accounting exists.”

A similar example of waste, but on a much grander scale is the next example.

In 1993, the streets of Rose Lane and Fair Oaks Avenue, south of Glenwood Avenue, received new storm drainage, new curb & gutter and a new asphalt surface at a bid price of nearly $260,000. A change order on this project pushed the final cost to complete this project to more than $300,000.

In 2004, taxpayers were asked to pay for the rebuilding of Rose Lane and Fair Oaks Avenue. This time the cost exceeded $334,000.

One would expect that infrastructure such as a street would have a longer life span than just a few years but this was not the case here. A subsurface report completed by an engineering firm consulted in 2002 determined that the contractor in 1993 used unsuitable base materials which led to a failure of the street. The report also states that the failure of these two streets was observed soon after the 1993 reconstruction.

The deterioration of Rose Lane and Fair Oaks Avenue was allowed to continue for several years until the city had no choice but to reconstruct each of these streets.

Who is looking out for the taxpayers of this city?

The few thousand dollars that were expended to correct the water line loop for a developer on Wynstone Circle pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that were expended to correct the problems left by a contractor on Rose Lane and Fair Oaks Avenue.

Different dollar amounts in these two situations but the same mindset exists and it is very disturbing.

Why is their no outrage that declining city revenues are being used to correct mistakes such as these?

Contractors and developers are not being held accountable for their mistakes.

Why is there no mechanism in place to protect North Canton and its residents from situations such as the two I have just described?

I am sure there are other expenditures that leave the taxpayer holding the bag. And all the while, vendors invoice the city for these mistakes while at the same time sending in campaign contributions to elected officials.

Is this council providing “checks and balances” as it should? Or, does it turn a blind eye to what it knows is going on with these kind of expenditures.

Mayor Tom Rice, where are you when it comes to these types of expenditures? It is vendors such as these that continue to provide you with campaign contributions while you give away public funds.

The City of North Canton is in its third year of outspending its revenues. Expenditures such as these are not fair and North Canton taxpayers are taking it on the chin!

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne