Friday, March 16, 2007

More Cuyahoga Co Waste at Sewer District

Outspoken critic of the N/E Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), sewer board trustee, Middleburgh Hts Mayor Gary Starr is again calling for financial reform at the beleaguered & cash strapped sewer district.

Citing excessive cost overruns and wasteful spending, Starr has been at odds with Executive Director Erwin Odeal, for quite some time. Odeal has dismissed Starr's concerns as normal cost overruns, but has never addressed other questionable expenses.

Starr, besides being upset about excessive cost over runs, has
frequently criticized the board for such expenditures as an $18,000 portrait of the sewer district founder, a $100,000 water fall in the lobby of the sewer district new offices, a $1,000 floor clock and a $70 pencil holder?

The NEORSD will be
increasing sewer rates approximately 10% a year over the next 5 yrs for all customers and has indicated more increases will soon follow.

The Plain Dealer writes -

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District has overspent by $18 million on construction contracts over the last seven years, one of its trustees said Thursday.

That overage doesn't even include a 1999 project that was supposed to be $300,000, but eventually cost $1.15 million - an increase of 285 percent.

Outspoken Trustee Gary Starr, mayor of Middleburg Heights, used those cost-overrun figures to continue his ongoing crusade for financial reform at the district, which recently approved a five-year, 50 percent rate increase for its 330,000 customers in Cleveland and 59 other communities.

"After looking at this for only the last six months, I'm angry," said Starr, a longtime sewer district trustee. "I've become passionate about it because I believe we need to change the way we spend our money and we've had some contracts go way, way over."

...... Trustee Darnell Brown said Starr's concerns are legitimate in light of the district's figures and the recent rate increase.

Trustees last month approved a rate increase plan that will raise charges to those users by nearly 10 percent a year through 2011. Officials also have forecast more double-digit increases once the district yields to pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency......

"When we're passing rates which force our customers to spend their hard-earned money, we have to do our due diligence," Brown said. "We need to get this situation fixed." More.....

There are several factors that contribute to cost over-runs on projects.

Typically the main culprits are a poor design, conflicts with existing utilities not being in the right location, unforeseen site conditions that differ from what is described in the plans for the project and /or weather.

There are ways to protect yourself against over runs and to some extent, unforeseen site conditions. Routinely there are monies set aside in contingency items to be used for such purposes.

Doing this type of work for a living, I find it impossible to believe that any project can go 285% over budget. I would be interested in seeing the original contract, plans and supporting documentation for these over runs. Unless the contractor was working on the wrong sewer, were using the wrong plans and the sewer district was not paying attention, this is unfathomable.

It was noted in the article that the cost over runs on projects have steadily increased from 1996. The district claims the over runs average out over time to within the industry standard.

While over time they might average out, but that is no excuse to be spending like drunken sailors now. With creative math, any numbers can be made to look good - except a 285% over run.

With new requirements coming from the E.P.A and stricter enforcement of the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Act, the district will be spending more money for upgrades. Can we afford to let these same people spend millions of more dollars?

One must ask, how long are the residents of Cuyahoga County going to allow these agencies to live high on the hog using their dime?


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