Judges reject emergency dam repairs

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The two judges of jurisdiction over the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District have denied the district’s request to award a $65,545 contract to Norcon Corp. to carry out “emergency, temporary repairs” to the spillway at the Meander Reservoir dam.

The spillway has three areas of concrete – the largest about 18 inches square – that need to be repaired, MVSD officials said.

The MVSD sells water to Youngstown, Niles and McDonald, which then sells it to many other communities in the Mahoning Valley.

The MVSD filed a request June 4 with common pleas court judges Lou D’Apolito of Mahoning County and Ronald Rice of Trumbull County asking for permission to do the work without going out to bid.

The MVSD had to ask the judges of jurisdiction for permission because the price is above the $50,000 threshold for awarding contracts without a bid.

Documents associated with the request include an affidavit from Jon Jamison, resident MVSD engineer, who is project manager for the ongoing dam rehabilitation project, which is expected to continue through 2022.

Jamison explained that the spillway is where excess water spills out of the dam.

“The condition of the dam and spillway does not pose any risk of imminent danger to the public health, safety or welfare; however, it does not meet contemporary design standards,” Jamison said.

The engineering company Gannett Fleming observed numerous deficiencies on the surface of the spillway in 2014, including problems with with layers of concrete, Jamison said. The problem worsened during the freeze-thaw cycle from 2017 to 2018, Jamison said.

“It is my engineering judgment that these surface deficiencies, albeit limited, on the spillway need to be promptly repaired through a company with the necessary credentials, experience, expertise and materials to perform this specialty repair,” Jamison said. Norcon has worked with Gannett Fleming on dam-related work in the past, Jamison said.

Ramesh Kashinkunti, the MVSD’s chief engineer, notified the Ohio Department of Natural Resources of the three problem areas on the spillway, and the ODNR gave verbal approval to proceed with the emergency repairs, Jamison said.

The repairs will involve taking a boat or boats to the spillway, building a partial dam to keep water from going over the repaired area, building scaffolding, making cuts into the spillway and filling the area with specialized mortar.

The repairs are similar but on a smaller scale as what will be done on the dam during the larger rehabilitation project, Jamison said. The repair was to begin July 9 and take two weeks.

However, the judges ruled earlier this month that the “exhibits and affidavit submitted in support of the emergency request do not adequately support the emergency nature of the repair.” The judgment entry says the documents “do not demonstrate an immediate need which justifies the appointment of a contractor outside of the normal bid process proscribed” under Ohio law.

The entry pointed to Kashinkunti’s remarks that “there were and are no visible signs of water infiltration from any of the three areas in question” and the three areas “did not represent any structural impact.”

The entry added, “The court is not suggesting the repairs are not warranted or necessary. However, awarding public contracts without following the proper bid protocol is a slippery slope, and the court finds under the circumstances herein, the MVSD has failed to provide sufficient support for such a drastic measure.”

The MVSD’s legal counsel, Thomas Wilson, said Monday that it will take about five extra weeks to carry out the bidding procedure.

“We filed our motion, the court made its ruling, and we will abide by the court’s ruling,” Wilson said.

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