Jan 14 2012

Opinion: Incorrect Use of Sewer Funds for Undergrounding Problem Needs a Public Report

Residents’ investigation of the Crest Road washout revealed incorrect allocation of funds from the Sewer Fund, resulting in proposed refund to the sewer fund

Jan, 13, 2012
re: Jan. 17 City Council Agenda Item 2A

Dear City Council,

I extend my thanks to Mr. Grote for his leadership in responding to my previous
correspondence and comments concerning Crest Road and specifically the newly discovered lack of trench dam installation. $275,000 will now be transferred from the General fund back to the Sewer fund. However, I believe this matter is not entirely concluded.

I. On Oct 13-14, 2009 the Crest Rd washout occurred. On Oct. 14 John Wanger issued the
attached Field directive, instructing Valley Utility to immediately commence repairs, insure the integrity of utility lines and back-fill the trench with control density fill (“CDF”) which is
approved by PGE. On Nov. 16, 2009 Staff presented written and oral requests of Council to obtain $296,000 to repair Crest Rd. The central theme of Staff requests was the necessity to install the previously omitted trench dams. Trench dams are utilized on steep slopes to eliminate exactly the type of washout that occurred. The omission of the trench dams in the initial construction evidently caused the washout. The City agrees as the current litigation against the engineers confirms, see City Complaint at paragraph 15 in this matter.
According to cement delivery tags obtained by a Neil Teixeira PRA request, from
10/18/2009 to 11/29/2009 a total of 844 cubic yards of CDF had been delivered to Crest Rd. By Nov. 15 a total of 742 yards of CDF had been installed in the trench. The repair was 88%
complete  by the Nov. 16, 2009 Council meeting. The Jan. 17, 2012 staff report states: “After the Council had appropriated the money, but before the repairs were made, the City Engineer determined that a different repair method was better.” Clearly the repair method had been chosen and largely completed before the Council appropriated the money. To suggest that hundreds of cubic yards of CDF would now be excavated to install trench dams, and then bedding and hundreds of cubic yards of cement would be reinstalled, is not credible.

II. The Nov. 4, 2009 Kleinfelder Report was entirely ignored. There was evidently no intent
by Staff to use Kleinfelder’s recommended method of repair; this would have been prohibitively expensive by Nov. 16, 2009 when the trench contained 742 cubic yards of CDF.

III.  The City is now litigating on the known construction error of initial trench dam omission.
This critical information, the trench dam omission and the critical role it’s omission played in the washout, was omitted from information given to Council by Staff on Nov. 16, 2009.

IV.  Valley’s Utility’s contract included language that they were to protect their open work at
all times. This implies they are responsible for any damage. Valley did not protect the open work adequately, yet Valley was paid in excess of $270,000 for the Crest Rd repair.

V.  The Nov. 16, 2009 staff report and testimony places partial cause of the washout on the
lack of storm drains on Crest Rd. Subsequently the washout repairs did not include the
installation of storm drains. John Wanger confirms in an email to me that “Crest is operating in the same manner (storm drain wise) as it did before the undergrounding project is correct.”
(Wanger email 9/12/2011) If storm drains were a causative factor in the washout, then they
should have been installed in the repair. Evidently the lack of storm drains was inconsequential, supported by common sense that the steep slope and pronounced crown of Crest Rd would make storm drains unnecessary.

Conclusion: There was no legitimate use of the sewer fund concerning the $275,000 that is
now to be transferred from the General fund back to the Sewer fund. This is being done only
because John Wanger confirmed to me Nov. 9, 2011 that trench dams had not been installed. The taking of the money from the Sewer fund initially is troubling and now the City is asking
residents on Feb. 7 to impose a 50% increase in the sewer tax. In the spirit of transparency and good governance, I ask that one of the following options, in order of priority, be enacted:

(1)  By the City Charter Mr. Grote is responsible for City Staff. In a brief conversation on
Nov. 18 Mr. Grote claimed to have unaware of the trench dam omission. I believe Mr. Grote, and trust he has concerns about the evidently omitted and misstated information by his staff. I ask Mr. Grote to undertake an investigation and submit a report.

(2)  I ask Mayor Barbieri, as is allowed under the City Charter, to undertake an investigation
and prepare a report.

(3)  I ask City Council to undertake an investigation and prepare a report.

I am hopeful the facts I have presented here and in the excellent LWV Report concerning
this matter will be incorporated in the investigation and report.

Rick Schiller
Piedmont resident

Editors note:  The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Piedmont Civic Association.

One Response to “Opinion: Incorrect Use of Sewer Funds for Undergrounding Problem Needs a Public Report”

  1. After reading the information related to Piedmont Hills; I can’t dismiss the fact the same issues are ongoing in the newly redistricted areas of the Oakland Hills (Piedmont Pines) for the purpose of utility under-grounding.
    No Feasibility studies, engineering studies, or soil engineering were conducted prior to assessments of the homeowners or consideration to the safety of the homeowners.

    Sheila Byers

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