[Mintwood-place] Foxes and the Hen-house
WeaverANC at aol.com
WeaverANC at aol.com
Fri Oct 17 15:48:14 EDT 2003
Councilmember Carol Schwartz
DC Council Committee on Public Works, Chair
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 105
Washington, D.C. 20004
October 14, 2003
VIA MAIL and E-mail
I am writing to you today on behalf of my constituents in Adams Morgan, who
have endured a year long battle with District of Columbia's Department of
Transportation. I would be interested in setting up a meeting with you and your
staff, to discuss these this issue more in-depth.
During my brief term as an ANC Commissioner in Adams Morgan my SMD has been
plagued with continual errors, missteps and shots off the mark by DDOT,
· Despite several calls to DDOT Biltmore Street NW had dangerous limb damage
to large trees that went unchecked before and after the hurricane which added
to power outages and property damage on the street;
· Businesses with legal permitted sidewalk cafes were sighted by DDOT as
illegal, due to DDOT's own internal problems with paper work. Moreover these cafes
were used as a backdrop for a DDOT press conference about illegal cafe
· DDOT 's two-year delay in the construction of traffic islands at 18th &
Columbia and Calvert & Adams Mill has cost Adams Morgan a substantial art grant.
But hands down the most egregious errors committed by DDOT have been on the
Mintwood Place reconstruction project. Almost a year ago DDOT assured me that
the resurfacing project and replacing of streetlights on Mintwood Place would
take two weeks. In the year since the project has been a perfect case study in
the District's incompetence.
DDOT's contractor Lane Construction and its subcontractors have been
responsible for several miss-cues that have caused great grief to the residents of
Mintwood Place--- broken front steps, streetlights that were never hooked up,
flooded basements, backed-up sewage into homes, paved over sewer traps, gas and
water line ruptures.
This project is deregulation gone amok, as apparently the District has
privatized some or all of DDOT's inspection work. Authority over this project has
been passed to contractors, with a lack of coordination among the government
offices and a strict compartmentalization of functions. This dissemination of
authority explains some of the problems with the Mintwood project. But
unfortunately it also means that the people with whom we have been talking with at DDOT
have little to do with the actual Mintwood project and therefore could not
answer our questions. Nowhere has DDOT kept a master list or paper trail of all
of Mintwood Place's complaints about errors and shoddy workmanship done by Lane
Construction. (Not, until residents created a email group, which included
several DDOT senior staff --- even now there is still no master-list of problems
on the street.)
The inspection work on the Mintwood Place project (and all the Ward 1
projects) is done by KCI Technologies, a Baltimore-based engineering firm with a
large contract with the District to "inspect" District road projects. A big part
of the inspection process is to confirm how many of each of the items covered
by the contract were installed on a given day (i.e. the number of light poles
installed, the tons of concrete poured, the square feet of brick laid). These
sheets contain little information about the problems encountered on Mintwood
Place, instead focusing primarily on quantifying the work completed by the
contractor on the day in question. Information that is used to calculate how much
should be paid to Lane for its work.
KCI Technologies could earn as much as $1.5 million for its inspection work
on the $11.5 million for the Ward 1 projects. There are only 3 KCI inspectors
who handle all the inspection work on Lane's Ward 1 contract. What we need is
inspection's to come from the District Government and not from a contractor who
has a finical interest for the work to be finished quickly --- quality be
damned. This is a classic case of the foxes watching the hen house. I think the
district could hire three inspectors to monitor Ward 1 projects for
substantially less than 1.5 million, and they would be inspectors for the citizenry not
partners with bid-winning contractors.
The greatest concern of our residents is that the contractor appears to be in
violation of Davis-Bacon regulations, paying workers at a lower rate than
District law requires. Nowhere on Mintwood is a posting of the wage scale as is
required by DC law. Most residents doubt the workers on this project are being
paid in accordance with Davis-Bacon rules. A central question is whether the
workers have been properly classified or whether they have been assigned to
lower-paying job classifications, which do not accurately reflect the work
actually being performed by these workers. But without DC oversight on the ground it
is impossible for us to get a true read on pay rates and classifications.
Community involvement, on the front end, for a project of this magnitude is a
must. We have not been able to find out much about the process which resulted
in the selection of Mintwood Place for construction work or the process which
resulted in the specification of improvements to be made to Mintwood.
Speaking generally, it seemed to me that residents of the street should have been
notified at some point early in the planning phase of the process so that we
could have had an opportunity to provide feedback.
Many people, like Karyn Good, at DDOT have been extremely helpful in
responding to our catalog of complaints and concerns. But if this had been any other
street in Adams Morgan --- without a collection of grassroots activists ---
many of the problems of this project would not have come into the light of day.
I look forward to speaking with your office on when we can set up a meeting. I
will follow up next week with a phone call to your office, regarding this
important issue. I believe your committee needs to hold hearings on the bid
process and moreover why the city has relinquished day to day oversight to
contractors who have a financial interest in the project and not to the District.
Thank you, for you timely attention,
ANC Commissioner 1C03
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