Construction problems on just-completed levee provide food for discussion

2012-12-12T21:00:00Z Construction problems on just-completed levee provide food for discussionLU ANN FRANKLIN Times Correspondent
December 12, 2012 9:00 pm  • 

MUNSTER | Problems with construction of the newly completed flood protection levee became an issue at Wednesday’s meeting of the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission at Munster Town Hall.

Those problems include cracking concrete and concrete falling off the face of the levee wall, according to inspection reports provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There’s also a tilt in a levee wall.

Commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with the condition of the levee in stages 7 and 8 that runs from the Northcote Avenue bridge to the state line.

Commission Executive Director Dan Repay told the panel that officials in Munster and Hammond don’t believe their municipalities should have to repair those problems or pay for those repairs.

Army Corps Project Manager Natalie Mills said during her presentation that the commission needs to pinpoint those problems and send information to the corps’ Chicago District office.

Every month, Mills says that the commission owes the corps more money. Additional work needed on Southmoor Avenue, Hobart Marsh mitigation and 27th and Chase in Gary won’t be done until the commission pays up, she said again Wednesday.

Commissioners Anthony Broadnax, Tom Wichlinski and Ron McAhron balked at that, especially in light of what McAhron called “poor workmanship” by the contractor that the corps was to supervise.

“You’re not giving us what we bought,” Broadnax said to Mills.

Wichlinski asked if the construction just completed in the final stages of the project is still under warranty. Mills didn’t have an answer.

McAhron was very pointed in his comments.

“We paid six figures for project management of these final stages. Stage 5-2 (from Cline Avenue to Indianapolis Boulevard) had tremendous cost overruns. It does get irritating,” McAhron said.

The commission already has paid the corps $19 million, he said. Of that, $11 million has been paid since January 2005.

“Are we going to write you a check? No. We would rather see actual work done in the field,” McAhron said.

In other business, the commission voted to pay up to $350,000 toward the raising of the Columbia Avenue Bridge. This is a joint project of Lake County, which would provide 50 percent of the estimated $1.4 million construction cost. Hammond and Munster also would help fund the project.

Repay said plans calls for the project to be bid this winter or spring for construction to begin in spring.

The commission also heard from Repay that plans call for trees within the levee structure that are leaning and dead to be taken out during winter. Ideally, work would begin in the western section of the Little Calumet River from the state line to Kennedy Avenue. This section is more populated and narrower.

The trees will be cut down at the root level, removed from the river and disposed of elsewhere, Repay said.

Repay also told the commission that work on the rehabilitation of the Forest Avenue levee is nearly complete.

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