By Jon A. Brake
There is something that the Manhattan City Staff does not want you to know. They don't want anyone to know. The new $1.3 million street construction on Blaker, Green, Northview and Sloan are cracking after only one year.
The streets run between Griffith and Allen Rd. The bids were opened on July 12, 2000 and the job started that fall. During the dry weather this fall cracks as long as seventy feet started to open. Most were what is called hair-line cracks but these will become larger as time goes on.
City staff has put the blame on the contractor, Pavers, Inc. of Salina.
It is not the contractors fault. The streets were built without steel-mesh. At this time it is hard to determine if they were designed without steel-mesh or if the steel-mesh were left out of the design by mistake.
If the streets were designed without the mesh, it goes against what was learned in the past and what the staff has been telling Commissioners.
Between 1987 and 1992 City streets were constructed without the steel-mesh. It was bad, real bad. In fact it was so bad the City hired an attorney out of Topeka to file lawsuits against local contractors. After an article in the Free Press told about the streets being build without the steel-mesh the idea of a lawsuit was dropped. The staff had a theory that "this concrete is so hard, that you do not need steel-mesh." The theory was not working, streets were falling apart.
It is a better bet that the steel-mesh was left out of the design by mistake. It has been reported that after the contractor started pouring the streets City employees stopped the work because the steel-mesh was not being used. When it was found the cost to add the steel-mesh would be more than $200,000 the contractor was told to continue.
The Free Press made several requests for the files on this project but the staff has refused to open the records. Every request was put off which is against the Kansas Open Records Act. Here is part of one of the rejections from the City: "As to your request to see "files", the process will take longer. We are presently unaware of exactly how many of such files exist; however, there are more than a dozen, and they are located in more than one department. In addition to actually locating the files, it will also be necessary for City Administration to review the contents of these files to determine if there are records that are exempt from disclosure contained therein. This process may take several days. We will do our best to provide you with those portions of these files that are not exempt by Friday, February 15, at 10:00 a.m. If they are ready before that time, I will contact you. You may view those files at our office at that time; however, we reserve the right to adjust that date in the event we are unable to accomplish the lengthy review prior to that time."
All of the above goes against the Kansas Open Record Act.
Design or error these streets are going to be in bad shape very soon.
Citizens of Manhattan are paying $1.3 million is taxes for these streets.
It is a costly error.