Wednesday, August 26, 2009


LOVE AT FIRST BITE: After perusing today’s news in the local paper this morning and reading Board of Ethics (BOE) watchdog Horace Stoessel’s description of the latest debacle in the continuing quest for enforcement of charter provision 20.02(d)- examined in excruciating detail in this space including our three part report (see left rail)- we just happened to turn back to the “Kaua`i News” page and scroll down past today’s entries to catch an article seen only in the “previous headlines” section entitled “TOMORROW'S NEWS — $3M requested for special counsel since 2007”.

Apparently reporter Michael Levine’s quest for county documents is bearing fruit and County Attorney Al Castillo is giving up long-sought documents after they were requested by Levine in the name of the local newspaper.

The new, apparently permanent page at the paper’s website shows that Levine received the list of 42 county appropriations for outside council dating back to January 2007 along with the case and amounts for each.

But that list is something anyone could have compiled albeit with a painstaking examination of past agendas and “recap memos” although the latter have just recently been made available.

The big accomplishment is in getting the BOE to give up the actual disclosure statements of various recent applicants for various board and commission members.

In the past the BOE has kept these statements under close wraps and actually edited them and blacked out the potential conflicts of interest that violated 20.02(d) as well as other information calling it “an invasion of privacy” even though they are called “public disclosure documents”.

Although it is certainly not a complete list – they appear under two separate links- a quick run-through shows on first blush a pattern of appearance before other boards and commissions on behalf of private interests on the part of many of the applicants heretofore unreported.

Another pattern is illegible handwriting making many of the documents virtually useless.

But one statement stands out for simply it’s lack of any information- and it’s one that is an all-important link to what happens with huge stacks of county, state and federal taxpayer monies.

Though few will recognize the name Randy Finlay- whose address and phone number are not blacked out as the law requires- anyone who has passed by a road repaving or construction project will recognize the name of the company he owns and runs- Unlimited Construction.

His application to continue to be a member of the Cost Control Commission (CCC) is devoid of any information required and instead lists “no change” on all the information points required to be included when one fills out the form.

But what’s interesting in the fact that he is serving on the CCC when his company has been complicit in one of the biggest-yet underreported rip-offs on the island.

To try to be brief, a few years back- make that more than a decade ago- council “nitpicker” Glen Mickens began to notice that, as he took his daily walks pieces of broken off pavement sat by the side of the road which upon measurement were apparently thinner than the standard and required 1 ½ inches thick.

He made it his quest- one that, despite detailed presentation to the council no one so far seems to want to hear- to inform the council about how not only is the county paying for 1 ½ inch paving and not getting it but that, for some reason no one can adequately explain, on Kaua`i the standard of 90 sq. ft. of asphalt per ton is used while the national standard is 120 sq. ft. per ton to get that 1 ½”.

That means that, if anything, we should be getting roads that are 33% thinker than 1 ½” or 2” thick.

The question is, where is the extra asphalt going- a question the Public Works Department has been unable to answer.

And when Mickens presented the facts for the umpteenth time- as he has to each new council and individually to all new councilmembers over the last decade plus- one of the suggestions has been to have the CCC look into it.

Of course the more basic question is whether someone who bids on tens of millions of dollars worth of county contracts should be serving on a county commission where he might be considering cost savings such as investigating county road repaving methodologies and contracts.

Mickens’ full detailed written testimony before the council from this year’s budget hearings in April is presented at the end of this post for all those who want to fully understand this scam that has been going on for years with the apparent complicity of Unlimited Construction as well as Niu construction which Mickens mentions in his testimony

We’ll be getting out the fine tooth comb in coming days for the other disclosures, as well as filing for the statements for the council, mayor, department heads and their deputies and the rest of the sitting board and commission members covered by the pubic disclosure laws.

In the meantime we welcome you to peruse the current ones and let us know anything you might find missing from the forms or less than apparent conflicts raised by the disclosures.


Glenn Mickens’ Testimony April 2009:

Our code for resurfacing roads as outlined in your Standard Details manual shows a thickness of 1 1/2". Two bids that Ryan was nice enough to give me both show the same specifications---1 1/2".If you will check the Asphalt Paving Job Calculator that all paving contractors use or if you will use simple mathematics, you will see that by using 1 TON of asphalt (AC) to pave 108 square feet, you will get a thickness of 1 1/2".

Yet, if you will refer to the memo I have from public works you will see that we use 1 Ton of AC to pave 90 square feet.

Also a check of the 07-08 Island Wide Resurfacing list will verify that we ARE using this 1 ton of AC to pave 90 square feet. A check of the calculator will show that 1 Ton of AC per 90 square feet will give a thickness of about 1 7/8"

To put this into perspective:
If we pave 1 mile of road using the 1 ton per 90 sq ft. we would use 1056 tons of AC. At today's price of about $200 per ton that cost would be 1056 x $200 or $211,200.

By using the 1 ton of AC to pave 108 sq. ft. (to give the 1 1/2" that code specifies) we would need 880 tons to pave 1 mile or, 880 x $200 = $176,000.

Thus we are spending $35,200 MORE for each mile of road that we pave. Since we have 300 miles of county roads on Kauai that means it is costing the tax payers $10,560,000 more by using the county method over the correct method.

You might argue that we are getting 3/8" more AC put on our roads but the contractors are bidding on 1 1/2" so they would lose money if their bid was for 1 1/2" and they put down 1 7/8". Also, I have picked up pieces of AC from our roads (I walk 4 miles a day over them) and they are less than an inch thick. So not only are we not getting the extra 3/8" we are paying for, we are not even getting the 1 1/2" that be bid specifies.

So, the questions are, (1) why are we using the 1 ton of AC to pave 90 sq ft. instead of the correct 1 ton to pave 108 sq ft.? (2) Where is the extra AC going or where is the money going that is costing us more? (3) Shouldn't the weight ticket at the AC plant and the core samples taken from the roads match the amount of money we are being charged for?

Also for clarity, In the 2 bids that Ryan gave me from Niu and Glover. Glovers bid (cost per ton) on 10 roads went from $268 to $762 or an average of $416 per ton all in the Waimea district, close to their plant. This was for phase 2.
Niu appears to have gotten the bid (both they and Glover for 06-07) for phase 1 on the North Shore. Their bid per ton was for an average of $224 so why this huge difference in the bids that they were awarded.

My next question. Why are we not following the Hawaii Asphalt Paving Industry (HAPI) standards for paving our roads? Both Grace Pacific and Glover are members of HAPI and they abide by their recommended paving methods.

When I spoke to a roads engineer from Glover he told me that he has asked and suggested to Public Works that they use HAPI standards but was told that our county doesn't have the funds to do it that way Thus we are being penny smart and dollar stupid as even if our roads would cost more to originally pave they will last 15 to 20 years (WITHOUT POTHOLES) or deterioration instead of being in the shape they are in now.

In other words when the county issues an RFP they do not specify replacing the old cracked base or putting a leveling course down before the final layer---all HAPI specifications. So why don't we ask for more money in the budget and do the job right with whatever funds we have?

And, if I understood what Ryan told me, we used the 07-08 budget for resurfacing for the 08-09 year and thus, instead of paving more roads with the extra money we got in 07-08 (I believe it was over $3 million) we are actually repaving less since we have less money. I asked this question since I have never seen the budget for 08-09. If I am wrong maybe Ryan can correct me.

At about $200 per ton for AC today and a budget of under 2 million dollars a year, we are only capable of paving about 10 miles of roads. That means it would take 30 years to pave all 300 miles of our county roads plus by using these incorrect methods of paving our roads will only remain a mess.

The shoulders of our paved and repaved roads. In the bid contract it states that the level of the shoulders will be put back to the level of the newly resurfaced road BUT that it will be done by Public Works. Many of our repaved roads have never had the shoulders fixed to these standards and it is a hazard. I have addressed this to PW many times but it still has not been taken care of. .

Striping our roads. I have addressed this to Donald many times and he said that unless the road is at least 20 feet wide it is their POLICY not to stripe them. This "POLICY" should be changed as it is dangerous for vehicles driving at night or in rain not to have a reference point or for opposite driving vehicles to stay on their side of the road. Hauiki road is a good example of this as it was just repaved, is 18' wide and has no stripe.

Pot Holes. Code states that pot holes will be cut on a square or rectangular pattern, new 4" of base course put in, and 2" of AC compacted into the hole. All we do now (and have done in my 20 Years on Island) is dump cold mix in the hole (sometimes with water still in it) do not compact it, and it is gone after the next rain. So we waste our time, material, and manpower doing the job wrong----this MUST be changed.

Picking the roads to be resurfaced. There is no methodology as to which roads are to be paved. As long as we only have finite money in the budget for roads repaving and can only do about 10 miles a year, we need to pick the heaviest traveled roads and the ones that are in the worst shape. But this isn't done. As an example Kealia Road was resurfaced in the 05-06 budget year at a cost of $250,800. This road has few homes along it---most of it with none---but it was still repaved. A 2000 acre subdivision is going in at the top of this road but the tax payers shouldn't have to pay the cost of a road that benefits a developer.

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