Board demands answers

EAST LIVERPOOL – Scott Shepherd may have felt as though he were in court for a time Thursday evening during a special meeting of the East Liverpool Board of Education. The meeting, held to address the most recent delay in the Patterson Field improvement project, which remains severely behind schedule.

“In four days, it will be seven months since the targeted completion date of this project,” board member Richard Wolf said. “Who’s responsible?”

Shepherd, an architect with A&I Studio in East Liverpool, attempted to outline the progression of delays that have hamstrung the project. He said that Wesley Hays, a plans examiner with the Bureau Of Building Code Compliance in Columbus, had retired on Dec. 31 of last year. Having granted a partial approval to the foundation plans submitted last June, the paperwork apparently sat in Hays’ former office after he left the bureau.

Shepherd stated that he had visited the bureau’s office in Columbus that morning and had a four-hour meeting with personnel in the office to finally settle the matter. “Once [Hays] retired, those plans sat there on his shelf,” board member Scott Dieringer explained after the meeting.

Shepherd submitted another set of plans via mail on Jan. 28, which somehow were mislaid in the bureau’s offices in Columbus. “Someone may have said, ‘Hey, Wes Hays is on this,’ and put it with his stuff,” Dieringer said. Anyone else who may have chanced upon the plans from there would not have known what they were, having never seen the original set of documents, Dieringer added.

The paperwork was finally discovered in Hays’ former office, where they had likely been since Dec. 31.

The plans were located using a number that was assigned to them upon arrival at the bureau. Dieringer believes the problem was due to the two sets of plans having been assigned two different names before being sent to Columbus, which he blamed on Shepherd.

In turn, Shepherd said it was the bureau’s responsibility to properly identify the documents. “We had no say about who reviews the plans,” he said. “All we can do is submit them.” Dieringer felt the plans should have somehow been identified as belonging to the same project before being sent to Columbus. Shepherd argued that wouldn’t have mattered, as the plans are assigned to various examiners by rotation so that one individual doesn’t wind up working on the majority of the plans.

Dieringer also criticized Shepherd for not prioritizing a search for the plans once it became known they were missing, especially since work on the project is currently at a standstill. “At some point, you would have to figure out that something’s not right,” he said. Shepherd argued it takes time for the documents to progress through the bureau, and once they became overdue, he began calling.

“It’s not about when they get to Columbus, it’s how long they sit in the queue,” Shepherd replied. “They could sit in the mailroom for two days.”

Board member Larry Walton asked Shepherd for an estimate of when, following the necessary thaw-out of the ground, the project could finally be done. With a list of recommended minor changes to be undertaken, Shepherd targeted late May for completion.

By the same token, board President Janice Martin asked Mike Tice of Tice Builders, general contractor on the project, how far along the work is, he replied that it’s 60 percent done.

Other difficulties, including the steel roofing, were discussed. According to Sam Sowards, construction supervisor for the district, the roof sections were shipped by the manufacturer not according to which of the two buildings they went on, but by the size of the pieces. He said the pieces had to be unpacked and sorted “like a big Erector set” before the installation could begin.

For his part, Wolf declared his disgust with the project, calling it a boondoggle, and a personal and community embarrassment. “I’m just totally dissatisfied with everything about this,” he said.