Friday, April 25, 2008

Don't Bogart That Joint

Oyster, Jeffrey and I am sure others, have noted the ingenious use or recycle materials in the St. Bernard levee system, as reported by the stalwart Lee “his eyebrow look normal in person” Zurik at WWL. Lee is really beginning to exemplify what the media ought to be doing in this town.

Here is my take on it.

First, let me make this clear: the SOB contractor should be dragged out of his bed and personally made to remove the caulk, check and rework every joint that DOES NOT MEET THE DAMN SPECIFICATIONS!

Second, I have seen this kind of crap before. I once had a project where an unusually wide gap between sheets of drywall (from a less than stellar installation) was crammed full of the trash from the workers lunch that day (Micky D’s) and floated over with joint compound. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the corner of an empty cup (evidently from a chocolate shake) was left slightly sticking out. Were it not for that visible shake cup, it would have remained that way. This is just one example.

Who knows the whole story, and the extent of the sub-standard work has yet to be determined. I bet it involves a deadline and a lack of the correct material, but whatever the background is, at some point, someone made a decision to stuff newspaper into the joint.

We can’t say for sure that anyone higher the “contractor” who spoke to the resident knew anything of the problem. He was probably a low level supervisor for the work crew at the time. The response of the "contractor" is exactly the kind of crap I would expect in such a case:

…when he confronted the contractor, the contractor blamed Washington for the substandard work.

And had a higher up really decided to use a substitute material it really would not have been old newspapers…really.

The first line of quality control, the work crew super, clearly failed. With the work concealed, the next steps up the chain were unlikely to catch it. And managers cannot stand over every work crew, and even if they could, they can’t see everything.

So what about the Corp? It is a bit unfair to lump them in with the sub-contractor as in “the Corp and their Sub-contractors are trying to kill us.” The only reason the Corp “chose” them was that they were the low bidder. By public bid law they were stuck with them as much as we are.

Should they have caught this? Perhaps, but again you can’t be everywhere. And as I have pointed out, I have seen similar such occurrences on well funded, well supervised work in the private sector, and again we have the problem of something that is concealed. Fresh construction rarely shows such flaws. It usually takes time, such as this incident, before it is discovered.

And the resident who saw the work? Sorry, but if the Corp spent the time investigating every anonymous or otherwise observation from the public we would have no levees. I watched our very own Cynthia Willard-Lewis on TV “showing” us the “defective” levees that had gaps (expansion joints) that were filled with some kind of rubber .

The bottom line is that substandard work has been observed, and the lead contractor failed to deliver what was specified. In work of such importance that is inexcusable and they are the one's who should bear the brunt of the criticism.

I have not seen the Corp contract, but I’m willing to bet that it contains provision for just this sort of thing. It will involve legal action at this point, and likely it will be about recovering the funds from the lead contractor to investigate and correct the defective work.

On this one, I can give the Corp a pass for not being omnipotent. But there is one more issue and one for which I will jump on the Corp:

Why the HELL haven't they noticed this before, and why the hell aren't they going after the Contractor!


bayoustjohndavid said...

I'm not sure that Ercon got the contract by being low bidder. Ercon seems to capitalize on its Hubzone Certified 8(a) SDB satus quite a bit. The contractor should definitely be threatened with loss of that status.

NOLA Cleophatra said...

This "construction method" has been around for a while. My husband has found newspapers - dating back to the 1940s - stuffed in cavities of walls, under flooring and inside old fireplaces as he works on our 100+ year old house. Of course, stuffing an inoperable fireplace with newspaper to serve as insulation is a bit different than flood barrier protecting a city...