Candid With Camera

I had a chance to talk with Chuck Camera recently, Commissioner of the Streets Department. Despite what’s been said, Chuck is on cracks. Not crack: cracks.

As a matter of fact, Chuck’s Street Department was all over 23 streets and 9.65 miles of streets last year, filling cracks, like he did recently on Winger Drive.


Last year, the Streets Department put in 2493 manhours filling cracks throughout the City of Lorain. Streets like Oxford, Elyria Avenue, 11th, Canton, Clifton, and many more.

Chuck’s taken a lot of heat recently for the condition of the streets. One thing that folks don’t realize is that plans and projects have to be submitted a year in advance in order to get the monies for repairs to each street. Some of the streets slated for repair for next year include Sherwood Drive (from Meister to 21st – a resurfacing and curb replacement), Reid Avenue (from 5th to 17th – rehab., including ramps, curbs, etc.), and 38th St (from Winger to Cambridge Avenue – a replacement) to name a few.

Here’s a few shots of Winger:

Notice the water in those potholes? Water is the main reason that cold patch doesn’t last long when used to fill potholes during cold weather. And drying a pothole with heat doesn’t help, because the ground is also saturated. So, throwing cold patch in a hole to lessen the depth of it will only last about 2 days.

The Streets Department is responsible for a lot more than street repair and cracks. The Table of Contents in the 2007 Yearly Report is broken down into these categories:  Crack Filling, Grinding, Leaves, Road Repair-Asphalt, Road Repair-Concrete, Snow and Ice Control, Sweeping, Trees, and Weeds-Privately Owned. 

In the days ahead, I’ll have more about my sit-down with Chuck.


21 thoughts on “Candid With Camera

  1. Henrey,
    I was told that someone saw some employee fixin a pot hole correctly the other day. I hope that it was one of our city workers, but if they are doing the repairs the way that I saw earlier this year, please tell them to quit wasting our money.

  2. Have you been down Oberlin Avenue south of Meister yet? They’re doing a good job of fixing it the right way so far. No cold patch – they’re actually digging up the bad part and totally replacing it. I hope they do the same thing on Tower between Falbo & Oberlin soon.

  3. I really feel sorry for Chuck Camera, trying to fix a broken leg with bandaids. The reason roads get like they are in the picture is that they were built wrong in the first place. Without a proper base the concrete slabs rock and roll and never line up to form a smooth road, subsequent traffic chips and breaks off the edges. If the concrete is not the right mix or too wet or dries instead of hardening it has no strength and spalls and falls apart. Cold patch, hot patch, superglue ain’t gonna fix these problems.

  4. ……not trying to be too critical here, Lisa, but that’s not “our” road crews fixing Oberlin Ave. That’s Falbo’s crews doing what our street repair crews should be doing. But it’s a relief just the same to see some improvement. There was a time a few years back when our street dept was capable of doing this type of work. When you eliminate workers and equipment, this is what your left with, sub-contracting out the work at a higher cost. I guess we can blame it on past administrations.

  5. Muley,

    If I remember correctly, and I’ll get to the audio soon (just going off of documents and memory right now, which is why this is so short), Falbo is digging/cutting/pulling the old concrete and our street crews will be behind them filling with fresh and new. Chuck’s been trying to keep things fixed and maintained with a road crew of anywhere between 15-17 guys. Get a couple sick, a few on vacation, and suddenly you have half your department.

    There is a plan that he has laid out, and he has to have one to be able to get things fixed and get money for them from the state. But as I said, back to the audio with more to come.

  6. If Falbo’s cutting and pulling, there is little left but to “PIN AND POUR”.

    I believe if the streets department cannot do the entire function, do something that they can. Crack seal till there is no tomorrow, but COMPLETE SOMETHING AND SAY THAT YOU DID IT.

    I just cannot figure out with 15 to 17 guys, whatever it is, why we don’t have one crew out of the four that can fix something by themselves.

  7. There’s just no winning with you, is there Brian?

    Chuck’s to blame for the streets, as far as you’re concerned, but he gets outside help to do the job right, and he shouldn’t be doing it at all?

    You gotta pick a side, Amigo.

  8. Winning is taking care of what can be taken care of.

    Accepting less than what would be expected from any “outside contractor” for work that our city can do itself is UNACCEPTABLE.

    Your turn to pick?
    Do you pay someone to fix the brakes on your car knowing that it will be done correctly or do you let your Uncle Leo do it for $50.00 because he has nothing else he can do?

    The cars that drive over our city streets are typically the second largest investment that a family has after their homes. If you don’t “trust” that Uncle Leo can fix the brakes so your investment and family are safe, what do you do?

    Pick one? I am not sure there is more than one to pick?

  9. Maybe it’s cost effective to have Falbo cut and pull, and pour the cement ourselves? Maybe there’s not enough guys/equipment to do it ourselves? Remember, there’s not much cash to work with.

    Do you pay Falbo to do the WHOLE job, which increases the cost, or tagteam the job with them cutting and you following immediately behind filling it, because you can afford that part and have the men to do it?

    There could be a number of reasons, Brian. So, you have two choices: You can call Chuck and ask him, or give me some time to go through my audio and find out, because I do remember him mentioning Falbo during our conversation.

  10. I saved anyone the trouble, and I called Chuck. Here’s what he had to say:

    I could have done that work with my current staff, but I would have had to cut one crew from somewhere to go at the pace we are going on Oberlin Avenue or used the crew that is out there now and had that road under construction twice as long. Also by doing it with our crews the cost of disposal of old concrete, costs of the saw blades which are 1400 dollars a blade( diamond blades) and the wear and tear on the trucks and equipment had to be factored in. I decided my best bang for our buck was to proceed the way we are going. This is not about Uncle Leo, this is about getting the best use of the tax dollars.

    While I had Chuck on the phone, he told me that, because he had Falbo on Oberlin Avenue, he was able to have crews on Collins Drive blowing, patching and sealing cracks and small holes. Doing the same were crews on Edgewood, Oberlin Avenue and Highland Park, but the Highland Park crew was being moved down to Black River Landing to start setting up tents for the International Festival.

    Chuck told me that picking Falbo was a no-brainer, and he discussed it with Tony Krasienko, too. This way, he doesn’t have to worry about the equipment costs, disposal costs, downtime to have someone replace blades and blade costs. He pays Falbo one price, and they do that job. And they are making good time because they are right behind Falbo’s crew, which surprised them (Falbo). They thought they’d be coming back later, but the Street Dept is keeping up. Which also keeps the businesses on Oberlin Avenue happy because the street isn’t blocked off for twice as long as it might be.

  11. Thanks for that Henery …a little knowledge is a dangerous thing ….and I believe sometimes we need to walk in others shoes before making determinations…. I know I have been looking at facts and figures and meeting with dept. heads along with a dozen others and there are so many layers …. I still can’t sort it all out to my complete satisfaction but I cannot fault anyone for not being transparent they have answered and given accounting to every question I and the others have asked. Loraine

  12. Loraine,

    Chuck’s being about as transparent as one could be. When I walked into his office last week, the first thing he did is hand me his ’07 Yearly Report. He meets with Mantini to make sure everything is covered and reported, and he lists more than what is really necessary.

  13. It’s all good, Muley. I wasn’t real sure exactly who was doing the repairs and thought I was being generic enough with “they”. Next time I’ll just say “somebody”. 😉

  14. BTW, thanks for the info, Henery!
    Everyone involved in the Oberlin Ave project is doing a good job. I’m kind of surprised that the city didn’t have to bid the job out.

  15. Lisa,

    The job DID get bid out. Sorry, I don’t want to give the illusion that it didn’t. He got 3? bids and they got one from Falbo that made Chuck say, Really?!! He couldn’t pass it up.

    As he stated above, the blades that cut the concrete are $1400 apiece. Break one, and you lose time and money because now you’re not cutting and you need someone to change it out. The bid from Falbo was a flat fee and factoring in broken blades, and having to grind the concrete before disposing of it as well as the cost of disposing of it, and it was a ‘no-brainer.’

  16. Henrey,
    I believe that I saw the same report that Chuck handed you. While the report does appear to be a lot of information, what does it actually tell you and how are the items “quantified”?

    What and how exactly are three lane miles of roadway crack sealed? Was it a concrete road with few cracks or blacktop with many? Is there specifications as how the work was done, or just locations of where the crews worked?

    I am not picking on the report, all I am saying is be careful what you believe the report actually is telling you and possibly more importantly, what it is not telling you.

    I know Mr Camera is NOT RESPONSIBLE for all of our streets falling apart. I also know the if the giant pot hole at the end of my street that ruined the entire frint end of my van and ate three kids on their bikes for dinner yesterday is ever going to get fixed, Mr. Camera WILL BE RESPONSIBLE. See how this works?

    As far as our city being “transparent” lately, I am having a harder and harder time trusting the data. The “study” for the income tax tax is anything but a study, but was thrown about in council like it had some weight to it. The issue with the pot hole repairs earlier this year was less than transparent as some veteran members of council were more than just a little concerned about the quality also and raised their concerns during council meetings. I received more excuses than assurances that it was being done correctly.

    On a last note. I do think Chuck is a really nice guy and he does do a lot of things really really well. I also hear his wife makes some KILLER PASTA, but I don’t think I’ll be invited over for dinner any time soon. I hope Mr. Camera understands that I am not making this a personal issue but hoping to raise an awareness in the hope that things could improve. Some people have said that my observations are a bad thing. They are a bad thing if the city keeps doing the same bad things over and over and expects different results.

    Every time a problem is presented it is actually an opportunity. An opportunity to improve.

  17. Chuck does know that you’re not making this personal, and mentioned sitting next to you during council meetings. He also told me that his door is always open and you are more than welcome to stop by and talk.

    I met his wife the day that the Captain was delivered to BRL, as he sent 3 guys to help with the unload. I used to work with Kim many moons ago, and she’s still the friendliest person around. Don’t know about the pasta-thing, but I’m open to being invited to dinner!!

    When I said ‘transparent’, I meant about the expenses that Chuck has in his department and his responsibility in reporting them. He has equipment costs that are supposed to be tracked in case of certain emergencies (FEMA costs) but 99.9% of the time, don’t mean anything. Mantini checks them, too. The last thing he wants is for someone to think he’s fudging something. Just not worth it.

    Stop by and see Chuck some time, Brian, and you can talk to him about your concerns and he’ll tell you his side of things and how his hands are tied by money.

    But you get to bring the coffee.

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