Streets Numbers

With the Issue 20 vote just mere weeks away, and people goin’ back and forth about should I/shouldn’t I, ‘they won’t use it for just streets’ (they have to),  and blah-blah-blah-blah-freakin’-blah, I thought I’d show just what kind of expenses and responsibilities the Streets Department has. 




Pitch Patch Paula – Pothole Perspective

It’s been over a month since Pitch Patch Paula got a crash course in packing patch in potholes. July 24th had Paula Tobias, Chuck Camera of the Streets Department and others get a crash course in filling potholes taught by Jack Brake of Total Patcher. Holes were filled using this machine


to fill these potholes.


E. 34th and Elyria Ave

E.34th and Elyria Ave and


E. 27th and Elyria Ave

E.27th and Elyria Ave


Taken on August 20th, here’s the patch site at E. 34th and Elyria Avenue:



E. 34th and Elyria Ave

And taken on August 26th, the patch site at E.27th and Elyria Avenue:

Granted, weather has been pretty conducive for these patches setting up and staying put. It has been pretty warm with very little precipitation. AND, the big “AND”, it hasn’t gone through the freeze/thaw cycle that Lorain goes through in the winter. But, all in all, things look good. I’ll follow up after we’ve had some snow and temperature changes and see how things are.

But, so far, so good!!

Candid With Camera – Through Chuck’s Eyes

Chuck and I got on the subject of baseball, the waterfront and the Pipeyard.

“The guy from Pittsburgh was for real. Actually, he asked me ‘how many of those condos do you have down there?’ (Referring to the Spitzer homes at Harborwalk) None. ‘Well, if I was you, I’d have about 10. He said $160,000 is a steal. If that was in Pittsburgh or anywhere else, those are half a million dollar condos. He said if I was you I’d have about 10 about now.

“We don’t realize it. He told me that people in Pittsburgh drive to Maryland to be on their boats every weekend. He said we don’t have enough dockage here. Behind the Journal, he envisioned digging all that out and putting a marina down there. And people would come. People would come from Pittsburgh just to sit on their boats, just for the weekend. He said ‘You guys just don’t know what you have here.’ He wanted that whole area.

“They say our stadium is the right thing. It really is. (And) I don’t know how Avon’s going to do it. I really don’t know how. After all my involvement out there and talking to people in the different leagues…it’s independent baseball. It’s not affiliated (with MLB). And those guys are out to make a buck. And they’re going to make a buck no matter what. And if the city gets hurt, the city gets hurt. I will say (former Mayor Craig) Foltin was not going to let himself get into debt $5 million over a baseball stadium. Every one we went to, if you had 600-700 people in the stands… They’re putting $9 million out there in the baseball stadium.

“We’ve got Cleveland State coming out here. We have summer baseball. We’ve got the high school kids coming out there. And it’s debt-free. It really is. We did it with the recycle money. I know a bunch of people bitched and moaned and groaned…there’s only so many playgrounds we can put out there. We have’em in every park. So he took 2 years allocations and put it in there. What people don’t realize, when they were out there bad-mouthing it, US Steel invested $250,000. US Steel. What are you telling US Steel?! They thought it was worthy enough. I went to US Steel there, I was there that trip. The one thing I did like about my involvement, is what I got to see.

We went to Pittsburgh, and met with the high-ranking US Steel officials. All they wanted to talk about was baseball. All morning long, all they talked about was Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians. What they found was, in their state, communities look favorably on a corporation that gives back to a community. They put $250,000 back into our community. Lorain National Bank floated an interest-free $50,000 loan, so that we could pay that off. That’s two corporations that put money into it, and we’ve got people out there saying… It’s because of that $175,000, those figures that you see…yea, OK, so we did. So we did do it. Nobody said we didn’t. You’ve got Cleveland State playin’ in here, and the Cuyahoga County commissioners are still pissed because they’re (CSU) here in Lorain County, to the point that they’re talking about redoing old League Park to get’em back. Because that’s a black eye on them.

“When their coach came out, he came to me, he comes into my office and says, ‘Well, what are you doing out there?’ I said, Coach, we’re a ways from there, we don’t have much time. He said, ‘There’s no place in northern Ohio for Division-1 baseball. That field, I’ve seen it, I know what you’re doing. You guys can make it a nice complex.’ This is what the coach told me. He came up from Louisville. So I said ‘Foltin, he wants to meet with us.’ So we bring him up there, we talk, and he says, ‘Well, what about next spring?’ I said, There’s no way we’re gonna get it up for next spring. And the coach says, ’Well, what if we buy sod and I give you my baseball team to put it in?’

“How can we say no? It’s free labor now. So his baseball team sodded it. They put all the sod in. You saw it when it was done. Things started snowballing, I’d have never thought that they’d have been opening up April 3rd. Never thought. There’s absolutely no way, Coach, forget it, it’s not happenin’. We can’t get it done. This was October! He’s in my office begging! I said No, Coach, it’s just not gonna happen. And I’ll be a son-of-a-bitch, THAT got DONE, and it got done on a trip in December. He’s here begging in October and we’re, in December, begging US Steel for money. And you know what? They bought US lunch!

So, here they are, the highest ranking officials in US Steel, and all they wanted to do was talk baseball. We were in there all morning, and they said, we’ve got work to do. We’re gonna buy you guys lunch, and we could talk all afternoon, but we’ve gotta get back to work. Fact is, when we left, the Rooney family said, ‘We could’ve got more. We underestimated what they were willing to give; we could’ve got more.’

“But it’s amazing, how people perceive things differently outside of Lorain, and how we perceive ourselves. We have to change our image. We have to change our image, and it’s part of this plate fee, it’s part of this…I know, I’m not going to pay it, I work in Lorain, it’s not going to affect me, and it’s going to be a bitter pill for people to swallow.” I told him what it’s going to cost my wife and I, and he agreed, “It’s gonna hurt. But who’s gonna do it? We can’t wait for Betty Sutton to bring it in.”

Candid With Camera – Part IV

I got quite a bit of paperwork from Chuck that day. Paperwork, with a lot of large numbers. Those large numbers are costs. Which were followed by small numbers, which was money that he could spend. Not a good pairing at all.

I got to see the Rehab Project plan for ’09-’10. Twenty-three streets/roads in the City of Lorain scheduled for work, ranging from replacement, resurfacing and curb replacement, to rehab with ramps and curbs and more. The total cost for that work is a little over $4.9 million. The money coming in from OPWC Grants and Loans and Revolving Loans, Permissive and Gas Taxes, Storm Utility Funds, and SIB Loans is such that the $4.9 million needs to be whittled down to roughly $2.2 million.

“What street to you tear out of there? What street do you take out? I told you to take a look at (Winger and W. 38th) last night.” I did, and had pictures up previously. 38th, between Winger and Cambridge looks like something from a war zone in the Middle East. (I had mistakenly gone to 38th between Cambridge and Miami first. They were beautiful.)

“I think we paved (W. 38th and 39th last year) last year. We (also) did (Winger). We can still do that. There are some streets in here that we did. We can do more with more, but I’m going to try and do it differently.

“Look at Reid Avenue right now. Look what it costs. ($721,337.50) That’s one street. That’s one year’s $15 license plate fees. That’s one year! We’re looking at this NOW.”

We strayed from our discussion a bit, as something came up in the conversation. Looking over the paperwork, Chuck mentioned the compost he’s working on.

“That took a long time for me to get through. Used to be we’d take the leaves, have to take’em to BFI, bring’em back… Now, we just put’em in the back, we grind’em… (we) don’t make a lot of money, but I’m saving the disposal fees, the hauling fees, and we’re selling the compost for cheap. It’s really a pretty good product. Pandy’s bought us out last year.”

Pointing to a list, “We call these crack-n-fills. We blow everything out, put the asphalt in, and then come back and seal it and pat it.” Chuck rattled off over a dozen streets from memory, streets that needed to be blown out. “Then we’ll try to crackfill Erie and Broadway. We have what we call a ‘heat lance.’ What people say we don’t do, we do do. Rita was done that way. If you were there yesterday and saw Winger, Rita was done that way. We took Rita and blew all Rita out. It’s a heat lance. (The crew) has to wear (full body covering) because the stones will burn you. The lance heats it up. It blows out the cracks and dries it, it dries the cracks. With concrete, we have to put some asphalt in it (top it with concrete) and then we’ll come back and crackseal it. The streets we do hold out. And we get 5-6 years out of them. We do do that. We just don’t do it everywhere. And if (some folks) don’t see it done on their street, we just don’t do it.

“Can I do that now? Yea! But can I do it in April? No. We know how to patch a hole. It takes time. There’s 579 lane miles out there. I’m trying to patch what I can patch and get people through the streets so these people don’t damage their cars. And then we sit there and try to evaluate what we can save. We know what calls we’re getting. We know where our bad spots are. And we also know what’s beyond our repair. West 38th and 39th Street is beyond what we can do there. We know that.”

Candid With Camera – Part III

Part I is here , part II is here.

(We started talking about the plate tax.)

“The $5 license plate tax was imposed by Mayor Parker, and that was in 1981. I don’t know where everyone is getting 1988. And that $5 has always gone towards roads. Always been (that way). I could take it all the way back to 1981, I can show where all that money’s been spent. They say we can’t track it. I can track it through P.O.’s (purchase orders), I can track it through everything. Right now, there’s $150,000 going towards our share is going on Oberlin Avenue, it’s going on asphalt materials,… Fact is, there’s about $20,000 unencumbered right now, that I’m trying to hold back, to get us through the rest of this year. That $5 license plate (tax) goes toward that crappy winter mix we use. It’s stuff that you have to buy.

The problem with the roads in Lorain is the freeze-and-thaw cycle. The garbage trucks are not getting any smaller in this town. They’re getting bigger.”

Chuck made an observation about the garbage trucks that make their rounds throughout Lorain. Toward the forward part of the truck, by the cab, is something called a ‘cheater wheel.’ It’s usually up in the air. When the vehicle reaches a certain weight, that wheel, or set of wheels is supposed to descend, to help distribute the weight of the load, and lessen the wear and tear on the roads. He has yet to find a truck with the wheels down. The last truck that he saw, the rims were there, but the tires were not.

“That’s one day a week, every week, one of those trucks comes up and down our streets. On a street like yours, where you have a concrete curb and gutter, and asphalt street, it floats, it’s not hooked into anything. When it’s mushy…, (notice how all the curbs are staggered, they’re not even anymore), the trucks and even the school buses are up and down on the streets.”

When trying to patch holes, when it’s damp, it’s not simply a matter of ‘blow(ing) out the hole.” When it rained earlier this year, Tower Boulevard was under water for 3 days. “Dig a hole, and take the water out. See how fast the water comes back in at that time of year. The ground is saturated. I can blow all the water you want out. I told Tony, ‘I’ll put a guy out there, and put him on a roller. It’s only for show. The ground’s too wet, nothing in there’s going to last, it’s going to stay as long as if I had someone stand there and tap it.’ It’s just not going to happen. Hopefully we can get a week or two out of it, just to prevent flats and damage. People just don’t understand that.”

“In 1998, Congress passed a law that allowed vehicles to (become even heavier). How many of our roads meet that spec? How many roads were built prior to 1998 to meet that spec? Fact is, under the Koziura administration we tried to do Oak Point Road. We put it in at a certain depth, the concrete. We bolstered it pretty good. The residents fought us. They said they weren’t landing airplanes down there. We had to actually go from 9 inches to 8 inches, reduced it. We had to scale it back because they didn’t want what we initially designed out there. What happened out there? We had to scale it back because they didn’t want to pay for it. And, at the time, their spokesperson was Lori Kokoski.

“It’s not popular. Anytime that you tell people…. We could go through, right now, and reassess everybody. We can do that. Legally, we can do that, because you only get 20 years out of your street. Every 20 years you can go through a reassessment. Most people don’t understand that they’ve never been reassessed, they’ve paid a one-time assessment fee. And we’ve been picking up the cost… We could do a 50% assessment fee. There’s other ways of doing this. There really is, besides the license plates. It’s just who can pay, and how much do you want to pay?”

“There’s a lot of things that go into our streets that people don’t understand. What’s causing the damage? What’s doing the damage? Tony got a real eye-opener, I’m going to show it to you. Here’s a list of streets that we looked at. These are on nobody’s list right now. These are on nobody’s list.”

The spreadsheet is titled “City of Lorain Plate Tax Increase Projects”

Project                                Limits                             Type        Useful Life                 Constr/Eng Costs

Oberlin Ave                W. 30th to W Erie               Rehab              10                         $ 1,100,000
Washington Ave         N. Ridge Rd to W.37th           ”                    10                        $ 357,000
Clinton Ave                 E 42nd to S. Corp. Limit        “                    10                        $ 218,000
Pearl Ave                    E 36th to S. Corp Limit          “                    10                        $ 587,000
S. Broadway               Cooper Foster to “                  “                     10                        $ 182,000
Reid Ave.                    W. 21st to W. 5th St.              “                     10                       $ 738,000
Elyria Ave                  E 39th to E 21st St                  “                     10                       $ 769,000
Narragansett             Edgewood to West End           “                     10                       $ 750,000
SR 611 Colorado        W Corp Limit to Abbe         New                   20                      $1,000,000
Tower Blvd                Leavitt to Falbo                  Rehab                 10                       $1,500,000
Colorado                      E Erie to Henderson St.         “                     10                       $ 542,000
Oberlin Ave
       Engr Fees             N Ridge Rd to W 30th           “                     10                       $ 300,000
Jaeger Road
Improvement             Kolbe Rd to Leavitt             New                  20                       $4,000,000
Cooper Foster            Oberlin to Broadway          Rehab                10                       $ 350,000

                                                                                                    Subtotal = $12,393,000

Candid With Camera – Part II

(Part I can be found here. )

Chuck Camera runs a pretty tight ship called “The Street Department.” As Captain, he documents the details in case he ever needs to refer back. At the very beginning of our interview/meeting, he pulled out his 2008 calendar. Notes about who he called back, who he talked to: all documented. As he flipped up March, he slid his finger across weeks at a time, all the days of which had one word written in the box: Snow.

“I track, so we know. And in between these days, we’re trying to fill holes.” They tried to crackseal East Erie early in the year, but it was just too cold. The crackseal comes in blocks. And at 30 degrees outside, it takes almost 3 hours to melt down a block of this material, and almost half the day is gone. One year, they had two shifts, the first started at midnight, and when the day crew came in, the machine was already hot. This winter coming, one guy will come in at 5am and get the machine fired up, so that it’s hot by the time the rest of the crew comes in.

Chuck’s running the department with 18 guys. If someone’s out sick, and someone else is on vacation, the department runs with even more limitations on what tasks they can perform. If he has guys street sweep, there’s 5 guys. Three men are out in the sweepers, and two men drive dump trucks to empty the sweepers, and they rotate between the three.

The City has been cracking down on overgrown lawns.  They send out ‘Notices to Abate.’ So, if a lawn needs mowed, Street Department guys handle the task. The City sent out 994 notices, and the Street Dept mowed almost half of those. But guess what? They still have to check the other half to see if they need mowed! Property owners get billed $300 if the City mows their lawn. In order to insure that they get their money, Chuck sends an ordinance to Council every two weeks, which, in turn, gets sent to the County and the owner is getting billed. If not, properties were getting transferred pretty quickly and they couldn’t catch the offending owner.

The construction season in Lorain runs from June through October, instead of April through November due to sweeping, lawns, etc. The former Paint Department is part of the Street Dept now, with two full-time and two seasonal employees striping streets. Contrary to what some folks may think, striping is also part of the maintenance of the streets. Center lines, crosswalks, School zones, everything.

Oberlin Avenue was fixed up by way of a deal with Falbo Construction, where a Falbo crew cut up and removed the sections, while a Street crew was right behind, filling in with fresh concrete. The plan was to do from Meister to Cooper Foster, but lack of funds limited the project to Tower Blvd. A machine that would help the City tremendously runs $300,000+, too steep for their budget right now, and would grind the pavement and remove it and keep moving. The current procedure entails a grinder running in front of a small Bobcat. “We grind out the hole, make it square, we tack it, we patch it, we roll it, and we move on. When we get the street done, we come in with the crackseal, and we seal around all cracks, we seal around all the joints, and we do extend the life” (of the street). “An example of that is 30th St., over by Slovak (Lanes). We did that in 1997. We got an extra 11 years out of that. We do that on certain streets and we do save some life. We do extend it. But you get to a point where, now it’s time to do something else. You can only extend it so long.”

One of the options he is exploring is having someone come in with a machine that will plane the streets. The vehicle is set to a certain depth and it grinds the high spots down, and the Street Dept will follow behind with a fresh layer of asphalt. Bad spots similar to areas of 21st St. and the Baumhart Road underpass would be repaired. This, coupled with partnerships with companies like Falbo on Oberlin Avenue, would help extend the life of many streets, but he can’t do it because the money’s not there.

“Slurry seals…You’ve got to start protecting your newer streets. Instead of cracksealing every little crack, it slurry seals the whole pavement. Sort of what you do to a whole parking lot. You can’t do that to the streets because then they’re too slippery. You put a down a sand base or fine aggregate…seals it, provides traction so you won’t slip or slide. We’ve got to come up with a slurry seal program. (Tony’s) plan calls for a $5 million catch-up program, which we’ll go through some of that in a minute. But it’ll get some things done, which is why we’ll have to do some of the combinations. Which is also in conjunction with the 1%, he’s looking at doing some of these other programs to save some of our streets, and maybe get us caught up in another manner. Because once you get that $5 million catch-up plan, there’s some money left over, before he has to roll that over and pay that off. But we’re looking at that money to put into the different things that we’re talking about – slurry seal, put a crackseal program out…he wants to put down about $125,000, which we figure will get us about 30 miles, it’ll make me do 20 miles. There’s like 579 lean miles in the City of Lorain. That will put us on a 10-year cycle to go around and crackseal, which is not a bad cycle. Considering that some are beyond cracksealing right now. But once you get them caught up, put’em on a crackseal program. I think with all that, we can get ourselves caught up. If we do it correctly.

“…we have to do maintenance. Street sweeping is maintenance. Really, we should do more. The grit and everything wears (on) the roads.” Pointing to a calendar on the wall of his office, “You see on Sunday right now?” It reads ‘Sweeping.’ “We have a schedule that we keep over there, underneath that. That’s all the roads we sweep in a month. Every (Monday) morning, at 3am, 3 sweepers go out and they hit” the roads scheduled for that Monday, until 7am. “Then they come in, park’em and go do their regular job.”

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.