Lake surveyor fight turns to project work
By Rich Bird Post-Tribune correspondent August 13, 2012 2:58PM
Updated: September 15, 2012 6:14AM
The Republican challenger for Lake County surveyor is alleging that incumbent George Van Til’s office signed off on an unfinished dredging project, for which the county paid out more than the contracted price and is now attempting to cover it up.
Van Til, who last week came out to accuse GOP nominee Eric Krieg of issuing repeated attacks filled with factual errors, contends the challenger has it wrong, again.
Krieg, 36, of Munster, initially released his findings Friday after he noticed that work was being done on Spring Street Ditch between 45th Avenue and Main Street in Highland. He has since published his findings on his Facebook page, titled “Eric Krieg for Lake County Surveyor (Indiana).”
“We walked the Spring Street Ditch project down on July 29, and the erosion blankets, seeding and other items were not completed on a project that was paid for in November and December of 2011,” Krieg wrote. “The full contract price of the project had been paid, indicating that the surveyor accepted the work. We made FOIA requests, which tipped them off that we were looking.”
Van Til said Krieg’s facts are wrong at every turn.
“Once again, this ridiculous political press release show a lack of understanding of what the county surveyor’s office does, his lack of background (and) his lack of really wanting to know the truth,” Van Til said Monday. “He shoots from the hip, and takes a guess and goes from there.
“When someone says you’re covering up something, that’s a serious charge, but he doesn’t care. What he’s doing is covering up his ignorance about how to do this work.”
Van Til said the project is not yet complete, nor has it been paid for in full, and Krieg’s assertion that contractor R.A. Oros has been paid more than $204,000 — in excess of the contract price — is inflated by about $20,000.
Van Til said decisions were made to stray from the original project specifications at certain points based on conditions on the ground at the time work was being done.
“When a lot of the work was done in November and December, (Oros) wouldn’t do the seeding,” Van Til said. “If you’re not going to do the seeding, then you’re not going to lay the blankets. You’re not going to do that in I the spring, which is the rainy season, so then you’re into the summer, duh.”
Van Til said he has not seen Krieg at any of the Drainage Board meetings where project updates are publicly delivered.
“Never. Never. Never. In the five years that he’s been here, that he’s living in the area, I’ve never seen him at a Drainage Board meeting,” Van Til said. “I’ve never missed one, and he’s never been to one.”
Krieg said has attempted to access public records relating to the inspection of the Spring Street project, as well as the office’s authorization for the county to pay R.A. Oros; however, those attempts have been stymied by Van Til’s office, he said.
“We have been trying to get the documents referenced above from the Surveyor’s office,” Krieg wrote in his analysis of the project. “We filed FOIA requests that have been delayed well past the 48 hours required by law. The Surveyor’s office also wants to charge 50 cents per copy, which is well in excess of what is reasonable. Both are indications that the office is trying to delay our investigation.”
Gregory Sanchez, chief deputy of the surveyor’s office, said that is not the case.
“There is no Freedom of Information Act (request from Krieg) on file with our office regarding any project,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said Krieg’s requests were made to the auditor’s office, and that he informed Krieg that he needed to make the requests directly to the surveyor’s office, which keeps the records.
Sanchez said the surveyor’s office did receive eight FOIA requests on Aug. 6 from Joseph Jargella, the president of Gary-based Chem Check Inc.
Chem Check was recently denied the opportunity to bid on a separate project after County Attorney John Dull determined that Chem Check was not a responsible bidder based on poor progress reports filed by the surveyor’s office.
Sanchez said that in separate conversations with Krieg and Jargella, the two men denied knowing each other.
“I went out of my way to give them a civics lesson,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t have to do that.”