COAL TOWNSHIP - Earlier criticisms have apparently been smoothed over and Coal Township officials said they are on the same page with Michael F. Ronca and Sons Inc. and Aqua Pennsylvania over a water main replacement project.

The three entities released a joint statement Monday saying they had a "highly productive" meeting April 16 and that "all parties agreed that appropriate compaction, inspection and testing has occurred throughout construction."

That wasn't the township's position at an April 1 meeting where officials discussed the results of compaction tests on backfilled trenches where new piping was installed.

Reacting to a comment that reports had been submitted saying trenches had been compacted, township Solicitor Vincent Rovito said during the meeting, "That is fraud. That's a criminal act. The only thing those reports prove is that somebody can write," according to a story in the April 3 edition of The News-Item. Several other township officials expressed concern proper compaction was not taking place.

Monday's statement said the April 16 meeting "went well and no accusations of inferior workmanship or criminal fraud were levied at Ronca or the testing laboratory completing compaction testing as was suggested in a hypothetical scenario posed to" Rovito April 1.

A review of a tape recording of the meeting makes it clear the discussion involved the compaction reports. There is no mention of a hypothetical situation, although there was discussion about what possible actions township officials could take based on their specific concerns at the time.

Asked Monday to further clarify the term "hypothetical scenario," Rovito said the matter was a "dead issue" and all parties are on the same page.

Also at the April 1 meeting, Commissioner George Zalar said the township could demand tests be done in the company of the township's code enforcement officer, Chris Petrovich, and roadmaster, William Kuzmick. If they don't comply, commissioners should revoke Ronca's permits, Rovito said.

Contacted about the township's criticisms, a representative of Ronca and Sons said he was "completely unaware" of any problems with the project and was confused as to why Coal Township had anything to say when the company has less jurisdiction than Aqua.

Aqua said "the compaction testing being done by Ronca and Sons Inc. complies with PennDOT standards."

Ronca is under contract with Aqua Pennsylvania for a $1.8 million water main replacement project in Shamokin and Coal Township dubbed the "Oak Street project." It began in November and involves the replacement of 6,700 feet of cast-iron pipes with new ductile-iron pipes.

Ronca is also the general contractor on the construction of the new sewer plant for Shamokin-Coal Township Joint Sewer Authority.

Liable for three years

The meeting held April 16 included Commissioners Gene Welsh, Paul Leshinskie and other representatives of Coal Township and the two companies.

Compaction testing conducted since the beginning of the project, plus testing completed the week prior in the presence of Coal Township representatives, was discussed.

It was also noted multiple times Ronca will be responsible if there is a problem with settlement within the next two years. Additionally, Aqua was made aware Coal Township ordinance keeps them liable for the project for an additional three years after Ronca's warranty expires.

Impact of weather

Also discussed was the effect extreme winter weather had on the project, the difference between "cold patch" and "hot patch" in temporary trench restoration, PennDOT standards for trench restoration, which includes a 90-day waiting period before a trench can be permanently restored, and work zone traffic safety, according to the joint statement.

To improve current trench conditions, all cold patch used during the winter season is being replaced with hot asphalt to provide a more reliable and smoother surface until the 90-day period has elapsed, upon which time permanent restoration will be completed.

The statement ended by saying "everyone left with a mutual understanding that should any questions about the project come up again, they will contact the other immediately to discuss and address to the satisfaction of all involved."