Lower Macungie Township officials are angry that solar-powered school zone signals were not erected around Willow Lane Elementary School before classes started last week.
Township engineer William Erdman said those signals should be installed and operating by the middle of next week.
“I’ve sat in front of this board many times and given reports,” Erdman told township commissioners Thursday night. “I’m embarrassed that I sat here and said they’ll be in by the time school starts, because I put my reputation on the line by stating that.”
Erdman explained an unidentified manufacturer of the signals kept insisting the township’s order had been shipped. But after being unable to track that shipment for four or five days, he said the manufacturer admitted “it not only hasn’t been shipped, it hasn’t been manufactured.”
“I’m very upset,” said township manager Bruce Fosselman. “Someone lied to us. Someone did not do their job and they have to be penalized for it. We’re talking about kids’ safety.”
“Somebody needs to be held accountable,” agreed Commissioner Ryan Conrad.
Erdman said the manufacturer has confirmed it will ship the signals on Monday, via overnight delivery. A supplier will “bench test” the signals when they arrive on Tuesday and the contractor will “drop whatever he’s doing” to immediately install them.
“If everything falls into place, they’ll be installed and operating by next Wednesday,” said the engineer.
The flashing 15 mph school zone signs will be erected in both directions along Mill Creek Road and Willow Lane just east and west of the school.
The signals are among many safety improvements that the township and East Penn School District officials scrambled to make this summer at and around the elementary school. More children will be walking or riding bicycles to Willow Lane this year, because East Penn has reduced the number of children who are bussed.
On June 6, commissioners voted to pay Charles A. Higgins & Sons of Media $29,561 to install the solar-powered signals before school started.
On Thursday, commissioners directed Solicitor Richard Somach to review its contract to see if anyone faces a penalty for the signals not arriving on time.
Somach said he has not yet seen any contract.
“There should be a penalty involved,” said Fosselman.
“It was due to be installed before school began,” said Conrad. “Someone messed up.”
“The manufacturer,” said Erdman.
“They should to be held accountable,” said Ryan.
“That contract isn’t with the supplier, it’s with the contractor,” said Commissioner James Lancsek.
“The contractor was as hoodwinked as everybody else, as was the supplier,” clarified Erdman. “The manufacturer did not come clean on the situation.”
“We only have a relationship with whomever we contracted with,” said Somach. “If they had a performance obligation, our claim is against them and they would owe us. How they get that money back from the next guy and the next guy is their problem.”
“The contractor had no clue what was going on here, just as we didn’t,” said Erdman.
Erdman said if the contractor can’t install the signals until Wednesday, it might face a one-day penalty of $500. He said the contractor has a 60-day contract that expires Tuesday.
Fosselman said that contract should have expired Aug. 26, the day school started.
Erdman said the contract approved by commissioners had “a floating start date.”
Erdman said another new signal not yet operating will switch on to warn drivers on school grounds when fire trucks are leaving the fire station next to Willow Lane Elementary.