Ballfield drainage system in question

Published 12:02 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2018

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

Though the town of Smithfield’s multimillion-dollar Joseph Luter Jr. sports complex is taking shape above ground, its status beneath the dirt has been another story.

Sewer lines and storm drains were found to have several deficiencies after being installed by R.A.D. Sports last year, according to Project Manager Brian Camden. The problems included sagging pipes and what appeared to be slight gaps between the pipe joints. Though the town’s contractor for the complex claims the cited problems have been taken care of, some of it is hard to verify without digging the site back up.

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Because of the issues, the town is seeking an extended warranty with R.A.D. over the pipes, which would last up to five years after completion of the site. The typical warranty is one year, according to Kimley Horn Engineering Manager Jamie Weist.

R.A.D. has agreed to the warranty extension, Weist said.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Placing the pipes and sewer lines at the complex has been a tricky task since the beginning of the $4 million project last year, according to a report compiled by Camden and submitted to the Town Council. The subsoil conditions at the location were not ideal, and mud and sand worked their way into the pipes on several occasions.

“The ground is moving all over the place,” an email from R.A.D. from last February stated.

After the sewer pipes were installed and flushed out, Tri-State Utilities was hired in October to conduct a closed circuit television inspection and documented 12 separate deficiencies in the pipes, according to Weist.

R.A.D. corrected areas where the pipe was found to be sagging, according to Weist, but sought clarification from Tri-State Utilities regarding “slipped pipe joint connections” noted in the inspection by the Tri-State technician.

The president of Tri-State Utilities, Steven McSweeny, was approached by Kimley Horn and, upon reviewing the report of the piping system, disagreed with his technician’s original assessment that the joints were improperly installed, according to Weist.

“It is the opinion of Tri-State Utilities that the pipe joint will not leak and is structurally sound,” McSweeny stated in a November letter.

McSweeny did note, however, that the pipe joint is about “1 inch from being completely home.”

The manufacturer of the pipe also signed off on the installation, according to Weist, and an air test since performed on the pipes showed no signs of leakage.

While the positive test results and reassurances gave a sense of comfort, according to Weist, there is still some uncertainty.

“There’s no real way for us to tell if that pipe was pushed to the line without digging it up at every joint and looking at it,” said Weist. “So we don’t really know that, and we can’t really tell how big that gap is.”

But with an extended warranty, which could also take the form of a bond, Weist said he feels confident about moving forward with the project.

“I think it is safe for the town to move forward and accept the pipe as installed,” he said at a recent Town Council committee meeting.

The storm drain lines, meanwhile, were also found to have “a number of deficiencies,” according to Weist.

“There was cracking in the concrete pipe, some of it fairly severe,” he said, as well as improper bedding in places.

According to Weist, R.A.D. did not notify him, Camden or the town when they would be performing the corrections, but only notified them last Tuesday that the corrections had been made that day.

“It would have been nice to see those corrections being done,” said Weist.

Camden and a Kimley Horn representative agreed to witness a new CCTV inspection that was slated for the drainpipe this past Thursday.


The Smithfield Town Council voted in November to allocate $192,564 to install an asphalt parking lot at the sports complex, which is scheduled to open in the fall of this year.

At a public works committee meeting last Tuesday, Camden urged the Council to hold off on the asphalt until later in the spring, as the site still has several drainage issues.

Camden also recommended the town withdraw the $192,564 allocated to R.A.D. for the paving and instead contract it out to Blair Brothers, whom R.A.D. was planning to hire to perform the work for them, according to Camden.

“I think R.A.D. would be happy to wash their hands of it,” said Camden.

Camden also agreed it would likely be cheaper to have Blair perform the work.

With the town being agreeable to delay the paving of the site, Camden said that the town should perform a full site inspection, or “punch list,” as soon as possible.

“The sooner we can have that done, the quicker we can turn these fields over to the town,” said Camden.

A.R. Chesson, contractors hired to construct the concession building for the project, have notified that they are ready for the inspection.

Despite having pulled out from the site, R.A.D., according to Camden, has made no notification regarding the inspection.

“In order to do this by contract, R.A.D. has to tell us ‘We’ve finished our work, come inspect us,’” Camden said.

With the project nearing the finish line, Council member Steve Bowman said he wants to make sure the punch list gets done in a timely fashion.

Camden said he has sent emails to R.A.D. regarding notification about the inspection but had not received any response.

R.A.D. Project Manager Jim Doherty said in a phone interview last Wednesday that his company has been waiting to have the asphalt put in, as was directed by the Council in November, before announcing it was ready for the full site inspection. The snowy weather this month caused some delays. He also said he responds to every email he gets.

Everybody might have their own version of events, Doherty said.

Based in Massachusetts, R.A.D. came to the town’s project with an impressive resume, having worked on Gillette Stadium, the football field used by the New England Patriots, the seating of which could fit roughly the entire population of Smithfield — times eight.

The contractor’s work on the sports complex has been frequently lauded by Camden at Council meetings, but at Tuesday’s meeting, he said there were still a number of issues with that are not acceptable.

“My feeling is, R.A.D. has to get back in shape,” Camden said.

As of November, the town had spent $4.6 million for the sports complex, with $128,707 remaining, according to Town Treasurer Ellen Minga.

This does not include a slated $300,000 donation from Smithfield Recreation Association, a nonprofit that has been tapped to oversee much of the upkeep of the ballpark.  {/mprestriction}