10/19/11 7:05am

Highway Superintendent Mark Ketcham publicly apologized to engineer Matt Sherman at the Town Board work session on Tuesday for having cited Mr. Sherman’s plans the week before as a reason for a delay in renovating the Senior Activity Center Kitchen to bring it into compliance with the county health code. Mr. Ketcham, totally retracting his previous assertions, said site work and renovations could begin soon.

Mr. Ketcham acknowledged that he had worked with Mr. Sherman to determine how the project should proceed and that any problems he had mentioned at the Town Board work session on October 13 could be resolved with no adjustments or new approvals required for the plans.

Mr. Ketcham said last week that what Mr.  Sherman’s plans “showed as grade for the cesspools doesn’t work.” The installation of a septic system, grease trap and other utilities can’t be done without digging a 24-foot deep “hole the length of that side of the building,” which would “ruin the integrity of the building” and destabilize the driveway. “That’s the main flaw,” Mr. Ketcham said. He mentioned there were other problems but did not explain them.

In an email sent before Mr. Ketcham made his apology Tuesday, Mr. Sherman wrote that the plans Mr. Ketcham had called “seriously flawed” were the same plans that had been “reviewed and accepted by Mark and reviewed and approved by Suffolk County Health Department.”

Mr. Sherman, who now lives with his family in St. Croix where he is continuing his work as a civil engineer, wrote there was no flaw in the plans and that the grade that Mr. Ketcham had cited as an issue “was determined based upon a topographic survey provided to me by the own. This survey was prepared by a professional land surveyor. The plan, as is typical, provided for an estimated final grade at or near the existing grade in the area of the proposed work. An estimate is made because the final grade can deviate 6 inches or more depending on site conditions.”

He noted that Mr. Ketcham had said at the October 13 work session that excavating to put in the septic system would “ruin the integrity of the building.” The applicable codes, Mr. Sherman wrote, requires a 10-foot separation from a septic system to a foundation and his plan calls for that.

“If the construction is done correctly by a competent contractor, no impact will be felt by nearby structures” or the driveway, he wrote. Noting that it is common for drywells — which are similar to septic system — to be installed immediately adjacent to roadways, he wrote, “Again, if proper construction techniques are practiced by a competent contractor, impacts of construction can be kept to a minimum.”

“That is not to say that installations in this type of situation are easy, as they are not,” Mr. Sherman added. “Tight spaces may require special excavation techniques such as cutting rings or shoring. No doubt they add complexity (which translates to extra time and cost) to the project. However these types of practices are routinely done in such situations.  This is the reason I had advocated to upgrade the existing system near the entrance to the senior center, rather than installing a new one between the building and driveway.”

Also last week, Mr. Ketcham mentioned an “additional problem was the waste line from the dishwasher,” wrote Mr. Sherman. “He stated that the waste line was shown too high. His confusion does not equate to a flaw (serious or not) in the plans. The dishwasher has a drain line at or near the bottom which in a typical installation would be near the floor level. Mark and I had discussed installing the dishwasher in an elevated position because it solved the drain height problem and we also felt a higher installation would make it easier to load and unload the dishwasher …  Even if Mark changed is mind and decided that he wanted the dishwasher on the floor, that is not a flaw in the plans.”

Mr. Ketcham said on Tuesday that he would be meeting on October 25 with an engineer recommended by Mr. Sherman to assist his former clients here, John Condon of Mattituck, to go over the details of the kitchen project, which he guessed might take about three to four weeks to complete, including removal of an old oil tank, a new septic system, a grease trap system and new plumbing as well as a new dishwasher, refrigerator and hand-washing sink. He said the driveway would have to be blocked for about three or four days for the site work.

The county Department of Health Services has barred the town from using the kitchen to prepare hot meals for its Silver Circle elderly senior Wednesday lunch program until it is upgraded.

Mr. Sherman, who was in private practice with his own firm on Shelter Island, is now with Malcolm Pernie/Arcadis  in St. Croix, where he will become a project manager. The firm handles projects including groundwater mitigation, stormwater control and air emission control.