UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes > June 1997 Search

June 1997

Delphi Questions:
ML concrete, broadcast e-mail, severance pay

Question #432 (received 15 May): About a year and a half ago, we at the Mesa Lab were subjected to the lengthy (and probably expensive) process of replacing the concrete in our courtyard. Some of the new concrete is already disintegrating. This seems to be of a piece with concrete work done in the past at the Mesa Lab (buried heating cables that don't work, edges that don't quite meet in a straight line, steps that collect and hold melt water, and so on). Overall, my impression is that concrete work done for NCAR over the years has been slipshod and arguably incompetent. My Delphi Questions, then, are as follows:

1. Do you agree with the above assessment?

2. How much was spent on the concrete work in the courtyard?

3. How much of that, if any, are we getting back, given that the new concrete is, in part, disintegrating?

4. Has the contractor who did the work in the courtyard been told of the problems with that work? What is the contractor's legal responsibility?

5. Are the disintegrating areas going to be fixed? If so, when and by whom?

6. What changes are contemplated to avoid problems of this sort in the future (for example, if and when the concrete work on the tree plaza is redone)?

7. Is this problem in any way due to our attempting to make the new concrete match the old by incorporating crushed sandstone from local sources? If so, is any thought being given to achieving this match in a different way? Or has that been attempted already?

Answer (received 21 May):

1. I agree that often the concrete work at NCAR appears to be "slipshod." We have deteriorating concrete all over the Mesa Lab. It turns out that concrete work is not a science, and I'm not even sure it is an art. It is quite unpredictable and there are few recourses to remedy work that is less than desirable.

We worked very hard with a consultant to develop a concrete specification for the fountain plaza to guarantee that the strength would be there and the color would be correct. The warranty that is available for any concrete work is very limited because the contractors know that its integrity varies depending on temperature, humidity, how long it is rotated, how long it sits in the truck before it is poured, and so on. The only guarantee is with what is called a slump test. This test was performed to the satisfaction of our project manager and was in agreement with the specification. This test only verifies the strength of the concrete and not the other features.

The fountain concrete work was complicated by the fact that it was laid over a membrane which we needed for waterproofing. In fact, we think that is why cracking has occurred. The spalling (concrete surface breakup) that has occurred should have been caught in the slump test, but probably was not evident in the batch that was tested.

Contracts tells us that the original contract does not have an option for remedial action, so we have recently contacted a concrete expert to give us an opinion about the best course of action to prevent further deterioration and to help us with future projects. (The problems did not surface until after the one-year limited warranty was up.)

2. The fountain plaza project was in excess of $125,000, but that included the engineering, demolition, redesign, and rebuilding of the drain, etc., as well as the finished concrete work. I do not have a breakout of the cost of the concrete alone.

3. and 4. Answered above. According to Contracts, there is no guarantee on this concrete work beyond the one-year limited warranty.

5. We have found a possible fix with a new patching compound that we will be using on the tree plaza. We do not want to use it on the fountain plaza until our consultant finishes his evaluation and recommends a solution. We hope to have something done this summer based on the recommendation. The tree plaza work will probably begin in July.

6. We will rewrite the specification to include any recommendations from the new consultant and we will have Contracts verify a reliable concrete supplier. We will not be able to get any better warranty than we did last time.

7. We do not believe that the concrete was compromised by our color specification. However, we hope the consultant will be able to tell us more. We were unable to get a color match by specifying a quarry and so the specification contained an added color formula which I hoped could be used as a standard in the future. That will be revisited depending on the consultant's recommendation.

I would encourage you to call either Julie Emo, engineering manager, or John Pereira, maintenance manager, if you have other questions. We are happy to share information like this, but most people tell us that facilities work is boring so we tend to keep this information to ourselves. However, we like to talk about it with anyone who is interested, so please feel free to call any of us.

Pat Harris, Facilities and Support Services manager

Question #433 (received 19 May): How is it that certain commercial businesses are able to effectively use NCAR e-mail facilities and sites for advertisement and sales? Specifically, the companies I am aware of are Mountain Man Fruit & Nut Company, which sets up shop in the cafeteria once a week, and Air Touch Cellular, which effectively advertises to us via e-mail from the EAC. I find the latter to be particularly bothersome, as the e-mail takes time to read and, from a systems management perspective, it takes system disk space to store the many messages.

Conversely, if I had friends with a company, would they be able to set up shop in an NCAR building and advertise to internal NCAR mailing lists? If not, why?

Answer (23 May):

There seem to be two issues with this question. One is why certain outside enterprises get to sell directly to UCAR employees, and the second is how the UCAR-wide e-mail system is used.

The outside vendors which you mentioned (Mountain Man and Air Touch Cellular) sell directly to staff and have gone through a bidding process due to specific requests from the cafeteria and the EAC, respectively. Contracts received each request and then followed the same process to select and award the low bidder as in any other request. Other vendors are not allowed to "set up shop" because they have not been asked to fulfill a legitimate need by a UCAR division/program.

The internal e-mail system is open to notices because UCAR's philosophy is that staff should have open access to the system within our organization. It is recommended that the sender provide a descriptive header so that receivers can delete the message without reading it if it does not interest them. Users outside UCAR cannot send broadcast messages to us.

Further questions can be answered by contacting Beth Stansberry for purchase awards and Greg Woods for broadcast information.

Pat Harris

Question #434 (received 23 May): What are the policies and formulas for severance pay? Would you provide several representative examples of severance pay?

Answer (27 May):

The policies and formula for severance pay are found in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual under section 2-3-5, Termination, provision 4, Severance Pay and Notice. It can also be found on the Web.

As far as examples:

We include all service when calculating the amount of severance or notice, so that partial years are counted. Please note that all of policy 2-3-5 is under review and there may be some modifications in the future. If the policy changes, all employees will be notified.

Bob Roesch, Human Resources director

Questions and suggestions from the staff to management may be submitted in confidence to the Delphi coordinator, Rene Munoz (ext. 1173, ML room 135), in written form; they must be signed. Detailed procedures for submitting questions are given in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual, section 1-1-13. Questions and answers of general interest to staff are submitted to Staff Notes Monthly Monthly by Rene. They may be edited for publication. For more information, see the Delphi Service Web page.

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu