Corruption tainted sewer district’s first major tunneling project, but new leadership reformed the agency

The district’s saga began in March 2007, after outspoken board member and Middleburg Heights Mayor Gary Starr publicly called out the agency for $18 million of construction cost overruns in the previous seven years, including work on the Mill Creek Tunnel. The 3-mile-long sewer runs under Cleveland, Garfield Heights and Cuyahoga Heights and cost more than $200 million in a 10-year period.

Starr used those cost-overrun figures to fuel his crusade for financial reform at the district, which had recently approved a five-year, 50 percent rate increase for its 330,000 customers in Cleveland and dozens of other communities.

Then-Executive Director Erwin Odeal said the cost overruns, referred to as contract “change orders” by the district, usually average out over time.

“Some jobs come in high, some come in low and we bring every change order before this board for approval,” Odeal said. “I think we’ve done a credible job managing costs.”

To read the entire article about the ensuing FBI investigation, please click here