INDOT: Timing delayed Community Crossings funds

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Dubois County has gotten notice that it will receive the $939,000 it has been promised in Community Crossings funds within the next 30 days.

The notice, called a purchasing order, came late Tuesday morning, County Highway Superintendent Steve Berg said. The county was awarded the money in late March.

“We can hold out, but really it’s the contractors that are holding,” Berg said. “They’re going to work with us initially, and not charge us anything.

“But that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to pay the puppy later with higher prices [in future projects] because they’re not sure if they’re going to get their money in time.”

Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Manning said the delay in issuing the funds was due to timing. INDOT issues the Community Crossings funding.

“What we tried to stress to communities who received funding is that they’d have to get their documentation to us in April,” he said. “The state operates on a July to June fiscal year, and we have a lockout period at the end of the fiscal year where we’re not able to issue checks.”

INDOT received Dubois County’s paperwork, which included the signed contracts from contractors who won the bids for the projects, May 8, Manning said.

“By that point, we were in our fiscal lockout,” he said. “So we could not issue them a purchasing order or cut them a check until the new state fiscal year that starts on July 1.”

The lockout is mandated by the State Board of Accounts, Manning said. “After May first, we’re not able to issue any new purchase orders or cut new checks for that existing year,” he said.

In INDOT documents for the latest round of Community Crossings grants, it does state that documentation must be in to the state by April 15.

But under this timeline, communities that were told of their awards in late March — the second round of awards were announced the last week of that month — would have two weeks to receive bids, award bids, get signed contracts from the winning bidders and send those contracts to the state.

Had local communities received awards in the first round of grants, which were announced in November, there would have been much more time. But no local community received an award in the first round, which baffled officials.

All local communities submitting their request a second time for the second round of grants received funding. The call for those applications went out in January, they were due Feb. 1, and were awarded at the end of March.

That April 15 deadline was not stressed by the state, Berg said. And putting a project out for bid before knowing if funding will be granted is not even a consideration.

“Why would you spend the time to bid a contract that you’re not sure you’re getting funded for,” he said.

The problem lies in the timing, Berg said. “Not at any time in my past, because it’s against state statute, have we not had our money in place before we do a contract, before we even sign a contract,” he said.

In this case, communities had to send in signed contracts before the Community Crossing money was issued.

“We got notification that we’ve been approved for state funding. The approval should be there,” Berg said. “So once we send the contracts in, they’re to be approved and we get our money. That would have been May.
“The problem we’re having is that it’s almost August.”

Berg doesn’t think this will deter contractors from bidding on projects that use Community Crossing funding. “I don’t think it’s initially going to have that impact.”

But it could have an impact in the future. “I think it could play in the bidding process and what we’re going to pay for those delays,” he said. “If the contractor realizes that it could be 120 days before they get their money, they’re going to have to factor in some interest on that money, and we’re going to pay for that through the tonnage price, through the bid price.”

Berg hopes that the state comes up with an easier way to issue Community Crossings funding and sticks to that.

“A lot of this groundwork has to be laid out and completed before we give that contractor a go ahead,” he said. “Once he puts the material down and we get a bill, I expect to be able to pay him, as well as he expects to be paid.
“But it keeps changing,” Berg said. “And we dance to those changes as best as we can.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Manning was checking to see if purchase orders had been issued for funding due to Ferdinand, Huntingburg and Jasper.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com