Officials await Community Crossings funding

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

As communities work on or wrap up various road-paving projects, there’s one thing they are looking for: Community Crossings money promised to them from the state.

“We were already told in March that we’re supposed to get our money,” Dubois County Highway Superintendent Steve Berg said. “Now we’re close to Aug. 1. Nobody can give me a good answer as to why we don’t have that check yet.”

Local communities were awarded Community Crossings money in the spring. Those included $938,876.31 for Dubois County; $638,274.44 for Ferdinand; $216,875.09 for Jasper; and $133,425.59 for Huntingburg.

The communities have moved forward with the projects that the money will help fund. Some of those projects are in progress.

For Dubois County, the $1.8 million in projects on its list, including a $400,000 joint project with Ferdinand to pave Industrial Park Road, are done.

“The last of them have just been completed in the last week or so,” Berg said. “We’ve gotten a bill from one. There are a few others where the projects have been done for little bit, but we’re still working on the closing paperwork.”

His concern is that more bills will come in before the county has received its funding. “Once they send a bill, especially for a project that is over $200,000, if you were owner of the company, you’d be wanting that money,” he said.

Huntingburg is working on a project to improve and pave Third Street from Chestnut to Walnut streets. But none of the $133,400 it was awarded by the state has come yet, Huntingburg Clerk-Treasurer Tom Dippel said.

“That street is pretty well still torn up,” he said. “We have all the infrastructure done and the corners are being fixed. But none of that was in the project.”

The city is on the lookout for the funding. “I keep asking about it. But we haven’t seen the money yet,” Dippel said. “It’s not unusual. We’ve always seemed to have to wait for a while.”

Work on rebuilding 12th Avenue from U.S. 231 to Kimball Boulevard in Jasper is underway. Half of the $400,000 project is to be covered by the state grant.

“We are using our 50% first,” Jasper Clerk-Treasurer Juanita Boehm said. “We will start paying that way, and then we hope we’d have the money from the state.”

The city anticipates it will take about three months to complete the work. “We have our money in place,” she said. “We hope that within that period of time when we run out, we get the Community Crossings money.”

But if they don’t get it in time, the city could use other funding and “when the money comes in, reimburse that fund,” Boehm said. “Hopefully, it won’t come to that.”

Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Manning said the process for receiving the funding depends on the state receiving various paperwork.

“The issuing of Community Crossings funds is dependent on the local community finalizing their contract with the construction contractor and finalizing their contract with INDOT,” he said. “Once INDOT receives that documentation, the state issues funding typically within 35 days.”

But local officials have said they’ve done that. And now they are in waiting mode.

Berg constantly calls the INDOT Community Crossings contact about the funding. “I talked with her twice last week,” he said. “She said that she knows she’s had it on her desk, and has approved it and sent it on through. It should be in the approval process. The way she sounded, we should expect our money any day now.”

He preferred the funding process the state had in place a couple of years ago, in which grants were awarded in August. Communities could bid projects in the fall, and those projects were worked on in the spring.

“That worked perfect,” Berg said. “The money had time to get here. We award the project. They’re set to go. They get done. We pay. Easy peasy.”

The current process splits awards into two rounds. No one in the county received funding in the fall award round, which local officials found to be unusual. But they all were awarded funding in the spring round, in March.

And now, communities wait for money on projects that have been started or completed. And it’s not a good feeling, Berg said.

“If they want to help the locals, then come up with a program and keep it the same,” Berg said. “While I love Community Crossings, I don’t like how they continue to tinker with it.”




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