DePasquale Blasts Wyoming County Over Failure To Claim Nearly $227K

November 3, 2018 GMT

For more than a decade, Wyoming County failed to claim $226,962 in bridge inspection reimbursements from the state Department of Transportation, according to a state audit. State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale blasted the county for failing to submit required paperwork since 2007, to claim the money. “Wyoming County made no effort to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars due to them despite my repeated warnings in audits that the money was available and waiting,” DePasquale said in a press release. “Drivers should not be dodging potholes because someone at the county level let the necessary paperwork simply fall through the cracks... You would think when you tell someone there is $226,000 just waiting for them, they would show some excitement or immediately jump in a car and head to Harrisburg to get their money. We heard nothing. Silence. Crickets.” The state reimburses counties 80 to 100 percent of the cost for bridge inspections, which are required every two years. Counties must submit invoices to PennDOT for reimbursement. Five audits, dating back to 2007, recommended Wyoming County officials seek the reimbursements, DePasquale said. The breakdown on how much money Wyoming County missed out on is: $66,499 from 2014; $7,224 in 2012; $46,454 in 2011; $3,297 in 2010; $89,254 in 2008 and 2009; and $14,234 in 2007. It is unclear how much PennDOT will reimburse now because some of the claims are so old, DePasquale said. DePasquale also pointed out that Wyoming County is not alone in failing to file required paperwork for bridge inspection reimbursements, citing Cameron and Lackawanna counties. Lackawanna missed out on $207,157 for bridge inspections from 2010 to 2013, according to an audit completed in August 2017. Cameron failed to claim $12,747 in reimbursements, according to an audit released in July. In the wake of Lackawanna County’s audit, county officials worked with PennDOT and recovered more than $164,000. While Lackawanna won’t be able to recover any additional money, acting Chief of Staff Donald Frederickson said the county’s engineering firm, Greenman-Pedersen Inc., is making sure all required invoices are submitted for PennDOT reimbursements. County officials blamed Acker Associates, the now-defunct engineering firm that once served as county engineer, for not submitted invoices for the reimbursements. Wyoming County’s audit, released late last week, also found officials there failed to designate nearly $100,000 in liquid fuels gas tax funds to road projects. PennDOT guidelines now call for the county commissioners to distribute half of that money to municipalities. Liquid fuels gas tax funding comes from a one-half cent tax collected on each gallon of gasoline purchased at the pump. “If the county commissioners can’t find a use for that $100,000, I am certain the municipal officials will be more than happy to help out,” DePasquale said in the press release. Wyoming County Clerk Bill Gaylord acknowledged some mistakes were made, but said the charge of not filling a lot of potholes is ridiculous because the county does not own any roads. “We own 12 bridges and can’t spend most of it because the bridges are in good shape,” he said. Gaylord acknowledged some paperwork was filled out but never filed. He said he plans to meet with PennDOT to rectify the issue, and have the liquid fuels gas tax funds reallocated to municipalities. Wyoming County Commissioner Tom Henry said he takes issues with some of DePasquale’s comments. “Do we want to get an excess of funds back to municipalities for them to fix roads that need it?” he asked. “Of course, we do, and we’re committed to do that.” In response, DePasquale, in a second press release, said he is “livid at county officials, who seem unfazed about ignoring $226,962 in available funding — instead of passing the buck, they should be claiming it. It’s dereliction of duty to fail to obtain every cent of gas tax funding so that residents and first responders can avoid long detours because of bridges and roads in need of repair.” JEFF HORVATH, staff writer, contributed to this report. Contact the writer: bbaker@wcexaminer.com 570-836-2123 x33