Roadwork: West York got nearly $1M from state over 10 years, spent $90K
West York has received nearly $1 million in state Liquid Fuels funds over 10 years but has spent only about $90,000 of that money, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The borough's Liquid Fuels funds caught the attention of the state Auditor General's Office after The York Dispatch reported West York's 2016 audit found "a large amount of errors, misstatements, missing records and lack of documentation for transactions."
Among the problems addressed by York-based accountants Kochenour, Earnest, Smyser & Burg: The borough's 2016 Liquid Fuels allocation of $107,333 from PennDOT “was not deposited into the Liquid Fuels PLGIT Account during 2016.”
The 2016 funds were transferred to the proper account before the state audited those funds, West York solicitor Mieke Driscoll pointed out at the borough council's Aug. 6 meeting.
The review: The Auditor General's Office informed the borough in July it would review all necessary borough Liquid Fuels information from Jan. 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2017. The office will release its findings by the end of August, senior report writer with the office Amy Gulli confirmed.
Liquid Fuels money is specifically designated to pay for road and bridge improvements, and 20 percent of the allocation can be used for major equipment purchased for use on roads and bridges, PennDOT Communications Director Rich Kirkpatrick has said.
The funds are distributed each year to every municipality statewide based on their populations and miles of eligible roads.
West York’s Liquid Fuels allocations since 2008 tally $962,439, Kirkpatrick confirmed. Borough council members have spent an estimated $89,780 of it during the same time period, he added.
Expenditures: Municipalities must report back to PennDOT how they spent the funds. Department records — which only date to 2008, according to Kirkpatrick — show West York used its Liquid Fuels funds for these projects:
2017: "Other winter maintenance" — $2,124
2015: Road maintenance vehicle — $73,000; road salt — $8,474.22; street signs — $421; parts for street sweeper — $609.88; labor for street sweeper — $76.14; repair of tools and machinery (parts and labor) — $5,075.
All expenditures were state Liquid Fuels-eligible, Kirkpatrick explained. Liquid Fuels spending was audited by the auditor general in 2015, he noted, “so they are valid repairs of tools and machinery used on the roads."
Municipalities also are given federal funding and can apply for community development block grants, to pay for infrastructure projects, Mayor Shawn Mauck said. Municipalities don’t have to immediately spend state Liquid Fuels funds, he added.
And, now that West York has a clearer picture of how much money it has in its state Liquid Fuels coffer, it’s a good time to start talking street project prioritization, borough leaders said.
“I have asked council to make road projects a priority for the last two years,” Mauck said.
There have been many “missed opportunities” for development and redevelopment, he continued.
“We need a comprehensive plan to focus on pedestrian safety and improvement of crosswalks and traffic control,” Mauck explained. “I also highly suggest improving and reviewing street parking.”
Traffic study: Six borough streets were analyzed in an August 2017 traffic study, Councilman Richie Stahle has said. Stahle, who spearheaded the traffic study, said he wants to host a public town-hall meeting to talk about future street projects.
Dewey, Hoke, South Pearl, West King and West Poplar streets, as well as Overbrook Avenue, were reviewed by Transportation Research Group Inc., which conducted the study.
Councilman Alan Vandersloot said he’d like to hear more about street improvements and that this current council should be “vigilant” about opportunities by “strategically” planning for them. The subject hasn't been on the radar the past few years, he said.
West York taxpayers have been patient, Councilwoman Mildred Tavarez said.
Lines and pipes are currently being fixed and replaced, she continued. "Beautifying streets" is next, Tavarez said.
"Council as a whole is working to improve life at the borough while making sure taxpayers' dollars are spent in a way that makes sense,” she said.