TOWANDA — Bradford County officials are disagreeing with a finding by the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s office that recommends the county reimburse PennDOT over $333,000 in liquid fuels money that was spent on the replacement of a county-owned bridge in the Rome area last year.

Specifically, the state audit claims that the county failed to properly advertise and bid the replacement of the culvert for Bridge No. 49, which is located on North Orwell Road in Rome Township.

However, county officials have stated that the project was undertaken during both a county and state declaration of disaster that occurred in 2015. This project, according to county officials, was part of the county’s repair of storm damage that occurred that year.

The audit

The disagreement was one of two findings covered in an audit of the county’s liquid fuels funds that was undertaken by the state auditor general’s office. That audit covered Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2017.

In that document, auditors recommend that the county reimburse PennDOT a total of $333,225.10 in liquid fuels money that was spent on this project.

That figure breaks down into $25,492.81 for engineering and $307,762.29 for the actual replacement of the culvert structure, the audit states.

The audit claims that the county undertook this replacement project without properly advertising it for bid or getting the necessary approval required from PennDOT for the expenditure of liquid fuels money on such an endeavor.

Within the audit, county Fiscal Director Daniel L. Thorp disagreed with finding, stating that project was initiated under a declaration of disaster from Bradford County and the state, and “all requirements were met.”

Auditors stated that PennDOT will ultimately determine if the county is required to make a reimbursement.

“We have reviewed the state of emergency declarations made by both Bradford County and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania related to storm damage on or about June 30, 2015 for Bridge No. 49,” the auditors stated. “The county declaration of disaster was dated July 1, 2015 and the commonwealth declaration of disaster was made on Aug. 24, 2015. We were also provided an emergency permit dated July 6, 2015 from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania stating that the emergency work was expected to take one day.”

Over one year later, on July 22, 2016, the county entered into an agreement with a contractor to replace the bridge in question, the auditors stated.

“We were not provided proof of advertising or bidding for this project,” the auditors noted. “The county had enough time from the emergency to the replacement of the culvert to advertise and bid the project, and obtain project approval from the department of transportation.”

Second finding

The second finding detailed in the audit focused on an unspecified county project that was paid for through liquid fuels funding.

Auditors noted that the final payment for this project was made on Oct. 27, 2017, but a final completion report form was not filed with PennDOT until Oct. 18, 2018.

”Because the county failed to file a final completion report timely, we were unable to determine if the project was completed to the satisfaction of the department of transportation before we held our exit conference on Oct. 10, 2018,” the auditors stated. “Additionally, we were unable to determine if the county expended the approved amount of liquid fuels tax fund money on the project.”

Auditors recommended that the county comply with state rules by submitting a final completion report form for completed projects “in a timely manner.”

”During our next examination, we will determine if the county complied with our recommendation,” the auditors added.

Warren Howeler can be reached at (570) 888-9643, ext. 228, or via e-mail at editor@morning-times.com

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