Rockland overspent Old County Road project by nearly $450,000

By Stephen Betts | May 09, 2017
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Old County Road repairs last year gained high praise from motorists. The cost, however, was nearly $450,000 more than budgeted.

Rockland — The cost to repair Old County Road last year was nearly $450,000 over budget.

The news was announced Monday, May 8, as the City Council was asked to approve transferring money from the wastewater undesignated fund balance account to pay for the overrun.

The reconstruction of about one mile of Old County from Thompson Meadow Road to Route 17 was done from March through July last year, much to the relief of motorists who use the road.

In November 2014, city residents voted, 2,047 to 551, to approve borrowing $1.6 million for the project. The state kicked in about another $1 million for the work.

Crooker Construction of Topsham was awarded the bid at about $2.7 million, meaning the project was over budget from the start. The city then asked for installation of a sewer line along part of the road, which added more to the project.

The final cost of the project was $3,078,547.

Councilors reacted with surprise to the announcement.

"This is the first time I've seen this. This is a breath-taking number," Councilor Adam Ackor said.

Councilor Valli Geiger said she recalled the city's celebrating when the project was completed, saying the project was on time and on-budget. Acting City Manager Audra Caler Bell said the city had not said it was done within budget.

Mayor Will Clayton said the council should not have been surprised and that there had been paperwork provided, indicating that the project would be more expensive than originally planned.

Geiger also expressed frustration that another agenda item concerning writing off uncollectible debt was changed from the prior week to more than double the amount.

Last week, the administration had put forward a request for the council to formally write off $215,000 in debt, much of it from contractors who had disposed of demolition debris in the landfill quarry but had not paid the city. Those companies later went bankrupt.

The agenda for the May 8 council meeting, however, had added $331,107 more to write off from the now-defunct Camden First Aid Association.

The city's auditor recommended the council write off debts that it knows won't be collected to balance the municipal government's books.

Finance Director Tom Luttrell said Camden First Aid had done billing for the city's emergency medical services department for many years prior to 2009. He said Camden First Aid failed to process bills properly and the city lost the opportunity to collect from patients who had received ambulance and medical services.

Camden First Aid closed in July 2013, after 77 years of service. The city stopped using the company for billing in 2009, Luttrell said.

Comments (12)
Posted by: Maggie Trout | May 10, 2017 21:00

To keep the record straight,  I have never been appointed to a board, committee, or commission, and I hope that helps to satisfy.  I have written about my experience in attempting to be appointed, (and one must be appointed), when I was still able to serve.  I have directly participated in city-related efforts, and I do the research, and I am sure that must be what prompted the generous counter-comment.   But it is important to emphasize - just in case - for those who may not think they have the right to a voice, or don't deserve to have a voice because they were unable to participate on a board, committee, or commission, or who applied for the latter, but were never appointed, that all manner of participation is valuable and makes for a better community. To question, to critique, to analyze, to praise, as part of the "common" voice - that's all part of it.



Posted by: Sandra Schramm | May 10, 2017 18:04

Rest assured Mr. Weinaud, you have missed missed some of Rockland's history. Served and am still serving the City I have called home for 46 yrs. Have been proud to serve with Maggie Trout on occasion too.

 

 



Posted by: Maggie Trout | May 10, 2017 12:29

The euphemistically-named' absentee' ballot voting starts Monday, May 15, prior to the election on June 13, so vote at City Hall, or check on having a ballot mailed if not voting on June 13.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | May 10, 2017 11:58

I have been talking about cutting a million dollars off the budget.  Think their has been a misunderstanding.  I did not ask to ADD a million.  This is just more "creative Financing"  the famous Shell game.  Lets look at it another way.  If I hired you to put a new roof on my house and you agreed to a price of $1,000 then came to me after and said that it would be $1,500, sorry I would still write the check for the agreed upon amount of $1,000.  Not the city because it is not their money...it's YOUR money they are spending.  Need to have people who believe it is their checkbook.  Think I know such a person.  Hope you vote June 13



Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | May 09, 2017 23:49

Which committees are you on Sandra Schramm? And Maggie Trout, which committees are you on?

I am on the Parking Committee, and formerly on Comps.



Posted by: Maggie Trout | May 09, 2017 17:53

This was certainly not all the previous City Manager's doing, and no one is "beat"ing Council, but urging better oversight, and resident votes on expenditures over a certain amount.  Finance Directors and Department don't keep an eye on these things too?



Posted by: Sandra Schramm | May 09, 2017 16:23

I too was in distress over this as I watched the meeting.The manner in which this was presented at the Monday night Council meeting was again, a part of the problem.  I will say that the last years of Camden First Aid Assn, things were operating poorly. If you recall, they fired the Head of Camden First Aid for other troubling issues. Then they folded. This money owed to Rockland from Camden First Aid is from quite a few years ago and they are defunct. For one reason, you cannot collect from drug addicts and the homeless that are a large part of the ones that do not pay for services. Other towns had the same problem. Should we have let it go so long as it was happening, of course not. 

As to the Old County Road over expenditures, shame on someone. I think the Council needs to look at this long and hard before writing it off. Slipping that item into the agenda sure put the look of shock on the Council.  If the current Manager planned this, it did not come off well at all.  Of course residents deserve answers before this is dealt with. The sewer issue should not have been an unexpected issue and more money should have been prepared for.  But then as you look at that period of time, we had a manager who was unleashed and out of control.  Sadly this has left a big black mark on the city operations. It might be time to move on and dispense with this but it is as others have said, time for new procedures to be in place to prevent some of this from happening again.

 

I sense that this current council of 4 has had some eye opening experiences in their tenure and there may be more to come. I know the community has been exposed to more BS that we could ever have imagined. "Sweeping under the carpet" has to end. As a community I hope we ask for more scrutiny on projects before they even start and more monitoring as well as transparency.  I would like to see a committee of people who have not served on  oversight committees before formed to work with all at city hall on a way we can assure there is more oversight. Perhaps the auditors can give more insight on safeguarding.  The contracts with those dumping in the landfill were another disappointment that cost the taxpayers multiple times.  Lessons here for all. Citizen participation at meetings and serving on committees is much needed. Residents need to ask questions up front, not after something is brought to light.  Let us all work on a solution and not drop the ball on this, the need to beat these 4 Councilors is not a priority when time is better spent on safeguarding these errors in the future.  The need for a strong leader with a proven record to fill the City Manager position is here. Other cities and towns have a much better track record at picking managers. Let us not make the same mistakes if they can be avoided. It would be so productive if we were not always dealing with the past and could move forward, build a strong reserve and make Rockland financially sound.

 



Posted by: Maggie Trout | May 09, 2017 14:56

Camden First Aid failed to process bills properly, and no one in City Hall did a thing about it?  It's as if there is no oversight.  Oh well, that contractor isn't processing bills properly; oh well, the contractor did a bad job; oh well... Well.  Residents keep paying.  Is there anyone ever running the show over there?  No one steps in to say, "Wait a minute?"  Council is unaware of doubling write-offs? 



Posted by: Maggie Trout | May 09, 2017 14:29

Rockland residents need to have more voice in many decisions.  It would require public vote, but I don't see any other way.



Posted by: Stephen Betts | May 09, 2017 13:39

The city officials knew it was going to be well over after adding the sewer installation.

 



Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | May 09, 2017 12:51

Did the City hire an Owner's Rep to oversee the Old County road project, or was a City employee tasked with oversight? Or was there no one keeping close tabs on it? Just curious.



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | May 09, 2017 12:33

Looks like there is some budget cutting to do before being approved. Across the board would be the simplest and fairest. This appears to be almost a million dollar deficit that was unplanned for.  Every cent of my raise in SS went to pay an increase in Medicare. AHHHH!

Certainly glad to see the leadership we have. They WILL come up with a solution.



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