County officials must explain overpayments on road project

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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In the scheme of things, a $36,000 county contract for repairing a hazardous road is not a big deal, even if overruns raise the cost.

But it’s a very big deal when there are allegations that a contractor did not do all the work for which he was paid; that part of the job, totaling $14,000, was done by two other companies; that a $6,000 concrete slab was built on private property; and that work was added based on a verbal agreement.

It’s important to note again that these are only allegations, but they are serious charges involving taxpayers’ money that county officials must investigate, then correct any policies and procedures that would have allowed any or all of those things to occur.

From what the Star-Telegram reported Tuesday, County Administrator G.K. Maenius and County Auditor Renee Tidwell are looking into the matter and should have a written report to the commissioners court Tuesday.

The contract to R.D. Howard Construction was part of a plan to eliminate a dangerous “Y” intersection where Rendon Bloodworth Road met FM 1187. Howard’s portion of the project was to build a driveway, culverts and drainage pieces over a deep bar ditch and restore business access.

A county road crew worker told the Star-Telegram he had overheard a conversation between Howard and the county employee overseeing the project and that Howard said he could not complete the job for the amount he had bid for it. The Precinct 1 director of field operations, T.C. Webster, promised to fix the problem, the crew member said.

An independent investigation by the newspaper did confirm reports of the additional $14,000 in payment to other companies for some of the work and $5,775 to Howard for a concrete slab on private property adjacent to the job site.

Howard, in a presentation to commissioners, denied any wrongdoing and said he was “absolutely offended and insulted that anyone would question my integrity in this manner.”

Residents rightly expect full accountability on how their tax dollars are spent, regardless of the size of the job.

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