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Paperwork delays Griggs Co. project

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Construction remains at a standstill nearly two weeks after contractors walked off the job over missed payments for the Griggs County Courthouse and Emergency Operations Center in Cooperstown, N.D.

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Contractors say the county is overdue on paying about $170,000 for construction on the project that is estimated to be 90 to 95 percent completed.

Meanwhile, North Dakota Department of Emergency Services has extended its final deadline to Sept. 30, 2015, for Griggs County to release a $1 million federal grant for the new Emergency Operations Center that is part of the controversial courthouse and EOC construction project.

“Our backs were against the wall, so we sought the year extension,” Commissioner John Wakefield said Tuesday. “We still have some time to fix this.”

The dispute involves the $1.25 million Emergency Operations Center portion of the $3.5 million project.

The EOC, which is connected to the new courthouse, is being financed through a $1 million federal grant, administered through the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services. The county is required to contribute — and has paid — its 25 percent local match.

The original federal Department of Homeland Security EOC grant was awarded in January 2012.

However, money cannot be released until NDDES receives documentation that federal funds are being spent only to reimburse the county for money the county has spent for just the EOC, and not for the courthouse portion of the project, according to Debbie LaCombe, Homeland Security grant section chief with NDDES.

Questions

In February, Griggs County submitted four reimbursement requests totaling about $200,000.

All four requests were rejected for a variety of reasons.

In early April, a fifth reimbursement request was submitted that totaled more than $700,000, including the original $200,000, according to Wakefield.

According to Lacombe, unresolved issues include:

  • Not all documentation requested was submitted.
  • Some of the submitted documentation was unreadable.
  • Questions of whether Davis-Bacon Act requirements have been met. The Davis-Bacon Act requires that prevailing wages be paid for projects involving federal dollars.
  • Some of the unpaid invoices, contracts and subcontracts have not been paid by the county. According to terms of the award, the county first must pay the bills and then request reimbursement, providing documentation.
  • There are questions over whether subcontracts were put out for bid.

Wakefield contends that one of the biggest problems is that the former commissioners failed to budget enough money to pay for both the courthouse and EOC project.

The building authority financed the $2.2 million courthouse portion of the project through a 20-year bond with the Bank of North Dakota. Construction contracts, meanwhile, total up to a maximum of $2.9 million for the combined project.

Sorting it out

LaCombe said the potential release of any funds depends on how fast the county can clear up the remaining issues.

Once we have been able to weed through what has been submitted, we will provide the county with a letter outlining what still needs to happen,” LaCombe said. “They will be given a deadline to comply at that time.”

LaCombe said the final September 2015 deadline is firm, adding that the grant will be de-obligated — or rescinded — if the county fails to comply with its terms.

“It’s kind of in limbo right now,” Wakefield said. “I’m not negative about it. I have to think that all of this will get worked through and that the grant money is released. How we get to that point, I don’t know. We’re trying as hard as we can with what we have to work with to make this work.”

Call Bonham at (701) 780-1110, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1110 or send email tokbonham@gfherald.com

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Kevin Bonham
Kevin Bonham covers news from northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota for the Grand Forks Herald. A North Dakota native, who grew up in Mandan and Dickinson, he has been a reporter or an editor with the Herald and Forum Communications for nearly 30 years. 
(701) 780-1110
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