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Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority deals with grant woes

June 09, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority lost a $50,000 state grant last year because it failed to execute the terms of the contract and draw down the money it was awarded in a timely manner.

The Local Economic Development Assistance grant that was awarded in support of long-standing efforts to restore and redevelop the historic railroad shop buildings in Martinsburg was not extended by the West Virginia Development Office last summer, Berkeley County Administrator Deborah Hammond said.

The authority wasn’t able to raise the matching money required by the grant in time.

The state generally will permit two or three extensions to give those who are awarded funding more time to draw down the money, Hammond said Friday.

The state refused to grant another extension, according to Hammond.

The county agreed to act as the sponsor for the $50,000 grant in fiscal year 2008-09, according to Hammond and Berkeley County Council meeting minutes.

As a sponsor, the Berkeley County Council has helped the roundhouse authority and other nonprofit entities clear legal hurdles and meet financial reporting requirements in order to draw down state and federal funding.

Berkeley County has sponsored a string of grants awarded to the roundhouse authority dating to the late 1990s that total about $8.2 million, but Hammond said the county wasn’t asked to assist with a federal $585,684 grant that remains mostly unspent since being awarded in 2006.

The Transportation, Community and System Preservation Program grant is supposed to be used for the construction of restroom facilities at the historic railroad site, but the roundhouse authority has struggled to draw down the funding with matching money due to financial struggles.

The balance of the grant now stands at $414,796 after 20 invoices since 2007 were subtracted, according to figures released Friday by the West Virginia Division of Highways.
 
Built after the Civil War, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. railroad shop complex currently does not have any restrooms, which are viewed as a key capital improvement to help boost its redevelopment.

Without state officials’ approval of the restroom project plan, it cannot be advertised to contractors. But roundhouse authority Vice Chairman Roger Lewis told board members last week that the delay does not prevent them from moving forward with plans to install a waterline for the planned facilities.

“They are just so backed up on reviews ... they only have three people in that office,” said Lewis, who welcomed the support of anyone who could “put a little pressure” on the state to expedite the project.

Officials had hoped to have the restroom project done before the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival, which is slated to return to the grounds of the 19th-century historic landmark in October.

Matthew Grove, the project architect, said in January that the restrooms and related work could take as long as five months to complete.

The struggle with moving the restroom project forward comes as some roundhouse authority members have questioned whether financial reporting requirements have been fulfilled by the public corporation. The roundhouse authority signed the contract agreement with state transportation officials in 2006 to sponsor their own grant rather than the county.

A move by roundhouse authority board members last week to obtain an audit of records was deferred until after they receive a legal opinion on whether the financial review is required.

If the grant for the restroom project had been sponsored by the county council, the review of transactions would have been addressed by the county’s annual audit, Hammond said.

The finance division of Berkeley County Clerk John W. Small’s office said late last month that it did not have any audited financial statements on file from the roundhouse authority.

Berkeley County Councilwoman Elaine Mauck said Friday that she believes an audit is necessary, given the roundhouse authority’s reliance upon state and federal funding.

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