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Bus barn delays could jeopardize funding
March 20, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Federal stimulus funding for the Scotts Bluff County bus barn might be in jeopardy, depending on the date that’s set for completion of the project.

The funding did not include allowances for weather delays, which have hampered progress on construction of the building on Rundell Road.

The bus barn to house the county’s Handy Bus vehicles was originally scheduled for completion in late March. Contractor Paul Reed told the county board on Monday the project should be completed in about 10 days, allowing for the 10 days lost due to inclement weather.

But now the question is whether the April 8 completion is within the deadline set by the feds. Commissioners have already said they can’t afford to pick up the government’s $577,000 of the project’s total cost of just under a million dollars.

The question over funding came up when Megan Hayward with architect Hewgley and Associates said allowances for weather related delays was not included in the contract for federal stimulus funding and that she wasn’t sure when that funding would run out.

“We’ll check with our funding source to make sure we haven’t passed that date,” Hayward said. “I’m confident that Paul Reed has made a good will effort to complete the building as soon as possible.”

Commissioners had also expressed concern about potential flooding of the bus barn, which is lower in elevation than the surrounding buildings at the county roads department. But Hayward assured them that worries about flooding were unwarranted.

After the meeting, County Commission Chairman Mark Masterton said the contract with Reed contains penalties for late completion. However, “Our intent isn’t to hang the contractor, but to get the job done. The penalty possibilities are there, but we won’t enforce them unless it’s critical.”

Commissioners also heard from Scottsbluff resident Becky McMillan, who asked why several commissioners signed onto a letter of support for the Keystone XL Pipeline, after commissioners voted at their previous meeting not to sign as a board.

Commissioner Sherry Blaha, who signed the letter of support, said she had made it clear that she signed as an individual commissioner, not as part of the county board. Commissioners Mark Masterton and Mike Marker also signed.

During discussion, Commissioner Steve Stratton said he has heard both support and opposition to the pipeline project. “I didn’t sign the letter, but my personal opinions are none of your business,” he told McMillan. “But most of my constituents are in favor of it.”

After the meeting, Masterton explained the county is part of the Ports to Plains Alliance, which includes the four-lane Heartland Expressway, which runs through the Gering and Scottsbluff areas.

“That organization asked us to support the Keystone Pipeline because the objectives of the two organizations are similar,” he said. “I think this project is essential to the survival of the Panhandle of Nebraska. We have to look forward to transportation issues and be proactive on these things.”

McMillan said she would request the item be discussed further at the next county board meeting, which is scheduled for March 31.
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