Back in May, the Carbon County Commissioners approved an option offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in which a local engineer would do bridge inspections in the county between 2013 and 2018.
The commissioners said they sent the required paperwork to PennDOT notifying the state of the decision.
After not hearing back from the state, officials learned they were not approved to have a local engineer do the work, but no reason was given.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein reported that after numerous attempts to contact officials at PennDOT, he was finally told Carbon was denied such an option because PennDOT never received the paperwork.
As a result, an engineer from outside the region will now do the inspections, likely for a lot more cost than had a local engineer done the work.
The money for the inspections comes from the county's Liquid Fuels program, which is used by local municipalities for street improvements. Because the inspections will cost more, it will impact negatively the Liquid Fuels funds.
Commissioner Tom Gerhard complained that PennDOT never responded to the county's e-mails in a timely fashion.
The county commissioners have a reason to be upset with PennDOT. They want to to save the local taxpayers money and PennDOT is not cooperating. Money is not being saved with the manner in which PennDOT is handling the bridge inspections.
There's no reason PennDOT can't be working closer with local authorities. Possibly our local legislator should intervene and find out what's going on.
The annual bridge inspections are important. Having a local engineering firm inspect the bridges not only keeps the level of work local, but also saves costs.
With every budget from local government to the federal level strained, it would make sense that even a few bucks saved would benefit taxpayers. PennDOT officials obviously don't have such a fiscal conscience. Otherwise, they would be willing to work with the county commissioners to keep costs down with any program, including bridge inspections.
It appears the damage is done and the county is forced into accepting PennDOT's decision regarding having an outside engineering firm doing the bridge inspections.
It's too bad that the problem couldn't have been resolved before the unpopular decision occurred.
Once again, a state agency obviously has little regard for what local officials feels is important - state officials who are not voted into office nor who seem to have to answer to anyone, including the taxpayers.
By RON GOWER