Basalt discovers $400,000 shortfall in revenues for pedestrian underpass

Construction is being undertaken on one half of the pedestrian underpass of Highway 82 in Basalt at a time so that four lanes of through traffic can be maintained.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Basalt officials discovered this week they will reap about $400,000 less than expected in revenue for the $7.14 million pedestrian underpass of Highway 82.

Assistant Town Manager Judi Tippetts informed members of the finance committee Wednesday evening that two grants, one federal and one state, that Basalt officials thought they received are really just one grant.

She discovered the issue April 24 when she submitted requests for payment to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“Their business office said, ‘It doesn’t work,’” Tippetts said.

“There’s been so many eyes on it, why hasn’t it got noticed?” — Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle

Basalt officials were under the impression they received a grant via the Transportation Alternatives Program for $514,480 and a state Safer Routes to School grant for about $264,000.

What they discovered was the two grants were rolled into one, leaving the town short $408,620 in anticipated revenue.

It is unknown why the shortfall wasn’t discovered previously.

“There’s been so many eyes on it, why hasn’t it got noticed?” said Basalt Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle, sitting in on the Finance Committee meeting.

Construction is underway at the project at Highway 82 and Basalt Avenue. It will be completed by August. Pedestrians crossing between downtown and Southside won’t have to negotiate Highway 82.

Tippetts said she inherited oversight of the project after funding had been secured. Former Town Manager Mike Scanlon cobbled the funding together. When the project was approved last summer, it was projected that the town would pay about $3 million, state and federal grants would cover $2.3 million, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails along with the Elected Officials Transportation Committee would cover $1.4 million and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority would chip in $500,000.

“We got money from 11 different sources,” Tippetts said. “We’ve had so many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak.”

Councilman and Finance Committee member Bernie Grauer said the double dipping should have been discovered at the staff level since the council focuses on policy. He noted that Scanlon had gone over the revenue sources numerous times when briefing the council on the project.

“If vigorously examined and pulled apart at the get-go, it might not have happened,” he said of the shortfall.

Other officials weren’t as quick to cast blame. Interim Town Manager Davis Farrar said he and Tippetts are tracing back agreements to find out where the mistake was made and by whom. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt endorsed the forensic study.

“Whoever wrote it down originally made a mistake,” she said. “We need the origination of this document.”

At this point, it appears Basalt must tap into its Parks, Open Space and Trails fund to cover the shortfall in revenue. The funds exist, committee members noted, but that will delay implementation of other projects.