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Who pays for that? Let's go to the flowchart

October 8, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
In a prior role at the newspaper (before I stepped back for awhile), I wound up as the de facto Jefferson County Airport Authority reporter. After all, my brother has worked for Cessna for more than 35 years, so hey, I must know something about airplanes and flying and airports and stuff like that, right?

Or that is, I think, how the reasoning went.

But the airport beat wasn’t about flying and airplanes and airports and stuff like that. It was, and is, largely about bureaucracy. Even airplanes made of exotic metals fly on paper.

Bernouli's principle ensures wings always work. It does not, however, have a darned thing to do with where to land.

Take the ongoing runway extension project.

When the county commissioners were talking about the project a few weeks ago, Gary Folden, one of the few people I’ve ever known who can turn the bureaucratic process into something understandable while being a nice guy at the same time, provided a flow chart that explains the project’s payment cycle.

It consists of nine boxes connected by arrows and two possible paths through the boxes to result in the airport authority filing “a copy of notice and invoice of payment in the permanent grant file.” Those nine steps (with my interpretation in parenthesis):

1. Invoice received at airport from contractor. (Somebody did something for which they expect to be paid.)

2. The Airport Secretary-Treasurer (Mr. Folden) prepares invoice for payment by the airport, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Development. (The people with the money to pay are told that somebody wants paid.)

3. The invoice is submitted to the county commissioners for approval. (They own the airport, so the purse-strings are in their hands.)

Now it gets tricky.

4. Invoices that are approved are submitted for payment in two directions (the project is split into local and state shares).

4A. The Airport Secretary-Treasurer (Mr. Folden) prepares a voucher for payment of 25 percent of the original invoice and;

5. The airport files the copy of notice and invoice of payment in the permanent grant file. (Thank God that payment is over, now on to the next one.)

But the other side of the invoice goes from the commissioners’ approved invoice (No. 4 above) to

4B. The Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Development, each of which is to pay 37.5 percent of the original invoice. (37.5+37.5+25=100 percent, get it?).

4C. ODOT returns acknowledgement of payment to the commissioners. (Nice of them.)

4D. The commissioners send a copy of the notice to the airport for its records. (Yes, yes, but the airport authority is a separate entity from the county commissioners even though the commissioners own the airport, as the panel of county commissioners, not as Bo, Tom and Dave.)

5. The airport files the copy of notice and invoice of payment in the permanent grant file. (Thank God that payment is over, now on to the next one.)

Of course, all of that assumes that deadlines are hit and every step of the way the approvals are given, from the airport through the county commissioners, through the ODOT and ODOD offices and back again.

And assuming paperwork doesn’t fall behind a desk somewhere. (That actually happened to a Steel Valley Transit grant about 15 or 20 years ago.)

And assuming a federal shutdown doesn’t result in the states having to put a halt on public works spending elsewhere, though that shouldn’t hurt a state-funded airport project in Jefferson County that already has an allocation in a grant. But stranger things can happen.

I wish Gary had made the flowchart years ago. It really helps in understanding where the grant payments are, were and will go.

But somehow, none of it brings to mind visions of business jets landing on a 5,000-foot runway. Unless, of course, the jets are filled with government accountants ready to audit the bills that paid for the 5,000-foot runway they landed on.

 
 

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