Dumfries overdue on VDOT debt

The town of Dumfries owes the Virginia Department of Transportation about $239,000 with $83,000 of that past due.

Town officials continue to make plans on how to pay off these bills. The Dumfries Town Council will discuss it at a work session tonight.

They remain, however, still at a loss as to how some of these bills can be overdue and for so long.

Of the total owed to VDOT for various road and design projects, $38,500 of it is more than 1,000 days overdue.

The bills are for several road projects that date back to 1999.

“It’s embarrassing,” said Dumfries Town Manager Ron Waller. “We made a mistake.”

“I don’t know what happened,” said Dumfries Public Works Director Marvin Wilkins. “It seems like it fell through the cracks.”

“I think it was an oversight on several people’s part,” said Dumfries Mayor Melvin “Mel” Bray.

While town officials say they did not know about the overdue bills until recently, a VDOT spokesman disputes their claim.

“We did continue to send bills,” said Ryan Hall, a VDOT spokesman. “The bills were ignored.”

Bray and Wilkins said they think the town’s high turnover of town managers in recent years could have contributed to the oversight. Waller took on the job of town manager in April 2001.

The job of town manager was vacated in September 2000 when Mike Riley resigned. During the eight months prior to Waller taking the job, the town was run by the mayor and then by an interim manager and a consultant.

Dumfries had a series of town managers before that. Since 1993, there have been four managers before Waller. Two were fired, and one in addition to Riley resigned.

The longest overdue bill involved a design project to address problems in the White Haven neighborhood off Main Street in Dumfries. The work on the project began around 1998.

The town contracted with VDOT to do the design at a cost of $45,527. VDOT billed the town for the project in two increments. The first was dated July 27, 1999, and the amount was $842. That one is 1,119 days overdue. The second is dated Sept. 12, 2000, with a charge of $37,676. It is 706 days overdue.

After receiving the design, the town decided that it did not want to proceed with the project because the design didn’t really solve the problem in the neighborhood, Waller said.

Still, “[VDOT] had an iron-clad contract,” Waller said. The contract stated “if you don’t proceed with the project, you still have to pay for the design.”

Yet the town never did.

Wilkins said he recalls seeing the bill years ago. “I saw it a number of times,” Wilkins said. “It never was paid is all that I know.”

Wilkins’ responsibilities do not include paying bills. That is handled by town’s administration office.

The second overdue bill was for the Main Street project which included curbs, gutters, street lights, widening and rebuilding. State guidelines require town’s to pay 2 percent of the project. That came to $37,676, Waller said.

The bill was dated Oct. 15, 1999. It is 1,067 days overdue.

“It’s up to Dumfries to pay these bills,” Hall said.

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