“We have had some jurisdictions that have come to the cliff,” Lever said. “But it is rare to go over. . . . We’re working with them to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Prince George’s County officials were “in the process” of awarding contracts for the work when the deadline hit, schools spokesman Max Pugh said. He said they missed the deadline because of unforseen hurdles.
“Delays in the award were due to difficulties in the bidding process, as well as some delays completing the designs,” Pugh said.
The state allocated $25.3 million to Prince George’s in May 2011, to build schools and renovate and repair the county’s aging facilities. The school system had two years — until May 31, 2013 — to award contracts, or the funding would be rescinded.
In a July 26 letter to Clarence Stukes, the county’s chief of supporting services, Lever blamed the school system’s “apparent late start . . . in initiating design and procurement.”
“It is extremely troubling that the awards of contracts have been made at virtually the last minute after the elapse of two years from BPW [the state Board of Public Works] in the spring of 2011,” Lever wrote.
State Sen. Joanne Benson (D-Prince George’s), who serves as the education chair for the county’s Senate delegation, was upset to learn that the school system lost a significant amount of money meant to improve county schools.
“I am absolutely disappointed that this money was not spent, particularly when the legislature in Annapolis works so hard to make sure that money comes back to Prince George’s County,” Benson said. “We desperately need this money. We have furnaces that are not working. We have so many issues, particularly inside the beltway. It is definitely not good news.”
This is not the first time the county has lost money for construction projects because they failed to meet a deadline. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reclaimed $2 million from the county meant for affordable housing projects.
Lever said the school construction funds went back into a statewide contingency account and will be made available for other school systems to use.
State Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s), the chair of the county House delegation, said losing the money seemed to be “collateral damage” from the school system’s leadership instability during the past several years. Former Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. resigned in September 2012 and was replaced by Alvin Crawley, who served a one-year term as interim superintendent. Kevin Maxwell became the schools chief executive officer in August. In July, the school system hired Sarah Woodhead as its Capital Improvement Program (CIP) director, following a year with temporary leadership.