Montgomery inspector general: Transit Center issues require scrutiny

Montgomery County Department of Public Works & Transportation - A rendering of the Silver Spring Transit Center

Montgomery County Inspector General Edward Blansitt said Wednesday that his office wants to know more about why construction of the Silver Spring Transit Center has been plagued by defects, delays and cost overruns.

Blansitt told the council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee that the issues surrounding the project — thin and cracked concrete, missing steel supports and apparent inspection errors — are clearly laid out in an engineering consultant’s report commissioned by the county. But he said the underlying reasons for these problems remain unclear.

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“Information we’ve had indicates certain key controls have failed during the construction process. We need to know why they failed,” said Blansitt, who is appointed by the council but works independently.

Blansitt said he’s been gathering material on the project for nearly a year, but that the consultant’s report by KCE Structural Engineers , released in March, underscored the need for closer scrutiny.

In a letter Tuesday to council President Nancy Navarro (D-Mid-County), Blansitt said: “I have concluded that there are issues the Office of Inspector General should pursue that are beyond the scope of what other County offices have done or intend to do.”

He told the committee that he requires $100,000 to be added to his office’s budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The money would be used to retain forensic accountants and other specialists.

“We’re obviously not construction experts,” he said.

Blansitt’s funding request was endorsed by all three members of the committee — Navarro, Hans Riemer (D-At Large) and Valerie Ervin (D-Easten County). Riemer and Ervin circulated a letter to the full council Tuesday calling for the $100,000 to be added to the proposed FY2004 budget under review.

Following his remarks to the committee, Blansitt said he could have a report to the council by late summer or early fall.

Patrick Lacefield, spokesman for County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), said Tuesday that Leggett supported a review of how the county could improve construction practices in the future, but that a probe deconstructing problems with the project could complicate anticipated litigation, Lacefield said.

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