Driving north on 13 1/2 street, past Seabury, then Putnam, and all the way to Franklin, there’s a few things you’re likely to notice, and one of the first will probably be the newly paved roads. This time of year you’ll also see lots of people out taking care of their yards, and playing with their kids. There’s a mixture of retired folks that were looking to down size and young families purchasing their first homes. One thing they all had in common was that they believed the road work projects, overseen by the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission, have helped their community. New residents mentioned that the condition of the roads and sidewalks was part of the reason why they chose the neighborhood, and families living in the community for decades were pleased by the noticeable improvements.
In light of the concerns shared in part one of this story, lets take a look at how the work was completed and whether it was worth the cost. Previously filed public records requests for invoices related to the engineering work were provided and revealed that the engineering work done and the prices quoted seemed to match state wide comparisons. Residents did have questions about why the work took so long and why the city had done just a few blocks at a time. One reason for this was that the projects were funded by a series of Community Development Block Grants in which the city’s Redevelopment Commission received a set amount each year that only covered a few blocks worth of work. Local officials did state that it was unfortunate that the city was not in a better financial position to help move these local projects along quicker and free up funds for other investments.
Questions do remain about the apparent exclusivity of engineering contracts going to HWC Engineering for this work, and the companies past connections to a bid rigging and bribery scandal in Muncie, Indiana. In a recent federal court sentencing hearing, the former director of the Muncie Sanitary District stated that when she took office she was told by the Muncie Sanitary Board that she was “not to do anything without talking to Phil (Nichols) or Dennis (Tyler) first.” Dennis Tyler was the former Mayor of Muncie and Phil Nichols was a former Democratic Party Chairman, both men were indicted and are serving time in federal prison for there involvement in the scandal. Mike Cline of Hannum, Wagle, and Cline Engineering was a Muncie Sanitary Board member at that time and was appointed by Tyler. He was also the subject of a lawsuit filed by the state due to his refusal to give up his position on the board.
Another point of concern is the apparent pattern in which contractors have been chosen for the work done in the community, which is referred to by the Redevelopment Commission as the “South Westside Area.” Year after year multiple companies put in bids for the work and while the bid amounts from all the companies were usually close they would occasionally vary widely. However, the quotes from Dennis Trucking and ST Construction were almost always very close and seemed to regularly transition from one company being the lowest for a year, then the other company being the lowest for a year. Public records requests have been filed for the invoices related to the construction work done in the South Westside Area. In response to the Muncie scandal involving corruption in demolition and construction contracts, public records requests have also been filed for demolition and construction work done by the Redevelopment Commission and the Terre Haute Housing Authority.