Chief of Staff Thomas P. McGonigle's report to Gov. Jack Markell regarding the U.S. 113 North-South Project and related property reservation agreements entered into by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) was released on Tuesday.
The report states that, while DelDOT does have the authorization to "expend significant dollars and resources" on developing roadways, such as a major new highway in Sussex County, it did not do so while demonstrating the "necessary competence, judgment and diligence" with regard to "the utilization and negotiation of reservation agreements."
In the report, McGonigle noted that, in December 2010, area media – including the Coastal Point newspaper, after months of investigation – published extensive reports on the U.S. 113 North-South Project in Sussex County.
“Those investigations raised serious questions as to whether tax dollars have been unnecessarily and/or inappropriately expended by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT). In response, Governor Markell ordered a review and report on these issues,” he wrote.
The report goes on to say that the issue can be broken down into two distinct questions:
• “Did DelDOT have the authorization and direction to expend significant dollars and/or resources on developing a major new highway in Sussex County?” and
• “Has DelDOT, in moving forward with the early land acquisition component of this project, demonstrated the necessary competence, judgment and diligence, particularly relating to the utilization and negotiation of reservation agreements?”
“Based on the review conducted, the conclusion reached to the first question is yes and to the second question, no. As a result, while the report outlines the particular reasons for both conclusions, the recommendations are primarily focused on ensuring the land acquisition process at DelDOT is significantly improved going forward.”
The report also describes in detail the history of DelDOT’s involvement and engagement of the public with the U.S. 113 project, an in-depth overview of funding of the project via the General Assembly and recommendations concerning three “reservation agreements” in which Sussex County property owners are or were getting paid to not develop their properties, which were found to likely be in the path of the proposed route.
Pick up the Jan. 14 issue of the Coastal Point or visit www.coastalpoint.com on Jan. 13 for more on this story, in a follow-up to the Coastal Point's investigative series on the Route 113 project.