Gravel Road

3. CONSERVATION DISTRICTS ROLE

3.1 District Structure

In 1945, Pennsylvania General Assembly recognized the need to support grassroots efforts. As a result, the Conservation District Law was passed, and districts were created. Today there is a district established in every Pennsylvania County except Philadelphia.

Conservation districts implement a variety of programs, and provide assistance for a range of issues unique to their county, such as: Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Roads Program; Abandoned Mines; Agricultural Land Preservation; Chesapeake Bay Program; Environmental Education; Erosion & Sedimentation Pollution Control; Floodplain Management; Forest Management; Nutrient Management Program; Storm Water Management; Waterway Protection; West Nile Virus Surveillance Program; Wildlife Management; and more.

Each district is led by a board of directors made up of local people from all walks of life. These volunteers study county natural resource issues and make decisions which enhance and protect the local community.


3.2 Overview

Section 9106 of the PA Motor Vehicle Code created a dedicated, non-lapsing fund to provide money and training to local communities for local road maintenance. Annually, $28 million is distributed by the Commission to districts in Pennsylvania through a five-year agreement.

The districts are the entities that administer the Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program. Each county utilizes a Quality Assurance Board (QAB) that advises the District on local program policies and recommends projects for funding. The role of the QAB is detailed in Chapter 4 of this manual.

District staff plays a very important role in the administration of the Program by performing a wide variety of tasks including education and outreach, project evaluation, technical assistance, project oversight, accounting, and auditing.


3.3 Receiving Funds from Commission

3.3.1 Five-year Agreement

Funding is apportioned by the Commission to districts through a five-year agreement that allows the funding transfer without initiating annual contracts or contract amendments (Appendix C). Districts may take advantage of electronic transfer of funds from the Commission. Districts may find it easier to keep “Dirt and Gravel” and “Low-Volume Road” funds in separate accounts. However, it is not required to have a separate account for dirt, gravel, and low-volume road funds, as long as they can provide for separate accounting of the funds.

3.3.2 Advance Working Capital

Districts will receive 50 percent of their annual allocation as advanced working capital. Advanced working capital is typically distributed to districts in October for each fiscal year. No district action is required to receive advanced working capital other than to have an active five-year agreement with the Commission and to be in compliance with the Commission spending requirements outlined below.

When the working capital advance is disbursed to the district, it will be accompanied by a detailed statement approved and signed by the Commission showing the total amount advanced, the maximum amount that may be used for administration, the maximum amount that may be used for education, the minimum amount that must be used for projects, in addition to identifying the amount available for replenishment in that year's allocation. This form must be retained in the district's files for audit and QAQC purposes. The Commission may require periodic reporting of funds remaining in district accounts.

3.3.3 Replenishment of Working Capital

As districts spend advanced working capital on administration, education, and project work, they can apply to the Commission for all or part of the remaining 50 percent of their allocation. Only funds that have been spent by the district or advanced to grant recipients, not simply committed to a contract, can be claimed for replenishment. For example, if a district advances $20,000 on a $40,000 contract to a grant recipient, they may request a replenishment of $20,000 (not $40,000) from the Commission. Districts may choose to submit one replenishment request for the remaining balance of their funds, but multiple replenishment requests are acceptable. Application for replenishment is left to the district’s discretion. Requests for replenishment can include “Dirt and Gravel”, “Low-Volume”, or both funds on the same form. Unclaimed district funds that remain at the Commission for two years or more may be reallocated at the Commission’s discretion. Districts may request replenishment of funds on forms provided in Appendix D.

Requests for replenishment should be directed to:

Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Program Coordinator
311 PA Department of Agriculture
2301 North Cameron Street, 17110
Harrisburg, PA 17110

Requests can also be submitted electronically to:

Roy Richardson: rrichardso@pa.gov

3.3.4 Spending Requirements

Districts are required to spend or commit funds to contract within two years of receipt in order to be eligible for future allocations. Funds are considered “committed” if they are obligated using a signed contact with a successful applicant. If a district does not spend or commit sufficient funding, the Commission may determine that the district is ineligible for future allocations. When that occurs, that district’s future allocation(s) may be distributed to other districts using existing allocation formulas. Districts that miss a year(s) allocation will be eligible for future allocations once again after the two year spending requirement is met. The Commission may, at its discretion, extend the two-year spending requirement if circumstances warrant.

Dirt and Gravel Road allocation spending must be tracked separately from Low-Volume Road allocation spending. Ineligibility for Dirt and Gravel Road allocations does not necessitate ineligibility for Low-Volume Road allocation, or vice-versa.

3.3.5 Program Reduction or Termination

The Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Program is a voluntary program for districts. Districts may choose to receive a reduced allocation, or temporarily suspend their entire allocation for various reasons. Districts may also choose to withdraw from the Program (either D&G, LVR, or both) and return funding to the Commission. Districts who elect one of these options may return to full Program participation in future years with Commission approval. To discuss any of the options mentioned above, contact the program coordinator at the Commission.

Pursuant to the five-year agreement between the Commission and districts, when the Commission determines that the terms and conditions of the agreement are not materially being met, the Commission may, after 30 day written notice, suspend the District’s authority to proceed with work under this agreement. The suspension will remain in effect until corrective action has been taken to the satisfaction of the Commission, or until the agreement is terminated and all unspent funds are returned to the Commission.


3.4 Accounting of Funds at District

Separate Accounting3.4.1 Separate Accounting

Districts must place all funds received from the Commission in an interest bearing Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or equivalent insured account. Districts must work with their banking institutions to assure that account balances in excess of $250,000 are also insured or otherwise collateralized. The Commission may approve other lending, borrowing and savings institutions for districts to utilize for the Dirt and Gravel and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program funds on a case-by-case basis. District records relating to the Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program must be kept for a minimum of three years from the date of final payment on a project.

Dirt and Gravel Roads funds, which include funds for projects, education, and administration, are to be used solely for Dirt and Gravel Road Program expenses, and these funds must be accounted for separate from the Low-Volume Roads funds.

Low-Volume Roads funds, which include funds for projects, education, and administration, are to be used solely for Low-Volume Road Program expenses, and these funds must be accounted for separate from the Dirt and Gravel Road funds.

3.4.2 Administrative Funds

A district may use up to 10 percent of their total allocation for administering the Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program. Administrative funds must be tracked separately for the Dirt, and Gravel, and Low-Volume Road allocations. Administrative expenses are outlined in the Commission Statement of Policy 83.611 (Appendix B).

Examples of administrative expenditures include Program-related expenses for:

  • Staff salary and benefits to administer the Program
  • Travel expenses related to Program administration
  • Office and technology expenses
  • Field equipment
  • Aggregate testing
  • Insurance
  • Vehicle expenses
  • Participation incentives
  • Traffic counters, grader blades, or other equipment to loan to applicants
  • Other administrative expenses pertinent to the Program
  • Demonstration projects (refer to section 3.4.6)

Considerations:

  • Purchase of equipment for township or other applicants, including cost-sharing, is not allowed. It is acceptable to purchase equipment for loan/rent to applicants.
  • Ensure that any funds used to purchase equipment for the district are proportional to the amount of time the equipment is used for Program purposes.
  • Administrative funds must be spent within two years of receipt. The “banking” of administrative fund for multiple years is only allowed with written permission from the Commission.

The district is responsible for keeping accurate and detailed records of what was paid for with administrative funds. A district is not required to spend any or all of the 10 percent of their allocation set aside for administration for that purpose. Each district’s allocation for administrative funds may also be spent directly on projects.

3.4.3 Education Funds

A district may use up to 10 percent of their total allocation for education expenses in the Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program. Education funds must be tracked separately for the Dirt and Gravel Road allocation and Low-Volume Road allocation. Education expenses are outlined in the Commission Statement of Policy 83.611 (Appendix B).

Examples of education expenditures include Program-related expenses for:

  • Staff salary and benefits related to trainings, conferences, field days, and workshops (attending or hosting), technical assistance, or other outreach activities
  • Travel expenses related to above activities and for QAB or district board
  • Expenses of hosting workshop
  • Educational related office and technology expenses
  • Educational materials or advertisements.
  • Participation incentives
  • Traffic Counters, grader blades, or other equipment to loan to applicants
  • Expenses for potential grant applicants to attend educational and training.
  • Demonstration projects (refer to section 3.4.6)

Considerations:

  • Purchase of equipment for township or other applicants, including cost-sharing, is not allowed. It is acceptable to purchase equipment for loan/rent to applicants.
  • Ensure that any funds used to purchase equipment for the district are proportional to the amount of time the equipment is used for Program purposes.
  • Education funds must be spent within two year of receipt.  The “banking” of education fund for multiple years is only allowed with written permission from the State Conservation Commission.

The district is responsible for keeping accurate and detailed records of what was paid for with education funds. A district is not required to spend any or all of the 10 percent of their allocation set aside for education for that purpose. Each district’s allocation for education funds may also be spent directly on projects.

3.4.4 Project Funds

A minimum of 80 percent of a district’s allocation must be dedicated for project work for both Dirt and Gravel and Low-Volume Roads. Project funds must be tracked separately for the Dirt and Gravel and Low-Volume Road allocations. The details of project funding, including eligible projects and expenses, are detailed in section 3.7.

3.4.5 Interest Funds

All interest accrued from Program funds (administrative, education, and projects) must be used only for project work. Interest accrued from low-volume roads funds must go to low- volume road projects and interest accrued from dirt and gravel funds must go to dirt and gravel projects.

Demonstration Projects3.4.6 Demonstration Projects

A typical Program project is one that is submitted by an applicant, reviewed and ranked by a Quality Assurance Board (QAB), and approved for funding by the district board. Typical projects can be used for educational purposes. Education events on typical projects usually entail inviting other potential applicants out to the site for an educational session before, during, or after project implementation. They are especially effective to highlight practices that are new to a particular county or region. These “typical projects” are funded with project funds, while education/administrative funds can be used to cover the costs of the training or educational event.

A “demonstration project” is a project that is funded by the districts that does not follow the lifecycle of the “typical project” above. Demonstration projects can be implemented by the district to showcase a particular practice or project without the typical application submittal and ranking process. Certain conditions must be met before a demonstration project can be funded without the typical application submittal and ranking process:

  • Only education or administrative funds can be used.
  • Must follow existing Program policies: be on an eligible public road; focus on environmental improvements; meet LVR traffic counts; etc.
  • Must have QAB and district board approval.
  • Must have a contract, MOU, or other agreement with the road-owning entity.

Demonstration projects are not intended to be used to circumvent training requirements or typical project agreements with eligible applicants. If project funds are to be used, the project becomes a “typical project” and must go through the standard application submittal and ranking process. When a district funds a demonstration project, the district can either contract with the road-owning entity, or purchase material and contract directly with the contractors performing the work. If the district enters into a contact with the road owning entity to complete a demonstration project, standard Program contracts and procedures apply. The district must assure that all permits are obtained prior to construction, and must comply with all federal, state, and local requirements including prevailing wage. A district may fund a demonstration project by paying for materials and subcontractors directly. A separate agreement must be made with the road-owning entity that identifies the following:

  • The size and scope of the project (including location map, a project sketch, and an itemized cost estimate).
  • The district’s responsibilities for the project
  • The road owning entity’s responsibilities for the project.
  • The responsible entity for any future maintenance that may be required.

These additional requirements are needed since a standard Program contract between the district and the applicant may not be used.


3.5   Dispersing Funds to Grant Recipients

It is acceptable to advance some funds at the beginning of the project, pay for portions of the project as work is completed after bills and receipts are submitted, or wait until the project is entirely completed to pay the entire amount at one time. Districts should develop their own individual policies regarding payment to project grantees (Statement of Policy §83.614.c(1)). A written schedule of payments in conformance with local policies and the Commission Statement of Policy must be included in the contract (Appendix H).

3.5.1 Advancing Funds to Grant Recipients

Up to 50 percent of the contact amount may be advanced to grant recipients once a contract is signed. More restrictive policies can be set by the local QAB.

In addition to advancing up to 50 percent of funds in advance of project work, it is also acceptable to provide additional funding (up to 70 percent of the project funds) after the project is underway. Subsequent payments are only to be made on a cash expended basis.

3.5.2 Remainder of Funding to Grant Recipients

In accordance with the Commission Statement of Policy, the district shall withhold payment of at least 30 percent of the approved project expenses until the satisfactory completion of the project. Final payment for the project expenses shall be made only after a final inspection by the district determines that the work was performed consistent with the project application and the work plan, and to the satisfaction of the district.

3.5.3 Contract Amendments

In some cases, applicants may request additional time or addition funding above the contracted amount to complete a project. The approval of additional time or funding to a contract is at the discretion of the district board, based either on a case by case basis or by county policy. Districts may develop their own policies for handling cost overruns and time extensions, provided they are consistent with Commission policy. There is no additional funding from the Commission to pay for cost overruns.

For cost overruns totaling 20 percent or less of the initial contract amount, a contract amendment must be completed and signed by both entities (available from the Center's Blank Forms page). Multiple amendments may be granted, provided the total of all amendments is not more than 20 percent of the initial contract amount. Amendments must be approved by the district board according to policies they establish. For cost overruns totaling more than 20 percent of the initial contract amount, a second separate contract must be made for the additional funds. For extensions of the completion date of the project, the same “Amendment form” described above can be used. Keep in mind that if a contract is between $20,800 and $25,000 (approaching the prevailing wage threshold), an amendment may increase the total value of the project so that prevailing wage would apply to contractor costs. More on prevailing wage in section 3.7.4.4.


3.6 District Educational Opportunities

There are many opportunities for education and training for districts in various aspects of Program administration and project implementation outlined below. Also outlined below are ideas for districts to implement education and outreach efforts to municipalities and other entities within their county.

3.6.1 Education and Training FOR Districts

3.6.1.1 Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance (ESM) Training

The ESM training is a two-day course that covers the road maintenance practices employed by the Program. ESM training is made available to all district board members, QAB members, and district staff. It is highly recommended that all persons representing the district who have a significant role in the Program attend an ESM training.

ESM training is mandatory for at least one district representative on the QAB, and for the district staff person(s) most involved with the Program. ESM training must be taken once every five years to maintain certification. For more information on the ESM principles covered in the training, see Section 1.4.

3.6.1.2 Annual Maintenance Workshop

ESM training provides training on the fundamentals of environmentally sensitive road maintenance. The annual workshops give the opportunity for more in depth training on a wide variety of subjects such as diagnostics, stream crossings, low-volume roads, demonstration projects. The workshop is held at a different location in Pennsylvania each year. Many workshop sessions include bus trips to actual project locations. Individuals that have a current ESM training certification may attend an annual workshop once every five years in lieu of re- taking ESM training. Individuals whose five-year ESM certification has expired may not use the workshop as recertification, but must re-attend an ESM training.

3.6.1.3 Administrative Training

Administrative training is available for district staff, QAB members, and others. This training will cover the administrative policies and guidance provided in this manual. Administrative training is required for staff person(s) most directly responsible for administering the Program. Identified district personnel responsible for administering the Program must attend the administrative training at least once every three years.

3.6.1.4 Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QAQC)

QAQC visits are described in Section 2.3. The focus of the QAQC visits is to ensure Program policies and standards are being met, and to provide an education and training opportunity to district personnel.

3.6.1.5 Technical Assistance Visits

Technical assistance visits are conducted primarily by Center staff, but Commission staff may attend as well. Technical assistance visits are usually initiated by district staff to request help with a difficult worksite. Technical assistance visits provide excellent training opportunities not only for district staff, but for municipalities as well.

3.6.2 Education and Training BY Conservation Districts

Education and outreach to municipalities, other potential grant applicants, and other local entities is required of each district. Below are some ideas for districts to improve the local education and outreach effort. Please contact the Center if you have questions or would like assistance setting up any of the potential outreach activates below.

3.6.2.1 Participate in Existing Outreach Events

Many counties have local or regional events that provide the opportunity to reach many potential grant applicants and other public entities. Consider becoming a member of local and/or statewide municipal associations, such as a local Council of Governments or PA State Association of Township Supervisors, to participate and promote the DGLVR Program through their events and media. Providing outreach and education at these events, such as developing a traveling display, can be an excellent use of educational funds. Some potential opportunities for such outreach include:

  • Municipal Conventions: The Center and Commission participates in Township and Borough annual conventions each year. Many counties host their own municipal conventions every year that provide an excellent opportunity to meet with or even present to a large number of local government entities.
  • Contractor Workshops: Many regions around the state hold “contract workshops” or other such educational days. These events are typically one-day “mini-conferences” relating to a variety of programs. They can provide a great opportunity to interact with municipalities as well as some of the sub-contractors they frequently use.
  • Legislative Breakfasts: Many counties have “legislative breakfasts” for their local legislators. Municipalities are often invited to these brief sessions that highlight some local projects going on in the legislator’s district, and can provide an excellent showcase for completed DGLVR projects.
  • Municipal Visits: Consider visiting municipalities during slower times of the year to discuss the program, potential projects, and to establish a better working relationship with them.

3.6.2.2 Host outreach events

In addition to participating in some of the existing events described above, many districts host their own events for education and outreach. Consider involving other entities in the presentation of these events such as product suppliers, contractors, equipment companies, and the townships involved in the projects.

  • DGLVR Demonstration Days: “Demo Day” is a term used to describe half-day educational sessions held on a project site, typically aimed at municipalities. It is recommended that demo days be kept to a maximum of 2-3 hours and include breakfast or snacks to encourage attendance. Demo days typically include some type of presentation or talk at a certain time (either in the field, or indoor with a presentation), followed by a walk-through of the field site being used for the demo. Attendee can then stay as long as they like to ask questions and interact with the district. Active project sites, especially when new or innovative practices are being implemented, often make the best demo days. Another option is to hold dual “before and after” demo days, where the first day is spent going over the plan before the project begins, followed a month or so later by a day spent walking through the completed site.
  • Program Update Sessions: Districts are encouraged to host presentation and discussion sessions to provide Program updates for municipalities and other applicants. These sessions can focus on policy updates, or simply showcase completed projects from the previous year. Update sessions can be general, or focused on a particular subject, such as “Administering the DGLVR Program for municipal secretaries”. They can also be combined with other programs run by the District.
  • Project Tours: Many districts hold annual project tours where attendees board a bus and visit a wide variety on field sites. These tours can be customized for a range of audiences, and can be DGLVR focused, or include projects from other district programs as well.
  • Pre-Application Site Visits: Pre-application site walk-through is highly recommended and provide an excellent opportunity for one-on-one education and outreach with the applicant.

3.6.3 Program and Project Promotion

Districts are encouraged to use their education funds to promote the Program and completed projects however they can within their county. Some ideas for such promotion include:

  • Press Releases: After a particularly successful project, consider drafting a brief press release and making it available to local media outlets. Often such simple efforts can be picked up by a variety of media outlets and provide an effective and nearly free source of promotion.
  • Newsletters: Many districts have monthly newsletters where they include short write-ups of successfully DGLVR projects. A few larger districts even have “DGLVR only” newsletters they periodically send out to their municipalities.
  • Project Signage: A simple but underutilized from of project promotion is to place signs on completed projects such as “Road improvements sponsored by…..”, or “Another successful project from……”. Signs do not have to be permanent. Many sign shops can produce simple signs on corrugated plastic that are relatively inexpensive and will last 1-3 years. Check with the municipality to make sure signs are in compliance with any sign ordinances.

3.7 Program Eligibility

Eligible Applicants3.7.1 Eligible Applicants

Public entities that own public roads in Pennsylvania that are open to public vehicle travel are eligible to apply to districts for Program funding. Municipalities and other eligible and ineligible entities are described below.

In determining applicant eligibility, it is important to focus on the entity that owns the road itself, not necessarily the land the road traverses. Often one entity owns the road through the property of another entity, for example a township-owned road through state forest land. The entity that owns the road corridor is the entity that is eligible to apply for funding.

The “ESM certified” person for the applicant must be an employee or elected official of the entity. The ESM certified individual must be the person in charge of work plan development and project implementation for the applying entity. Attendance by individuals not directly involved with the project design and implementation (interns, secretaries, etc.) do not qualify an applicant to be eligible for funding. Engineers on retainer or others who serve multiple municipalities are welcome to attend the ESM training, but their attendance does not count as ESM Certification for the municipalities they represent. Alternatively, if an engineer is on the payroll at a particular eligible entity, it would count as ESM certification for that municipality. Empowering and educating local municipalities is one of the primary benefits of the Program. In the case of other entities, the person who has direct oversight responsibilities for the project must be the one to attend the ESM training. Individuals that have a current ESM training certification may attend an annual maintenance workshop once every five years in lieu of re-taking ESM training. Individuals whose five-year ESM certification has expired may not use the annual maintenance workshop as recertification, but must re-attend an ESM training.

3.7.1.1 Municipalities

Eligible municipalities in Pennsylvania include 1,000+ townships, 900+ boroughs, and 50+ cities. Districts should become acquainted with the various municipal officials and employees in their counties. Boroughs and cities will likely play a larger role in the low-volume road portion of the Program.

To date, townships are the most frequent Program applicant, accounting for over 90 percent of the projects completed from 1997-2015. Township size, composition, and structure vary widely across the state. The two township positions most likely to be involved in Program projects are the “Supervisor” and the “Roadmaster”. Supervisors are elected officials who handle a great variety of tasks for a township. Roadmasters can be elected supervisors or hired employees, and are the person(s) in charge of road maintenance for the township. Depending on size, population, and funding, a township may have multiple roadmasters and supervisors, or may have one person serving in both capacities. Pennsylvania’s 1,400+ townships are governed by the Township Code.

Boroughs are small to large towns that have incorporated boundaries. Borough involvement in the Program has been limited in the past since they own fewer unpaved roads than townships, but their involvement has increased with the addition of paved low-volume roads to the Program in 2014. Boroughs, like townships, vary widely in their size and structure. Borough staff under the Borough Code requires a borough secretary and allows for a borough manager including engineers as well. It is not mandated, but it is not unusual for there to be a public works department to provide road maintenance services. Pennsylvania’s 900+ boroughs are governed by the Borough Code. A complete copy of the Borough Code may be found here.

Cities, like boroughs, will likely play a larger role in the low-volume road portion of the Program. Their size and structure vary considerably across the state.

3.7.1.2 Other Potential Applicants

Other local, county, or state public entities that own and maintain public roads that are open to public vehicle travel are eligible to apply to the district for project funding. The most common of these entities are listed below, although the list is not all-inclusive:

PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT): PennDOT owns ~500 miles of unpaved roads and thousands of miles of paved low-volume roads. PennDOT projects are typically designed at the regional level by regional engineers. Project oversight, however, is typically done at the county level by county maintenance managers. Both the project designer and the person in charge of project oversight must be ESM certified. Signatory authority for applications resides in the PennDOT District Offices.

PA Game Commission (PGC): The PGC owns approximately 1,000 miles of public use roads and 400+ miles of seasonal roads Statewide. The regional l and manager will identify the personnel to attend ESM training in order for the PGC to be eligible to receive funds. Signatory authority for applications resides in the PGC Regional or Central offices.

PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC): PFBC ownership of roads is minor except for access roads and boat launch ramps. Boat launch ramps that are open to public use are eligible for funding. The PFBC personnel responsible for the project area must attend ESM training. Signatory authority for projects resides in the PAFBC Regional or Central offices.

County and other Government Entities: In many cases other local government agencies such as parks departments or municipal authorities own land and roads that are open to public travel. As long as the roads meet the requirements for worksite eligibility and the person in charge of maintaining those roads has ESM certification, they are eligible for funding.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR): DCNR (through State Parks and the Bureau of Forestry) administers more than 3,000 miles of dirt, gravel, and paved low-volume roads. DCNR directly receives $7,000,000 per year under the Program, separate from the Commission allocation. DCNR officials are also required to be ESM certified in order to participate in the Program. The DCNR portion of the Program is administered separately from the Commission portion.

3.7.1.3 Determining Road Ownership

For Program eligibility, the entity that owns the road “right of way” is the determining factor, not who owns the land adjacent to the road. For example, a township may own a road that is surrounded by state or national forest on both sides.

Contracts and payments can only be made with the entity that owns the road. In some cases, the ownership of a road may be in question or unknown. Some considerations in determining road ownership of “orphaned” roads:

  • If a municipality receives “Liquid Fuels” funding for the road, then it is eligible.
  • Most public roads will have courthouse records of ownership.
  • It is the responsibility of the potential applicant to prove road ownership to the satisfaction of the district.
  • County solicitors may be able to help with road ownership determinations.

3.7.1.4 Ineligible Entities

Federal Government: The Federal Government owns and maintains roads in various capacities from national parks and monuments, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lands, and the Allegheny National Forest. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania cannot pay or provide funding to maintain roads owned by the federal government.

Private Road Owners (individuals and entities): Privately owned roads, even those open to public use, are not eligible to apply for funds. This applies to roads owned by private individuals, but also includes roads owned by associations, private conservancies, non-profit companies, and other non-public entities.

Eligible Roads3.7.2 Eligible Roads

Only public roads owned by one of the eligible applicants described above may be considered for funding. A road must also be open to public motor vehicle travel for a minimum of two consecutive weeks annually in order to be eligible for funding. Using separate allocations, it is the intent of the Program to use Dirt and Gravel funds on dirt and gravel roads, and Low-Volume funds on low-volume roads, as defined below. The source of project funding (D&G vs LVR) is determined based on the existing surface of the road. The only exception is that either funding source may be used for projects that involve the transition of a road from paved to unpaved.

3.7.2.1 Dirt and Gravel Roads

The “Dirt and Gravel” portion of the Program is designed to fund work on public roads with unbound road surfaces. These are surfaces of natural material or crushed aggregate that have not been incorporated into a bound layer using asphalt, oil, or other such binder. As a general rule, “unpaved” roads are roads that are graded and rolled as part of routine maintenance.

3.7.2.2 Paved Low-Volume Roads

The “Paved Low-Volume Road” portion of the Program is designed to fund work on public roads where the surface has been bound with asphalt, oil, or other such binder. “Tar and Chip”, or “chip-sealed” roads are considered paved and fall under the Low-Volume Roads portion of the Program for funding. Only paved roads with 500 vehicles per day or less are eligible for Low-Volume Road funding. See section 7.5 for traffic count guidance.

3.7.2.3 Surface Conversions

While eligible entities may choose to seal or pave a DGR project on their own at some future point in time, no Program funds should be utilized for the specific purpose of converting unpaved roads to paved or “tar and chip”. If an applicant plans to convert a gravel road to pavement in the future, a Dirt and Gravel project can still be completed to implement drainage and base improvements, but Program funds shall not include pavement preparation. Paving or “tar and chip” application to an unpaved road is not an eligible expense in either part of the Program (D&G or LVR), unless otherwise approved by the Commission.

The Program recognizes the value of converting a poorly constructed or poorly maintained low-volume road into a high quality dirt and gravel road through full depth reclamation or other similar processes. Districts may utilize either low-volume or dirt and gravel program component funds for these purposes.

3.7.3 Eligible Projects

Both low-volume and dirt and gravel projects must focus on both environmental and road improvements. Projects should focus on worksites (identified pollution sites) and Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance (ESM) practices to reduce pollution while providing a more stable road. Only projects that provide some form of environmental benefit, typically by reducing sediment and concentrated drainage to waterways, should be considered for funding. Worksites and ESM practices are described in detail in section 1.4. The focus of the DGLVR Program is on long-term environmental and road improvements. The Program does not fund “routine maintenance” that is part of the regular duties of the road owner such as simply grading roads, crack-sealing asphalt, or bridge repair.

3.7.4 Eligible Project Expenses

There are no special Program-specific purchasing procedures for paying for material, equipment, or labor costs for Program projects. Municipalities should use their municipal code as guidance. Other applicants should follow normal purchasing procedures and normal contract procedures using advertising and bidding as warranted. Those expenditures must be tracked following normal bookkeeping and audit procedures, and records must be retained for a minimum of three years from project completion. Applicants may apply for the full costs of all materials, equipment, and labor required for implementation of the project (there is no statewide in-kind requirement). It is up to individual districts to determine which project costs will be reimbursed by Program grant funds.

3.7.4.1 Materials

Typical material expenses on a project include but are not limited to items such as pipe, stone, fill, fabric, aggregate, etc. Products with the potential ability to leach off the road (such as dust suppressants or road stabilizers) must meet Commission requirements for non- pollution. The Center maintains a list of approved products that are eligible for use on Program projects. For more information on approved product see section 6.2.12.

3.7.4.2 Equipment

Program projects are often completed with applicant-owned equipment. Reimbursement of applicant-owned equipment costs is an eligible expense under the Program. Applicant- owned equipment can be reimbursed up to accepted Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rates. FEMA rates should also be used to calculate in-kind contributions on applicant- owned equipment. FEMA rates do not include operator costs. Visit the FEMA equipment rate website here. Contact Commission or Center staff for questions about equipment without listed FEMA rates.

Some Program projects may require equipment that the applicant does not own. It is an eligible expense for an applicant to rent or lease equipment necessary to complete a project with Program funds. Equipment rented or leased with Program funds can only be used on the project for which it was rented.

DGLVR funds, including project, administrative, or education, cannot be used to purchase, cost share, or maintain equipment for an applicant. It is acceptable for a district to purchase equipment for loan/rent to applicants. A district may purchase such equipment with administrative and educational funding as outlined in section 3.4.2.

3.7.4.3 Labor

Program projects are often completed using applicant labor and equipment operators. Reimbursement of applicant labor and equipment operators is an eligible expense under the Program. Labor rates may include benefits. Prevailing wage is not required to be paid for labor provided by the grant recipient.

3.7.4.4 Contractor Costs

Projects may be completed entirely or partially by subcontractors. Applicant should follow their standard procedures regarding project bidding and working with sub-contractors. Districts must make payments directly to the grant recipient, not to the grant recipient’s sub-contractors.

Projects funded by Program funds that are bid out to contractors in which the estimated cost of the total project, exceeds prevailing wage limits (currently $25,000) are subject to provisions of Pennsylvania's Prevailing Wage Act (1961, August 15, P. L. 987, No. 442), 43 P. S. Section 165-1 et seq.

It is the responsibility of the grant recipient to obtain the Prevailing Wage Act scale for the area and include it in any proposal to solicit bids for the contract. If the prevailing wage Act applies, the bid solicitation shall also note this fact. Prevailing wage scale can be obtained from the Prevailing Wage Division of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Contact your county solicitor or the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry for additional guidance and questions. Additional information available from the PA Department of Labor and Industry.

3.7.4.5 In-Kind Contributions

In-kind contributions refer to costs incurred by the grant applicant for a project that are not reimbursed as part of the grant. In-kind or matching contributions from grant applicants are not required statewide. Districts, however, may establish matching requirements or give additional consideration to projects with in-kind funding.

While matching contributions are not required, the Program does track in-kind contributions from applicants as part of project reporting. Only costs that are directly part of a Program project, and that meet the purpose of the Program, shall be considered as in- kind. Costs that do not meet Program requirements should not be included as project in-kind for reporting. In general, in-kind is limited to un-reimbursed materials, equipment, and labor from the applicant that is part of the Program project.

Maximum Costs3.7.4.6 Consultants, Engineering, and Permitting Costs

Some Program projects will require permits and/or engineering or consultant work to design and complete. Program funds can be used to cover engineering, permitting, or similar consultant costs, but such costs are limited to a maximum of 10 percent of the total contract between the district and the grant recipient. Note this limit is defined as up to 10 percent of the contract amount (Program contracted funds), not 10 percent of the total project value (which could include in-kind or other funds). For example, a $30,000 contract on a project totaling $50,000 is limited to 10 percent of the contract, or $3,000, for engineering and permitting.

3.7.4.7 Working off the Right-of-way

Public roads have a right-of-way that extends out from the centerline of the road. The size of the right-of-way varies based on road owner and road classification.

Often significant drainage and sediment that negatively affects the public road comes from outside of the right-of-way. Sources include, but are not limited to, farm fields, access lanes, and driveways. Working outside the road right-of-way is an allowable Program expense, but only when the off right-of-way impact is having a direct negative effect on a public road AND addressing the off right-of-way impact is directly necessary to the successful completion of the project on the public road. Off right-of-way work can be completed either upslope or downslope from the road, but must be limited in scope to cost-effective practices that directly reduce road impacts.

Before working outside the right-of-way, the applicant must obtain written permission from the landowner. A sample landowner agreement is provided on the Center's Blank Forms page. Districts and grant recipients can use their own landowner agreements as long as they are in a form and manner similar to the sample provided. Districts must keep a copy of the signed landowner consent form with the project file for any work performed off the right of way.

In certain situations, off-right-of-way work requires the prior written approval from the State Conservation Commission. Where off right of way work is more than 35 percent of the total project costs (including Program funds and in-kind contributions), districts must first obtain written approval from the Commission before a contract can be signed. Where work extends more than 500 feet off of the right-of-way, districts must first obtain written approval from the Commission before a contract may be signed. The district must keep a copy of the written Commission approval for off right-of-way work with the project file.

Funds can be spent on activities outside the right-of-way only when:

  • It is part of a larger project on a public road.
  • The issue on the public road cannot be effectively resolved within the right-of-way with traditional ESM practices.
  • The district determines it is directly necessary as part of the successful completion of the project on the public road.
  • It is limited in scope to cost-effective ESM practices that directly reduce impacts to the public road.
  • It is limited in size to only address the area necessary to reduce impacts to the public road.
  • Prior written approval of the Commission is obtained, if required (see above).
  • The grant recipient has obtained written permission from the landowner.

If project work is confined to the road right-of way, landowner permission is recommended when downslope property will be impacted by road practices. This is particularly true where new drainage outlets from pipes, turnouts, etc. may impact the downslope landowner.

3.7.4.8 Combined Funds

Program funds may be combined with other funds to pay for a road maintenance project. If Program funds are combined with other funding sources, detailed accounting of which funds were spent on which portions of the project must be maintained. The other funding sources may be used as matching funds for Program projects, provided the Program funds are used on identified pollution worksites. Projects funded with combined funding sources must still adhere to the Program’s non-pollution standards and ESM practices. Should other funding sources have requirements in conflict with the Program’s non-pollution standards, funds cannot be combined. It may be possible to complete a project in stages where the Program funds are used on a phase of a project (i.e.- drainage and base improvements) and another funding source is used on a different phase ( i.e.- improving the road surface).


3.8  Administering Projects

Notification to Applicants3.8.1 Notification to Applicants

The district is responsible for informing all potential applicants of funding availability, application deadlines, and other information necessary to Program participation. District staff should work with the Quality Assurance Board (QAB) in development of strategies for insuring equal access and notification to potential Program applicants. More details on this are available in the QAB section 4.4.1.1.

3.8.2 Pre-Application Site Visit

Districts are strongly encouraged to meet with potential applicants on site to discuss the potential project before an application is submitted for funding. The purpose of a pre- application meeting is to work jointly with the applicant to ensure that the plan they submit is in the best interest of both entities. Some applicants, especially those new to the Program, may focus on road improvement concerns over environmental concerns. The pre-application meeting allows districts to provide input on the potential project at an early stage before the applicant has invested a large amount of time and resources in developing a plan. Program Quality Assurance / Quality Control visits have repeatedly shown that districts that conduct pre-application site visits have a better relationship with their municipalities and end up putting better projects on the ground.

This visit also allows an early discussion of potential topics relating to permitting, funding availability, and other issues that could affect the scope or design of the project. Potential landowner issues, discussed in section 3.7.4.7, should be a part of the initial site visit. Often the type of practices used on a road will depend a great deal on the cooperation of local landowners, especially where off right-of-way work or additional drainage outlets are required for successful project completion.

3.8.3 Receiving Grant Applications

3.8.3.1 Application process

All applications for Program funding must be received on the “Dirt, Gravel, and Low- Volume Road Maintenance Program Grant Application” one-page form that has been approved by the Commission. The form must be signed by the applicant. The form, and instructions for completing the form, can be found in Appendix E.

District staff should review applications for administrative completeness and to ensure they comply with established Program policies and guidance. A project sketch, location map, and itemized costs are a required part of the grant application. District staff is encouraged to work with applicants to revise the scope of their applications that do not meet Program standards. Districts may make minor changes to the application and have the applicant show concurrence by initialing and dating the change. In cases where significant changes are needed to the application work plan, the district should work with the township to create a new application that represents an acceptable project. Examples of “significant changes” may include: changes in project scope, recommended design changes, considerations for engineering and permitting costs, resizing of stream crossing structures, etc. The district may, at their discretion, refuse to accept incomplete applications or applications that do not properly address environmental issues.

Applications that district staff deem complete and potentially acceptable to the Program should be forwarded to the local Quality Assurance Board (QAB) for review and prioritization. The QAB will review and prioritize applications based on established written criteria and make funding recommendations to the conservation district board. Details of the QAB review process can be found in section 4.3. The QAB operates in an advisory capacity only. All applications for funding must be acted on by the district board at a sunshined meeting. All applicants should be notified in writing of the funding decisions of the district board.

3.8.3.2 Unfunded Applications

Districts may develop their own county policies on the retention of unfunded applications. Applications may be retained for consideration in the next grant round, or the district may request the re-submittal of applications for each grant round. If unfunded grant applications are retained, the district should check with the applicant before the next grant cycle to ensure the scope or costs of the application have not changed.

3.8.3.3 Grant Funding Cycles

Districts may have an open application period, or they may establish application deadlines. Many districts have established application deadlines in order to encourage timely submittal by applicants. Some districts have also moved to a fall submission deadline, giving them all winter to revise applications, rank projects, obtain permits, meet with sub-contractors, and perform other logistics so that the project can begin the following spring. All eligible applicants should be informed of any application deadlines in accordance with the notification requirements outlined in section 3.8.1.

3.8.4 Contracting

When an application has been accepted and approved by a district board, the district will enter into a contract agreement with the successful applicant. The contract, when signed by both parties, is a legally binding document between the applicant and the district that describes in detail the responsibilities of both parties. No funding transfers can take place with grant applicants, and no project work can begin, without a signed contract. The contract states the terms and conditions for the project.

Districts may add additional provisions to their contract, as long as they do not negate or conflict with the standard contract provisions or any Program policies. Districts must receive written clearance from their solicitor stating that the proposed provisions are compliant with this section prior to adding additional provisions, and provide written notification to the Commission.

All contracts must be made using the “Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program Contract Agreement” form that has been approved by the Commission. Districts may add provisions to the standard contract agreement described above. If a contract cannot be completed in a reasonable timeframe, the district should consider closing out or canceling the contract. Districts who maintain open contracts for multiple years may see reduced allocations in future years at the discretion of the Commission. The contract, and instructions for completing the form, can be found in Appendix F.

3.8.4.1 Contract Attachments

When a contract is signed, the attachments listed on the contract and described below become a legally binding part of that contract. The contract and project-specific attachments must be retained with project files. The attachments to each Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program Contract include:

  • Grant Application and Workplan: (attachment A and B to contract) The approved grant application submitted by the applicant, including cost estimate breakdowns. The grant application must include a workplan, which consists of a hand-drawn or digitally produced sketch of the proposed project. A workplan is a plan view of the road with all planned features such as pipes, aggregate, underdrain, surface features, etc. Applicants may use the space provided on the back of the grant application for the work plan. The grant application must also include a map that identifies where the project is located. (Appendix E)
  • General Contract Provisions: (attachment C to contract) Standard contracting provisions required on all Program contracts. (Appendix G)
  • Program Statement of Policy: (attachment D to contract) Program Statement of Policy required on all Program contracts. (Appendix B)
  • QAB/District Standards and policies: (attachment E to contract) Any policies adopted by district board. Note that these policies are county-specific.
  • Schedule of Payments: (attachment F to contract) One page form that outlines how funding will be distributed by the district to the grant recipient (Appendix I)
  • Project Completion Report: (attachment G to contract) One-page form that summarizes expenditures and deliverables for a completed contract. (Appendix J)

3.8.5 Pre-Project Logistics

3.8.5.1 Permits, PA One-Call

It is the responsibility of the grant recipient to ensure that all necessary permits are obtained and any other pre-project requirements such as PA One-Call are met. For more details on permits and other requirements, refer to Chapter 8.

3.8.5.2 Pre-Project Meeting

The district should meet with the successful grant recipients, preferably on site, prior to the start of any project work. If the grant recipient is utilizing a subcontractor, the subcontractor should be involved in the pre-project meeting. During the meeting, each contract item or element of the approved plan should be discussed to avoid any misunderstanding about how the plan is to be implemented and how payment will be made to the grant recipient. In cases where Driving Surface Aggregate (DSA) is involved, the pre-construction meeting should be held as far in advance as possible, prior to the start of the project, to allow for DSA sampling. Other more complex project elements such as stream crossing replacements, may require additional lead time as well.

3.8.5.3 Notification of Project Work

Grant recipients MUST notify the district before beginning work on a project. The amount of notice needed must be spelled out in the contract with the district. This will allow the district to meet in person with the grant recipient and any contractors or sub-contractors who will be implementing the plan to determine the phase and sequence of the project and discuss other project elements. The district must also be notified before beginning a new phase of the project (for example, drainage work is completed and aggregate placement will begin). The district may withhold payments and/or request reimbursement of advanced funds and cancelation of the contract if a grant recipient fails to comply with notification requirements.

Project Oversight3.8.6 Project Oversight

It is the responsibility of the district to ensure that the work being performed on the project is in accordance with the contract and attachments. The level of direct district oversight will depend on a variety of factors including complexity of the project, past history, and knowledge of grant recipient. District personnel should visit the project regularly during its implementation to determine whether or not the plan is being followed or if changes need to be made. District oversight is critical at the beginning of a project, and anytime that a new phase or element of a project begins. Expensive or complex items, such as Driving Surface Aggregate (DSA) placement or stream crossing replacement, will require more extensive district oversight. Districts can request assistance from Commission or Center staff on project oversight and implementation. Program Quality Assurance / Quality control county visits have repeatedly shown that district who spend more time on-site during project implementation end up with more successful projects.

3.8.7 Contract Amendments

In some cases, unforeseen circumstances arise that may require changes to the scope of a project. Changes that affect the requested funds (up to 20 percent) or completion timeframe of the contracted project can be made at the discretion of the district. The contract amendment process is outlined in section 3.5.3 and the contract amendment form can be found on the Center's Blank Forms page. Keep in mind that if a contract is between $20,800 and $25,000 (barely under the prevailing wage threshold), an amendment may increase the total value of the project so that prevailing wage would apply to contractor costs. More on prevailing wage in section 3.7.4.4

3.8.8 Project Completion

In order for final payment to be made to a grant recipient, the following are required: a final site inspection, a project completion report, and receipts for all grant expenses.

3.8.8.1 Final Inspection

Upon project completion, a final inspection must be scheduled on-site involving the district and the grant recipient. Final inspections should be scheduled immediately after work is complete, so any remediation can be done while equipment is still on site if needed. Other entities such as the QAB and sub-contractors to the grant recipient should be encouraged to participate. The purpose of the final inspection is to:

  • Verify the project is completed in accordance with Program standards and to the satisfaction of the district.
  • Verify that all work elements classified as “in-kind services” are also completed in accordance with Program standards and to the satisfaction of the district.
  • Verify that work elements proposed in the work plan have been properly installed.
  • Allow the district to summarize the project work elements and costs on the project completion report.

3.8.8.2 Project Remediation (if necessary)

During the final inspection, the district may find elements of the project that were not installed, or were not installed to Program or district standards. If so, remediation work may be required of the grant recipient before the project can be considered “complete”. The district should verify any remediation work meets Program standards before making final payment.

3.8.8.3 Project Completion Report

A project completion report is required to formally report the status of projects as complete and close contracts. This report summarizes the costs and project work done on the site. The completion report must be signed by both the district and the grant recipient. The completion report and instructions can be found in Appendix J.

3.8.8.4 Receipts for Grant Expenses

Receipts are required for all eligible expenses covered by the DGLVR contract before final payments can be made. Receipts, or copies of these receipts, should be retained with project files. Receipts are encouraged, but not required for applicant in-kind expenses.

3.8.9 Project File Retention

All records relating to the Program must be kept for a minimum of three years from the date of final payment on a project. A “project file checklist” that outlines required and recommended documents is provided on the Center’s website.


3.9  GIS reporting System

The Program uses a customized Geographic Information System (GIS) called “CDGRS Mapper” to track potential and completed project location, work done, and expenditures. A GIS is a system of maps and databases where data may be sorted, selected and displayed in a spatial format. The CDGRS Mapper GIS software is designed to facilitate the entry of project and financial data by districts. The GIS software is used to identify sites, assess sites, add or delete sites to the existing database and track project information from application submittal to completion and beyond. Districts keep track of all potential and completed worksites in the CDGRS Mapper GIS software. A public version of the CDGRS Mapper is also available that allows the public to view basic project data for the entire state.

Access to the CDGRS Mapper GIS system is through a secure login on the Center’s website. This login system will allow users in each district to access the GIS software for their county. In order to obtain a user id and password to login, you must attend a one-day GIS training. These trainings, held by the Center, are held 2-3 times a year based on demand. Please contact the Center if you are interested in attending a training. Center staff can also conduct one-on-one training sessions if needed.

Districts are encouraged to keep up with GIS data entry for contracted and completed projects on a real-time basis. At a minimum, districts must enter information on contracted and completed projects and program expenditures into the GIS system on a quarterly basis. Districts are required to update the GIS database for the Annual Summary Report (described below), and immediately before Quality Assurance / Quality Control visits. The Commission may withhold funds to counties that do not keep GIS data current.

In addition to the district login described above, the GIS system also has a “public viewer” option. The public viewer allows anyone to access a statewide project map with access to limited project information without logging in.

For more information on the GIS system, or to login, visit the Mapper website.


Annual Summary Reports3.10 Annual Summary Reports

Districts are required to submit a report annually to the Commission on all project work and spending activity. The information on the annual summary report is used by the Commission to report to the Transportation Committees in the Pennsylvania House and Senate annually.

The annual summary report summarizes Program activity in each district including: project completion report detailing project spending and deliverables, in-kind contributions, administrative spending, and education spending. Annual summary reports are collected on a calendar year basis, with the yearly activity due in January of the following year. The annual summary report process utilizes the GIS reporting system described above. For more information on the Annual Summary Report, or to login, visit the Mapper website.