This section of the manual is intended to serve as a primer for potential applicants. While this section should serve as a guide for potential applicants, communication with the local district is vital to becoming a successful applicant.
5.1 Before Applying for Funds
5.1.1 Local Procedures and Policies
There are currently 65 counties participating in the Program. As much as is practical, control of the Program is driven down to the local level. Each county is governed by a district board, and is advised by a local Quality Assurance Board (QAB) that develops county specific policies and procedures. These local policies can address many county specific issues such as the following:
- Application periods
- Training requirements and training incentives
- Types of projects accepted
- Maximum amount of funds allocated to a specific project
- Maximum number of applications accepted from an applicant
- Ranking criteria
- Maintenance requirements
It is imperative that any potential applicant contact the local district early in the process. This initial contact should occur well in advance of submitting an application.
Potential applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements as follows:
- The person in charge of work plan development and project implementation for the applying entity must have attended environmentally sensitive maintenance (ESM) training within the past five calendar years to become “ESM Certified”. 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.
- The road must be publicly owned, not simply open to the public. 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.
- Local solicitors may be able to help with road ownership determinations.
- In addition to being publicly owned, the road must be open to public vehicle travel a minimum of two consecutive weeks out of the year.
- The project in the application must adequately address any environmental concern. Refer to section 3.7.2 of this manual for more detailed information on eligible projects.
5.1.3 Pre-application Site Visit
A pre-application site visit with the district is strongly encouraged. Districts are encouraged to rank projects higher if a pre-application site visit has occurred. The purpose of the visit is to provide a potential applicant the opportunity to discuss the size and scope of a potential project with the district. District input at this time can save time, and it can avoid the frustration of taking time to prepare an application only to find out the project may be considered ineligible or low priority. District staff may provide input during the visit that could make the application more likely to be approved. Districts may also be knowledgeable on other aspects of the project, such as permit requirements, one call notifications, erosion and sedimentation control planning, etc. Potential landowner issues, discussed in section 22.214.171.124, should be a part of the initial site visit.
5.1.4 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 Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance 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 one phase of a project (i.e. drainage and base improvements) and another funding source funds a different phase ( i.e. improving the road surface).
5.2 Applying for Funds
Districts develop their own procedures for accepting applications. Some districts may establish application deadlines while others may continually accept applications. The following are general Program requirements, but districts may add additional requirements:
- One grant application should be received for each worksite. More than one worksite will require multiple applications. The grant application is provided in Appendix E.
- Applicants shall submit applications to the district who will forward it to the local Quality Assurance Board (QAB) for review and prioritization.
- The QAB will review the applications and make funding recommendations to the district board.
- The district board will act on the QAB recommendations and award funding based upon previously defined priorities.
- The district shall keep a copy of the completed application, project sketch, and location map on file.
- Applicants should keep a copy of the completed application on file.
- Projects funded by Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road funds that are bid out to contractors in which the estimated cost of the total project (materials, equipment and labor), 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. Additional information available from the PA Department of Labor and Industry.
Districts may make minor changes to the application and have the applicant show concurrence by initialing and dating the correction.
Unfunded grant applications may be retained for future grant rounds, or may need to be resubmitted. Check with your district for their policies and procedures regarding unfunded grant applications.
5.3 Pre-contract Documentation
It is not necessary for an applicant to have all required permits, traffic counts, and other requirements in hand prior to submitting an application, but many of these requirements must be met before funding is advanced to the grant recipient or before project work can begin. While districts may develop more stringent requirements, the following is a list of general pre-contract requirements:
- PA One Call must be notified at various stages of the project, including the design phase and also prior to construction. One Call assigns a serial number to each call they receive. These serial numbers must be recorded and kept in the project file.
- Many projects will require some type of environmental permit. Applicants are encouraged to work with the district to determine what environmental permits, if any, may be required. Any required permits must be obtained by the grant recipient before advances can be given or work can begin. Under no circumstance can any project work begin until all required permits are in hand. See Chapter 8 for more permit guidance.
- Some projects may require and Erosion and Sediment Control (E&S) plan. Your district can help you to determine if an E&S plan is necessary. A sample E&S plan is available on the Center’s website.
- Low-volume road projects require that a traffic count be conducted. This traffic count must show that the worksite has a traffic count of 500 vehicles a day or less, and the count must be provided to the district for review prior to entering into a contract. See section 7.5 for traffic count guidance.
5.4 Entering Into a Contract
Before project work can start, the district must enter into a contract with the successful applicant. The contract will specify the location, a description of the work to be performed, and the time frame within which the work will be performed. Documents such as the grant application, project sketch, location map, and project estimates become attachments to the contract. The contract will also specify the amount of funding available for the project upon completion, as well as any provisions for advance payments, payments during construction, and provisions for final payment after the work has been completed. The contract must be signed by the district chairman (or appointed designee) and a person authorized to sign for the successful applicant.
5.5 Project Work
5.5.1 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.
5.5.2 Performing Project Work
Applicants should follow their standard operating procedures when performing project work such as: bidding procedures for contractors and materials, standard safety requirements, traffic control, road closure, etc. Municipalities should use their municipal codes and other appropriate standards as guidance. Other applicants should follow normal purchasing procedures and normal contract procedures using advertising and bidding as warranted. Project expenditures should be tracked following normal bookkeeping and audit procedures, and retained for three years from project completion. Copies of all receipts for project expenditures to be reimbursed by grant funds must be submitted to the district.
Work must be performed in accordance with the accepted application and work plan unless both parties agree to project changes in writing. The grant recipient is responsible for oversight of any contractors or subcontractors working on the project. Work must be performed within the contracted scope, budget, and timeframe.
If an increase in costs or extension of time is required, the district must be contacted as soon as possible. At the district’s discretion based on existing policies and funding availability, contracts may be amended for cost overruns up to 20 percent of the original contract amount, or to extend the timeframe for completion. When cost over-runs exceed 20 percent of the original contracted amount, an additional or new contract will be required. Keep in mind that if a contract is between $20,800 and $25,000 (barely under the prevailing wage threshold for contracted work), 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 126.96.36.199.
5.5.3 Project Completion and Reporting
When a project is completed, the district and the grant recipient will meet on site to perform a final inspection. This is documented on a project completion report. The purpose of the final inspection is to assure that all contracted items have been satisfactorily completed. Grant recipients are encouraged to schedule a final inspection immediately after work is complete, so any remediation can be done while equipment is still on site if needed. Upon completion, the successful applicant may submit detailed financial records documenting project costs. The district will then issue a final payment. The contract, project performance report, project costs, and all records pertaining to the project must be kept on file for a period of three years from the completion of the project. The project completion report and instructions can be found Appendix J.
5.5.4 Future Maintenance
Local QABs may set policy on the length of maintenance requirements for completed projects. Maintenance of past projects may be considerations in a district’s application ranking criteria.