Local News

State Lawmakers Question DOT Spending After Overpayment To School System

Posted August 21, 2005 10:34 a.m. EDT

— State lawmakers are questioning the North Carolina Department of Transportation's spending after the department overpaid the Lee County School Board more than $100,000 for a project that affected a school parking lot.

The DOT paid the Lee County school system $455,000 to fix the parking lot after the Highway 421 Bypass was causing parking problems at East Lee Middle School in Sanford. School officials were able to get the job done for $339,000. The extra money stays with the school system.

Rep. Nelson Cole, D-Rockingham, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, wants to learn more about the overpayment. Other lawmakers also want to know.

"If this is happening all over the state, you can imagine what kind of dollars we're talking about," Cole said.

The DOT settles 2,500 similar right-of-way claims each year. Once the claims are settled, the property owner can spend the money however they like. "As many dirt roads as we have and as many highways that need repair, we don't need to be throwing money away," Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, said.

One conservative watchdog group, Americans for Prosperity, is calling on the state auditor to get involved. "We need to find out if there's been waste. And if there's been waste, then these folks at DOT need to be held accountable," said Chris Neely, a spokesman for the group.