PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Portland City Auditor has found taxpayer money wasted from a project in Southwest Portland – calling it a product of Portland’s siloed bureaus.
For more than a year, a curb ramp was poured four separate times on Southwest 16th Avenue and Spring Street, causing the ramp to be out of commission.
“You know, it’s ridiculous. They’re tearing it out again, oops, they’re tearing it out again,” said Lisa Caballero, who relies on ramps to make her way around her neighborhood with a cane and walker. “If everything takes two pours, that starts to add up to some real money.”
The auditor found that contractors ripped up curb ramps and reinstalled them because they didn’t meet requirements and city bureaus weren’t communicating with each other.
The Bureau of Environmental Services reports that around $100,000 was paid over the contract for the $6 million project, but it could be more. The auditor notes that some of the bureau’s records were incomplete, and neighbors say other curb ramps in the neighborhood went through the same problems.
Caballero first wrote about the problems she found in Bike Portland.
While BES was replacing a sewer line, officials say they had to install ADA-compliant curb ramps while putting the street back together.
From June 2021 through July 2022, the contractor poured the curb ramp four separate times. The first three ramps had to be ripped up because they didn’t meet ADA standards. The auditor’s office says the records were incomplete, so they don’t know whether the contractor was paid for the first pour. However, it was paid for the next three – even though the work didn’t meet ADA standards until July 2022.
Here’s what happened: BES doesn’t do curb ramps. They rely on the Bureau of Transportation to design and inspect the ramps that an outside contractor builds. However, the auditor’s office found the bureaus were not coordinating enough on the project, giving the contractors a faulty design.
“Some of this might have been the city’s fault for not knowing whether this design would pass the second inspection or not,” KC Jones with the auditor’s office said.
The office hopes this can be cleared up when Portland’s new form of government takes hold in 2025.
“We’re hoping that this sort of thing is something that can be helped,” said KC Jones with the auditor’s office. “During the transition, we’ve flagged this for the transition team as the sort of relationship that the city needs to kind of get better at.”
In response, BES agrees with the city auditor’s office to find a better process for sewer-street repair projects. They say this situation is an “anomaly” and also promise better coordination and communication with PBOT.
Commissioner Mapps leads both bureaus, though he did not while the work was being completed.