Where’s the money?

NARROWSBURG, NY — With snow and plunging temperatures, the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) did not meet on their scheduled night last week, so an expected discussion of the regional panel’s latest funding shortage is yet to take place.

UDC operates on a $300,000 federal grant, the amount of which has gone unchanged since 1988. Originally, New York and Pennsylvania contracted to provide $100,000 each for the council annually. However, neither state has ever provided any funding for UDC. So the federal grant has been UDC’s only source of funding.

The Trump administration early last year directed federal agencies to reduce the number of civilian employees. Since then, various financial reviews and audits ordered by Interior Department have left the UDC unfunded for parts of eight of the last 12 months.

The continuing problem prompted UDC Executive Director Laurie Ramie’s December 29 letter expressing the council’s dismay “over an undetermined postponement in receiving the federal funds on which we rely to fulfill the work plan tasks specified in our contract with NPS.”

The letter to Interior Secretary Zinke, Washington National Park Service (NPS) officials and regional NPS officials recalled the past year’s history of open-ended funding interruptions, beginning with Zinke’s mid-April funding freeze and review of all of Interior’s cooperative agreements in excess of $100,000.

That left UDC unfunded through the end of July, when following several letters from area Congressmen and National Environmental Groups, Interior’s review of UDC was suddenly completed.

Then in October, NPS expressed surprise that UDC had, over its 30 years of operation, amassed an “unrestricted fund,” which had paid monthly bills during the freeze—this despite the fact that UDC had provided NPS an annual independent audit of the fund for the past 30 years. Funding stopped again and NPS ordered that all pertinent documents be delivered to them by December 1.

Ramie wrote, “An entire financial quarter has gone by since the October 1st start of Fiscal Year 2018 with no incoming funds despite the UDC being in the midst of its executed five-year Cooperative Agreement term…” and “This arbitrarily-timed probe cost the UDC over $7,800 to contract for the professional accounting services necessary to respond,” adding “to our burden during this time of uncertainty over when federal funding will be made available.”

Ramie asked for “formal communication about any timetable for action or possible options for partial payments to honor existing Cooperative Agreement commitments. This would assist entities like the Upper Delaware Council whose existence depends on a federal contract to develop a closure plan in case our dwindling resources are exhausted before funding is awarded.”

No make-up date for the January UDC meeting was announced at press time.

 

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