City shouldn't pass on fining contractor because money will go back to federal coffers

It makes no difference whether the money goes to the city government or the federal government. It's taxpayer money.

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The Palouse Street bridge reconstruction is at least 55 days behind schedule. As a result, the street between Main and Alder streets has been closed far longer than anticipated.

The delay has been an inconvenience for citizens and worse for the owners of surrounding businesses.

Apollo Inc. of Kennewick, the contractor for the $859,000 project financed through a federal grant, could face penalties of $1,600 per day or up to $88,000 for missing completion deadlines.

Those late fees should be collected if the contract terms were not met.

Yet, that might not occur.

"No decision has been made," City Manager Nabiel Shawa said. "There is really no great economic advantage to the city to implement the fine because all of the fines go back to the federal government."

It makes zero difference whether the money goes to the city government or the federal government. The money -- every penny of it -- is taxpayer money.

Folks living in the Walla Walla Valley pay federal, state, county and city taxes. They expect officials at all levels of government to look out for their interests and make sure tax dollars are not wasted.

So, as a matter of principle, the city of Walla Walla must make every effort to recover the federal tax dollars from the contractor so they can be returned to the federal government -- and the taxpayers.

Collecting the $88,000 means more money would be available for other projects either in Walla Walla, College Place, Seattle, New York or any other city in the U.S. It doesn't matter.

What's important is cash is available to use elsewhere and taxpayers have essentially saved money. Sure, $88,000 is almost nothing in the scope of the trillions of dollars the federal government spends, but it's a lot of money to individual taxpayers -- and to those who run Apollo Inc. and other construction companies.

And that's another reason to go after those fines. If construction companies know the city government isn't going to seek fines for federally funded projects, they aren't going to take deadlines seriously.

Now, we don't say this to beat up on Apollo. It does a lot of huge projects in the area and does them well. Any number of things can go wrong on projects and sometimes delays can't be avoided.

It might be, given the circumstances, wrong to impose the full fine for a delayed project. Certainly reason and judgment must be used in determining whether to pursue collecting a fine and to what degree. We would hope that would occur here.

But not going after a fine because the money goes back to the federal government is irresponsible and a slap to all taxpayers.

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