State Audit Says Railroad Contracts at Vermont Agency of Transportation Could Be Managed BetterAgency did not competitively bid $7.2 million in construction work; did not charge interest on late lease payments; and did not collect salvage proceeds properly, among audit findingsMONTPELIER (December 5, 2008) – The Office of Vermont State Auditor Tom Salmon, CPA, reported today that oversight of railroad construction contracts in the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) is inadequate and is costing the State money.”One conclusion of the audit is that the Rail Division is not ensuring that the required competitive bidding in these contracts is taking place,” said Deputy State Auditor George Thabault. “Contracts are being ‘sole-sourced’ and this denies other companies the opportunity to compete for State contracts, and may be keeping the State from getting the best price for goods and services.”The rail audit was conducted following a request made by VTrans that the State Auditor investigate the deficiencies of its rail section and suggest improvements.”We recognized that we had some issues within our Rail Division that needed correcting, and requested the Auditor’s assistance,” said VTrans Secretary David Dill. “On our own, we were unable to clearly identify our weaknesses in a way that both we and the railroads could understand. Our goal is to use the findings of this report as a catalyst to forge a new and better relationship with the companies that run our rail systems.”The audit report noted four key findings:1. VTrans and its railroad subcontractors did not follow procurement regulations designed to foster open, competitive bidding, resulting in $7.2 million of recent contracts with Vermont Railway and one of its affiliates not being competitively bid. The largest no-bid contract – for $4,677,727 – was also issued without the required approval of the Secretary of the Agency of Administration.2. Oversight and administration of rail contracts need improvement. For example, auditors found that $82,401 from rail project salvage proceeds was being held by Vermont Railway to offset against future invoices rather than being returned to the State as required by contract. (The Agency has since discontinued the practice of allowing the netting of salvage credits and has adopted new procedures to promptly receive and account for salvage payments.)3. Lease revenues and agreed-to performance requirements of leaseholders are not being verified, and VTrans has forgone $37,000 in interest stemming from late payments of monthly leases for State-owned track.4. The Agency did not adequately follow up on past audits which reported $436,000 of questioned costs related to contracts with Vermont Railway.For the project, auditors selected four contracts totaling $7.2 million dollars, approximately 44 percent of the total active rail construction and railway upgrade contracts during fiscal years 2007 and 2008. All contracts were between VTrans and Vermont Railway and Green Mountain Railroad, two companies of the Vermont Rail System (VRS), a privately held, affiliated group of short-line rail transportation companies that operates in Vermont.Auditors recommended that AOT strengthen and clarify the language within its rail agreements, improve the oversight of contracts, enforce penalties for violations of the terms and conditions of its contracts and lease agreements, and provide for better fiscal management of its contractors and service providers.In its response to the report, the Agency of Transportation generally agreed with the report’s recommendations and pledged to provide the State Auditor with quarterly status reports on corrective actions.”VTrans already has put in place new business practices that correct some of the Auditor’s concerns, and we certainly will make additional changes to rectify the remaining deficiencies,” Dill said. “VTrans recently hired a new Rail Program Manager, and one of his top priorities is to improve our rail business operations.”Background:The oversight of the railway network in Vermont is the responsibility of the Vermont Agency of Transportation Rail Program. Vermont’s rail system consists of approximately 748 miles of track or rail right-of-way. The State owns approximately 427 miles, of which 305 miles are currently active. Ten railroad companies operate or have the rights to operate on the rail lines in Vermont.For Fiscal Year 2009, the AOT total budget is $412.2 million. The Rail Section is allocated $16.8 million of this budget. The Rail Section currently has eight staff positions of a total of approximately 1,050 positions in the Agency. The complete audit report is available at www.auditor.vermont.gov(link is external). Click on “Audits & Reports” and then “Special Audits” to access the new audit report.
‘This unique fact allows researchers to track the onset and trajectories of issues like bullying that had previously been documented only at later ages,’ Mittleman said.‘In a context where seven states still have laws prohibiting any discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools, it’s been hard for researchers to collect measures of sexual orientation and gender identity from students as part of large-scale, education research programs.’Mittleman’s research fills a gap and will help understand the school experiences of LGBTQ students.‘This research is changing the discourse about LGBTQ students by posing new questions that go beyond a monolithic or gender-neutral view of LGBTQ/sexual minority students, to examine gender and racial difference among these students,’ said George Wimberly, director of professional development and diversity officer for the American Educational Research Association.‘By revealing that sexual minority girls experience harsher school discipline than similar boys, the research suggests that homophobic behavior, discrimination and bullying may vary by gender.‘School practices and policies can be reexamined and readdressed in light of these findings.’Got a news tip? Want to share your story? Email us . Students at LHS Lawrence High School. | Photo: LHS Budget Teen girls attracted to other girls are ‘far more likely’ than other students to be suspended or expelled from school. Joel Mittleman from Princeton University released the results based on his analysis of the 15-year-long Fragile Families and Childhood Wellbeing Study.The PhD candidate found same-sex attracted teens have 29% higher odds of experiencing exclusionary discipline.Girls experienced 95% higher odds of discipline while there was no apparent discipline risk for boys.‘The results suggest that sexual orientation itself may shape teens’ experiences in very different ways for girls versus boys,’ Mittleman said in a statement.‘My results are consistent, for example, with recent research showing that sexual minority girls are dramatically overrepresented in the juvenile justice system in a way that sexual minority boys are not.’Mittleman worked out that girls’ rates of discipline could only be explained by parent-reported behavioral problems in 38% of cases. Therefore, the rest of the students had possibly faced discriminatory treatment.No much data on LGBTQ kidsThe Fragile Families study is a vital tool for researchers on LGBTQ students. It is one of the only birth cohort studies in the world that includes information about sexual orientation. eTN Chatroom for Readers (join us) GAYSTARNEWS- Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… Teens use Grindr to find a sense of community, shows the need for more LGBTI youth spacesOne percent of kids aged 9-10 years identify as gay or transgenderGoing to pride at university inspired me to come out as bisexualRead the full article on Gaystarnews: :https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/lesbian-bi-girls-likely-get-expelled-suspended-school/