Dallas must abandon poorly-run weatherization program




Posted on January 18, 2011 at 7:54 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 18 at 10:10 PM

DALLAS — Last month, News 8 exposed how the City of Dallas squandered some stimulus money in the home weatherization program.

The program spent $8 for light bulbs and $1,500 for water heaters.

A Dallas City Council committee learned Tuesday the program has been run so badly that the city must pay back money to the state and turn over the remaining millions it has so the county can finish the work.

Dallas received $13 million in stimulus money in October, 2009 to weatherize low-income homes. But it proved to be too many dollars chasing too few contractors who couldn't finish homes fast enough.

“We underestimated the number of employees needed," Dallas Housing Director Jerry Killingsworth told Council members. "We placed the production ahead of the training."

A News 8 investigation found many examples of the program paying well over retail prices for materials.

The results bothered Steve Salazar, who chairs the City Council’s Housing Committee. "If the impression is that we're spending $12 for a light bulb that cost $2, that's not a good impression to the taxpayer," he said.

Killingsworth explained prices appeared to be higher since all contractor expenses were rolled into the cost of materials.

Regardless, the city must pay back to the state at least $50,000 of the $5.3 million spent because of unacceptable work.

Furthermore, the city only weatherized 675 homes in the program — well below the 1,025 expected by now.

The program was planned to outfit a total of 2,050 homes by September of this year.

The state threatened to take back the city's last $6 million for the program.

To keep the money in Dallas, Dallas County committed to finish the program with County Commissioner John Wiley Price observing what the city learned the hard way.

“Start-up programs are difficult at best, and weatherization programs are particularly challenging," he said.

The county has weatherized homes for 14 years.

Ironically, Price wrote City Manager Mary Suhm in January, 2010 with an offer for the county to run the city's weatherization program with the stimulus dollars. The city declined.

The city still has $2 million of the original money left, and will use that to finish the homes it can.

Dallas County says the $6 million of the city money it receives will only be spent on homes in the city limits.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com