C-Tran is declining a $310,000 federal grant for a new surveillance system because the transit agency can’t find a vendor that meets the grant’s American-made requirements.
Scott Patterson, C-Tran’s director of development and public affairs, said the transit agency’s facilities surveillance system needs to be replaced because it doesn’t retain security camera footage long enough to comply with state law.
C-Tran tried to fund part of the $1.62 million replacement project with a Federal Transit Administration grant. But the grant requires 100 percent of manufactured goods purchased with it need to be produced in the United States. C-Tran couldn’t find a vendor that meets the standard.
Tuesday night, C-Tran staff will ask its board to approve plans to drop the Federal Transit Administration grant and fund the entire facility surveillance system locally.
“I’ve heard stories recently that a number of transit agencies have had a difficult time finding security cameras or other technology components that are made in America,” Patterson said. “It’s just getting more and more difficult.”
Those agencies, Patterson said, declined federal grants in order to attract bidders, and C-Tran plans to do the same.
“On one hand it opens up more competition and they were able to get the equipment they need. The downside is you’re having to use 100 percent local funds,” he said.
C-Tran put out two requests for proposals, one in May and another July, for companies interested in placing new cameras in the agency’s transit centers, Park & Ride lots and other facilities. No bidders responded the first time. One company responded during the second period, but its proposal couldn’t be considered because its plan wasn’t compliant with the grant’s “Buy America” clause.
“In the time I’ve been here I can’t think of any … situation where we’ve gone back to the board due to a ‘Buy America’ issue,” Patterson said.
The Federal Transit Administration’s “Buy America” requirements are meant to support U.S. jobs and manufacturing industries. Waivers are possible, but Patterson said applying for them is a labor-intensive process that can take up to a year to complete.
Patterson said covering the extra $310,000 won’t be an issue because the agency has no debt and strong local sales tax returns have enabled it to build a good capital reserve fund.
“While you want to maximize your federal grant opportunities, I think we’ve done that well over the years,” Patterson said.
C-Tran won’t schedule the work until after it receives a successful proposal.
On Tuesday, the Federal Transit Administration said in the past few months, it received only one Buy America inquiry from C-Tran for a fire alarm system. Administration staff determined the fire alarm system installation qualified for a small purchase waiver.