Culver Garden Court/Bureaucracy Rant

It seems that a day doesn’t go by that I don’t get asked about the status of the Culver Garden Court Project.  I’m not sure why I should expect this phase of the project to go any smoother since it took years of promoting the project before finding a generous property owner willing to work with Garden Court for a site.  Now that we have a site and the Town is behind the project and HUD has approved the funding, we have hit another wall of bureaucracy.

It is particularly frustrating when President Obama has been talking about expediting shovel-ready projects for the past two years.  Is this how you expedite a project???

Time line:

July 2010 – Project Funding Announced:  Generally on past projects the funding is determined and announced in the Spring, often in time for us to have an early to mid-summer start.  This year the announcement was delayed until late July.

August 1st– Garden Court, Easterday Construction and B.A. Martin Architects meet to discuss finalizing plans.   Garden Court attorney applies for the 501(c)3 status with the IRS.  (HUD requires that each Garden Court be its own, separate, 501(c)3 non-profit entity.)

August 15 – Plans complete and sent out for bid.

September 1 – Prices in.  Budget met.  Easterday Construction is ready to go!  No 501(c)3 status.  Can’t close on property.

September 15 – HUD would REALLY like to have this project close before their year end of September 30th.  Can they help expedite the 501(c)3 approval with the IRS?  No.

September 30 – HUD year end passes.  No 501(c)3 status.  Project can’t close.

October 31 – Another month passed.  No 501(c)3 status.  Project can’t close.

November 30 – Another month passed.  No 501(c)3 status.  Project can’t close. 

December 10 – We had been nursing hopes of still starting but Winter hits with a vengeance.  Even with a closing, we would not be able to start, but… No 501(c)3 status.  Project can’t close. 

Present – As of this time, nothing has changed.

This project is not funded with “stimulus” money.  This project falls under HUD’s regular budget.  Washington is talking about expediting projects and they can’t even get their regular projects out the door in a timely fashion!  Is it any wonder that stimulus money remains unspent 2+ years after it was budgeted?

There are a lot of good people involved with Garden Court Projects.  The people at the local level are extremely dedicated to making these projects above and beyond the norm and the genuinely care about their elderly clientele.  The Open House for the LaPaz Garden Court we just finished was heartwarming as usual, seeing all of those involved come together in the celebration of a new facility.  The new residents were there to help celebrate and seemed thrilled with their new home.  And it is a home.  Garden Court strives to make it so.

My understanding is that the initial hold up with HUD’s funding was not at the local (Indianapolis) level.  The people at HUD in Indy have been wonderful to work with on the last couple of projects.  They seem to particularly like Garden Court projects and make a point to introducing the Garden Court representatives to their superiors at HUD when we are there for closings.  Our site inspector for LaPaz Garden Court, Vera Atha, was knowledgeable and showed genuine interest in how the final product would serve the elderly residents.  This hasn’t always been the case and it was refreshing!  We were pleased to hear that we will be working with her again on the Culver project.

The hold up with the IRS is puzzling.  As mentioned above, every one of the Garden Court properties is its own 501(c)3 corporation , so this isn’t something new nor is it an unfamiliar entity making the request.  The Garden Court attorney has done this in the past, so there should be no issues with paperwork.  To the best of my knowledge there hasn’t even been a request for additional information.  We are assuming that now that we are into the holidays, it is unlikely that there will be any movement on this until after the first of the year.

To repeat, President Obama wants to expedite shovel-ready projects!  How much more shovel-ready can you get???  To paraphrase the MasterCard Commercials:

  1. Project Funding in place?  Check!
  2. Property under contract?  Check!
  3. Plans complete?  Check!
  4. Municipality requirements met?  Check!
  5. Budget met? Check!
  6. Contractor ready to start?  Check and double CHECK!
  7. One piece of paper from the IRS that is currently holding up the entire project?  PRICELESS!

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