Report Cites Local Stimulus Problems

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EUGENE, Ore. — The Office of Inspector General is recommending a Eugene nonprofit be required to give back $9 million in stimulus money. Its report outlines alleged failures by Cascade Sierra Solutions.

In 2009, Senator Merkley toured Cascade Sierra Solutions, a nonprofit organization that helps trucks that drive the I-5 corridor reduce emissions and save fuel. The company received stimulus money as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The 72-page report submitted by the Office of Inspector General explains why it thinks the EPA should recover the $9 million it was awarded.

“It’s disappointing because we’ve put a lot of effort into this and a lot of dedication by people in the community,” said Sharon Banks, Cascade Sierra Solutions CEO.

Banks says the company’s mission is critical and it is stimulating the economy.

“We’ve saved over 44 million gallons of diesel so far, and if you look at the benefits at what that money did it’s amazing. I mean, 450 tons of carbon out of our atmosphere. We’ve helped thousands of businesses,” Banks said.

The report says financial management systems did not meet federal regulations as well as the reporting of jobs created under the Recovery Act. The report even goes as far as to ask the EPA to consider suspension and debarment of CSS on current and future awards.

“It’s not going to be an overnight fix. We are going to have to spend a lot of time and a lot of money to get it reported the way they want to see it, but we are going to do it because this is really important work that we are doing,” Banks said.

The EPA issued a statement saying it’s aware of the serious concerns raised in the Office of Inspector General’s report and is working with Cascade Sierra Solutions and others on an action plan to rectify the identified problems.

“We have been really proud of what we have been able to accomplish, and we are not done. We’ve got so much more to do,” Banks said.

The EPA says once the necessary improvements are made by CSS, the Office of Inspector General has agreed to do a follow-up review that will occur in October or November of this year.

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