Government bureaucracy makes a donation impossible.

This news item is illustrative of the problems with government bureaucracy. It talks about how a guy bought a big chunk of marble that he wanted to give to the U.S. Government so they could repair the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that has been in need of repair for decades, but the government can’t take it:

Retired Glenwood Springs car dealer John Haines’ hope of donating a giant chunk of snow -white marble to the federal government to replace the cracked Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is stalled again.

Haines’ hoped-for donation, which has sat outside the Yule Quarry near Marble since it was cut for the tomb in 2003, didn’t even rate a mention in a 34-page Department of the Army report to Congress this week on replacement and repair options for the deteriorating tomb.

Haines’ donation creates problems for the federal government because it is free and has not gone through a pricey bidding and specification process. A quarry in Vermont has expressed interest in submitting a bid.

This week’s report — the latest in a string of tomb reports done since Arlington officials decided the marble needed replacing 18 years ago — estimates the cost of replacing the tomb’s marble at $2.2 million — $80,000 of that for seeking bids, $90,000 for buying and transporting the marble and the remainder for sculpting.

Got that? They can’t take it because it’s free. Not only has Haines already bought a good chunk of marble, but he bought it from the same Yule Quarry where the original marble came from and he made arrangements to have it transports for free as well. All the government would have to do is carve it and install it, but they can’t because it’s Against The Rules:

“It’s not doable. A citizen can’t just give us any piece of marble and say, ‘This is what we’ll use to replace the tomb,’ ” said Thurman Higginbotham, deputy superintendent of Arlington.

You’d think there would be somebody some place that has the power to say “let’s just use this very generous donation and get the damned thing fixed”, but apparently there isn’t. The cracks, incidentally, started back in the 1930s and have been getting worse ever since. Today they’re nearly 48 feet long on both sides of the tomb and a third crack has appeared. The only attempts at repair so far have involved filling the cracks with grout. Seems kind of silly to ignore an offer of marble from the same quarry simply because it’s free.