Thursday, January 31, 2008
Where do we begin? A lot of information was projected on a screen, so much in fact that the average person would be overwhelmed and perhaps that was part of the plan. Rah! Rah! Rah!
Well, conceptually, it sounds...Hmm!...what would Supervisor Reed say....WONDERFUL! However, like any story there is always the other side. Over the next few days we will try to provide some of the details and the pitfalls to help you get a better idea of what they are proposing.
One comment we heard last night was...what is the sense, they are going to do what they want anyway. Concerned Citizens urges everyone to realize that while the town board, school and county have crafted this "deal" in such a way as to take the decision to enter into this arrangement away from the public, you do have the "ultimate" decision, starting with the school board elections and budget vote in May. As the Good Witch said to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz..."you've always had the power..."
We urge you to read our information, tell your friends to read it and then decide for yourself if it is a good deal.
To start...Here is the press release and the slides that were presented at the meeting last evening.
By the way, we encourage your input...send a comment to our blog, email us privately or if you prefer to write a private message to us anonymously, use our tip line.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
When we finally questioned the delay in getting an answer to our FOIL request, the Town Clerk checked into it and told us that the Accounting Dept. said they don't have copies of the invoices, they merely get notified by Chief Philo...something about an electronic transfer of funds, so we guess that Sangertown and St. Luke's must also remit their payment to the Police Dept. All this time the Town Clerk was sending our FOIL request to the Accounting Dept. It's no wonder the FOILed documents took so long to get to us. Who would have thought that the Police Department does their own billing?
The invoices that are sent to Sangertown Mall and St. Luke's are actually signed by Chief Philo and are for varying hours each month. So the Police Dept. tracks the hours, prepares the invoices, receives the payments, deposits the payments and then notifies the Accounting Dept. EEK!!! In the first place, isn't billing an accounting function? Where is the audit trail, particularly if the Police Department destroys routine paperwork?
Next, we notice that the billing is at $31 an hour. Who renegotiated that deal and when? Remember the 1993 TOWN LAW says that the rate is at $22 per hour and:
Thereafter, the rate is to be renegotiated and adopted by resolution.As far as we know, only town board members can adopt a resolution to change town law. So who arbitrarily decided that they could just "adjust" the rate without town board approval and out of the view of the "public eye" and when was the rate last "adjusted"? Given the record retention system in the Town of New Hartford, it is unlikely we will ever know how many times the rate has been changed since 1993.
Using our "searchable" town board minutes, we were able to ascertain that no resolution to adopt a renegotiated hourly rate has been passed by the Town Board since at least June 2002 when we first started putting minutes online. We couldn't even find any mention of the need to change the rate in the town board minutes. Does the town board even know what the rate for police patrols at Sangertown and St. Luke's is at the present time? Has anyone figured the actual cost of these patrols based on hourly wages plus benefits?
On January 27th, we sent an email to the Town Clerk asking if we could visit her office to check prior years board minutes ourselves to see if a resolution had been passed prior to June 2002. Today we received an email from the town clerk. It says in part:
"To my knowledge, there have been no resolutions to set the rates since 1993."She didn't mention whether or not we could come in and look for ourselves, but the fact that she doesn't know about a change is probably reason to believe that the Town Board did not pass a resolution to increase the rate.
So that leaves a mystery in the Town of New Hartford. How and when did the rate change, who was involved in renegotiating the hourly charge, and how did they figure that $31 was the correct amount...does that cover the whole cost of providing security patrols on private property and if not, why not? Why is there no public record of the current amount of compensation the town is receiving for providing security on private property? Lastly, are the officers who patrol Sangertown and St. Luke's receiving overtime pay?
Taxpayers in the town of New Hartford...let us know...how do you feel about the possibility that you may be subsidizing the cost of providing security for Sangertown Mall and St. Luke's Hospital? Either leave a comment on our blog or email us privately.
If you prefer not to disclose your identity, please use our tip line...we guarantee complete anonymity.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Is there a contract for the hours requested for each of these years or do we just submit an invoice to Sangertown and St. Luke's from timesheets turned in by the patrolling officers? If not a contract, we would like to FOIL how many hours of patrol was billed in 2005, 2006, 2007 and anticipated for 2008?We received an email from the Town Clerk saying the information would be provided by December 14, 2007.
On December 19, we filed another FOIL that is more specific:
We would like to FOIL for review the 2007 monthly bills for Sangertown Square Police Services as outlined in town law. We would also like to FOIL for review the 2007 account where the monies from Sangertown are deposited. We believe the account is AA-2770-1. We would like to see amount deposited and date of deposit.We received the following from the Town Clerk:
By copy of this e-mail to the Accounting Department, access to the documents will be coordinated. I anticipate that your review could take place by January 15, 2007.Nothing was received by January 15th so we sent a gentle reminder to the Town Clerk. On January 23, 2007 we receive the following email from the town clerk (Emphasis in email below added by this blogger):
Chief Philo has delivered copies of billings to St. Luke's for the months of May - November 2007; 7 pp = $1.75.Huh? Routine records are disposed of???!!!! What about the NYS Records Retention and Disposition Schedule? The Introduction to that document says and we quote:
Copies for previous years are unavailable as routine records are disposed of.
No contract exists because the patrols are regulated by Local Laws.
The estimated hours for 2008 is forthcoming.
This revised Records Retention and Disposition Schedule indicates the minimum length of time that officials of Cities, Towns, Villages and Fire Districts must retain their records before they may be disposed of legally.The operative words are...minimum length of time...and...before they may be disposed of legally. So, how long does the town have to LEGALLY keep copies of records of billings for town services? Using the schedules, we would guess 6 years! Sort of begs the question as to what other "routine" documents get destroyed in the Town of New Hartford!
For the record, the Town of New Hartford DOES have a section in the Code Book for Records Retention Management. Here is an excerpt:
§ 27-7. Disposition of records.Yep, the New Hartford Codes even cite the same document we just linked to above...the NYS Records Retention and Disposition Schedule. It sure wouldn't look very good if an actual audit was performed on town records in 2006 and the auditors requested to see an invoice for the St. Luke's or Sangertown billing. One thing the auditor doesn't want to hear when requesting financial documents for a current audit is "routine documents are disposed of"!
No records shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of by a department of the town until it has met the time limit on the New York State Retention and Disposition Schedule, or the Office of Court Administration Records Retention and Disposition Schedule if applicable, or unless approved of by the records management officer. No records shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of by the records management officer without the express written consent of the department head having authority. Following required consents and prior to actual destruction, the RMO will allow the Town Historian to review and/or remove any single document or sampling of documents that are of historic value to the community.
But wait...there's more to this story...Stay tuned!
By the way, the videotape of the January 23, 2008 town board meeting is now available online!
The Final Chapter of New Hartfordgate available here!
Monday, January 28, 2008
So on November 28, 2007, we FOILed the information. Shortly thereafter we received an email back from the Town Clerk saying that the hourly rate was determined by town law. We looked up the Town of New Hartford Codes; in particular, the part referencing Outside Employment of Officers.
Indeed, the hourly rate for both locations is in the town law:
§ 25-4. Rates and charges.Wow, $22 per hour seems awfully low; that rate was set by town law in 1993 and according to the law the rate is to be renegotiated and adopted by resolution. Have the rates ever been renegotiated? For certain, the police contracts have been renegotiated.
A. The Town of New Hartford shall charge for services rendered by the Town of New Hartford Police Department upon the Sangertown Square Mall property the owner thereof at a rate to be fixed by the Comptroller of the Town of New Hartford, which rate shall be $22 per hour for police services for the first year from the effective date of this article, such rate being all inclusive with no additional costs. Thereafter, the rate is to be renegotiated and adopted by resolution.
B. The Town of New Hartford shall charge for services rendered by the Town of New Hartford Police Department upon the St. Luke's - Memorial Hospital Center campus property the owner thereof at a rate to be fixed by the Comptroller of the Town of New Hartford, which rate shall be $22 per hour for police services for the first year from the effective date of this article, such rate being all inclusive with no additional costs. Thereafter, the rate is to be renegotiated and adopted by resolution. [Added 9-21-1994 by L.L. No. 7-1994]
After reading the article in the December 7, 2007 Observer Dispatch, we were under the impression that when the Police Chief was quoted as saying that the town gets reimbursed by the mall it meant that there was no cost to the taxpayers for these patrols (more importantly, shouldn't it mean that)? We also wondered if the hours spent patrolling Sangertown and St. Luke's are part of the normal scheduled hours or do the officers receive overtime pay when they are assigned to these areas? If they are paid overtime, our guess is that $22 is way short of covering the expense and guess who is making up the difference?
According to the December 28, town board meeting listing the 2008 Salary Schedule, there are only two officers that makes less than $22 an hour...not to mention the added cost of their benefits or the fact that the officers may be getting paid overtime.
We asked the town clerk if the town codes are up-to-date or if there have been any changes to the hourly rate that perhaps was not noted in the Code book. Answer from the Town Clerk: the code book is up-to-date. We are going back to the town clerk's office to check again just to make sure that the town clerk understood what we were asking.
We also FOILed the invoices that are sent to Sangertown Mall and St. Luke's each month...maybe they will give us an idea of what is going on.
to be continued...it gets better...stay tuned!
Part 2 of New Hartfordgate Now Available here!
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Then, at the January 23, 2008 town board meeting, Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland asked Councilwoman Krupa if she had time to look over the invoices for the railroad. Here's an audiotape of the conversation.
As you will hear on the audiotape, Councilwoman Krupa acknowledged that she looked over the invoices...nothing was out of the ordinary...therefore, she felt the railroad was due the money and should be paid to the tune of $30,000.
You will also hear Town Supervisor Earle Reed say that "these invoices were ignored for years...they were thrown in a corner and told not to pay them." Councilwoman Krupa agreed saying "and they are under contract". Supervisor Reed and Councilwoman Krupa...that sounds like a political "pot shot"...is it really necessary?
Now for the real story:
Several members of Concerned Citizens have been attending Town Board meetings on a regular basis since 2003. During a meeting in January 2003, the invoices from the New York Susquehanna Railroad were first mentioned.
REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETINGThen the railroad was mentioned again:
January 15, 2003
Railroad and Property Tax Exemptions
The Oneida County Industrial Development Agency and EDGE invited Councilman Waszkiewicz to a meeting on January 29, 2003. Councilman Waszkiewicz extended an invitation for the Town Supervisor to attend this meeting, which will be held in the EDGE conference room in Rome, NY beginning at 9:00 A.M. to review railroad phenomena, easements, IDA, PILOT and/or tax exemptions.
REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETINGAnd yet again:
March 5, 2003
Supervisor Humphreys and Councilman Waszkiewicz have met with the EDGE Board members. The bottom line is that there is a consensus that they would approach the railroad and have the easement charges negotiated away if PILOTS were going to continue.
REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETINGAnd then finally:
August 6, 2003
Railroad Crossing – Washington Mills Athletic Park
To Councilman Woodland’s inquiry about the claiming the Town isn’t paying them railroad crossing fees at the Washington Mills Athletic Park, Supervisor Humphreys explained that the railroad turned over their property to and entered into a contract with EDGE (granting them tax-exempt status) and that this contract has now expired. The Supervisor will talk with EDGE officials further but, meanwhile, has refused to pay the annual railroad-crossing rental.
The fact is, during that time, the New York Susquehanna Railroad had a PILOT with Oneida County Industrial Development and therefore did not pay taxes to the Town of New Hartford. Here is a pdf document using the 2007 Final Assessment Roll database showing each of their parcels and the fact that no taxes were paid prior to 2007.
REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETING
November 5, 2003
Agreement – Railroad Crossing (New York Susquehanna & Western Railway).
Oneida County says not to pay the Railway’s bill for a public grade crossing.
Side Note: As of the 2007 Final Assessment Roll, the assessment records still had Oneida County Industrial Development owning the railroad even though the county ended the PILOT, and the exemption was removed from the railroad parcels making them taxable, but that's another story.
Being greedy, the railroad was constantly "nickel and diming" the town as evidenced by the $30,000 of invoices. The previous administration, looking out for the best interest of the taxpayers, felt that if the railroad was not paying taxes, the town should not be paying them for inspections, etc. The deal that was struck between everyone was that if the railroad was to continue with the PILOT, the town would not pay these invoices. It was even noted in the November 5, 2003 town board minutes that Oneida County agreed the invoices should NOT be paid.
The PILOT was granted until August 2007 when the County cancelled the railroad's PILOT because of the NYRI situation. So now the railroad approaches Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland and Supervisor Reed demanding payment of the past invoices. What does the town board do? Of course, cave in and vote to pay them. This would be the same New York Susquehanna Railroad who is involved with New York Regional Interconnection (NYRI)...the people who want to put power lines right through Oneida County and in some of our backyards.
Here's the real irony. To verify what we remembered was the case, we spoke to the prior Town Supervisor, Ralph Humphreys. Ralph said he had at least one (1) meeting with Earle Reed to explain the situation regarding the unpaid railroad invoices and Earle Reed supported the non-payment of these invoices. To top it off, there is actually correspondence between the Town and the railroad that is available in Butler Hall. So did something happen to make Supervisor Reed change his mind or did Supervisor Reed completely forget the discussion he had with Ralph Humphreys or what was the problem?
And for the record, who else besides Concerned Citizens attended these board meetings when the aforementioned discussions took place? See for yourself...we think you will find Roger Cleveland attended each of these town board meetings and Councilman Rich Woodland was there as well. Was Councilman Woodland asleep at the switch on January 23, 2008 when the town board unanimously voted to approve the $30,000 payment?
Since Councilwoman Krupa is a lawyer, wouldn't you like to think that she would exert 'due diligence' before she rubber stamps something that she knows nothing about. Common sense would tell you that if the invoices were ignored for years and there was no reason for it, litigation would have been initiated long before now.
Further, that $30,000 is not in the budget...Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland says he will try to negotiate a payment schedule and the town board unanimously agreed!
And now you know the "real" story...let's hope that the town board is able to admit their $30,000 mistake and make it right!
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Anyone who has been following our blog knows that getting FOILed information from the Town of New Hartford is like pulling teeth!
We first FOILed the 2006 Town of New Hartford Audited Financial Statement in March 2007; at that time we were told it wasn't ready. We kept asking the Town Clerk when do you expect to receive the report...June, July we kept asking...the answer...not available yet.
On January 3, 2008, we once again submitted a FOIL request for the 2006 audited financial statements.
Today we received a copy of the financials along with the Independent Auditors' Report that is dated October 15, 2007. According to the report:
Hmm...interesting! Probably why Frank Basile's contract reads the way it does!
In our opinion, because of the effects of the matter discussed in the preceding paragraph, the financial statements referred to above do not present fairly, in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, the financial position of the Town of New Hartford, New York as of December 31, 2006 or the changes in financial position thereof for the year ended.
...We have applied certain limited procedures, which consisted principally of inquiries of management regarding the methods of measurement and presentation of the required supplemental information. However, we did not audit the information and express no opinion on it.
UPDATE: By the way, the 2006 Financials seemed to appear rather quickly after a member of Concerned Citizens filed a Notice of Claim against the Town of New Hartford!
Could it get any worse? Oh, YES...stay tuned!
Friday, January 25, 2008
A very astute reader pointed out that the December 12, 2007 Town Board minutes actually gives the name of the person who bought the 1999 International 4700 truck and plow from the Town of New Hartford on ebay. Wonder why they wouldn't tell us when we asked the question at the meeting? Come to think of it, we just listened to our tape of the meeting and none of that information was given out at the meeting! They only voted to accept the $7,500 bid for the truck sold on ebay. Must be that the town clerk filed in the blanks AFTER the meeting!
From the December 12, 2007 town board minutes:
Highway Superintendent:Norman Gaumer, now where have we seen that name before? Oh yeah, according to records we obtained from the DMV, Norman Gaumer was the one who registered the 1988 Ford Dump Truck VIN#1FDYS90L4JVA45633...the address on the registration...same as General Property Maintenance. Remember, the dump trucks that Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland sold to Al Roberts without board approval...we blogged about that a while back. On January 4, 2006, the Highway Superintendent justified selling one group of vehicles because they were declared surplus in 2005, but he actually sold a different group of vehicles, some of which had never been declared surplus by the town board. Al Roberts of Roberts Construction was the sole bidder for the vehicles.
Sales of Surplus Property
The Highway Superintendent reported that Truck 72, a 1999 International, had been sold on e-Bay. Thereafter, the following Resolution was introduced for adoption by Councilman Payne and duly seconded by Councilman Reynolds:
(RESOLUTION NO. 290 OF 2007)
RESOLVED that the New Hartford Town Board does hereby accept the $7500 bid submitted on e-Bay by Norman Gaumer for the purchase of one (1) surplus 1999 International Dump Truck, Model 470, VIN 1HTSCAAL4XH667487 and does further authorize and direct the Town Supervisor to execute Section 1 – Transfer by Owner on the Certificate of Title for said vehicle.
The Supervisor declared the Resolution unanimously carried and duly ADOPTED.
From the January 4, 2006 town board minutes:
Disposition of Surplus VehiclesWonder how Norman Gaumer acquired the dump truck (VIN#1FDYS90L4JVA45633) when Al Roberts was the one that actually bought it from the town? The DMV records don't show anyone but the Town of New Hartford owning the vehicle prior to Norman Gaumer registering it. Did Al Roberts sell the vehicle to Norman Gaumer after he bought it from the town? If Al Roberts didn't register the vehicle and the town doesn't collect sales tax then one would have to assume that Al Roberts didn't pay sales tax, wouldn't they? Very strange...very strange indeed!
Upon report of the Highway Superintendent, Councilman Woodland introduced the following Resolution for adoption; seconded by Supervisor Reed:
(RESOLUTION NO. 24 OF 2006)
WHEREAS, by Resolution No. 208 adopted July 20, 2005, the Town Board declared the following vehicles as surplus and authorized the Town Supervisor to solicit bids for the public sale of the surplus vehicles:
1989 Chevrolet Suburban - VIN 1GNER16K2KF179482
1990 Chevrolet Van - VIN 1GCCG15Z3178151162
1991 Chevrolet Pick-up - VIN 1GCGS14ZXM2153887
1995 Jeep Cherokee - VIN 1J4FJ68S4SL507785
1995 Jeep SPT - VIN 1J4FJ68S0SL646389
1996 Ford Crown Victoria - VIN 2FALP71W6TX167995
1996 Ford Crown Victoria - VIN 2FALP71W2TX167993
1996 Ford Suburban - VIN 1FUKE30H9SHB62081; and
WHEREAS, the Highway Superintendent acknowledged receipt of a sole bid on January 4, 2006 which had been canvassed and subsequently discussed with the Public Works & Sewer Committee;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the New Hartford Town Board does hereby accept the sole bid submitted by Roberts Construction of Upstate New York in the amount of Eight Thousand Dollars ($8,000) and does hereby sell the following vehicles to said Roberts Construction, in “as is” condition, with no warranties implied or expressed:
1988 Ford Dump Truck, VIN 1FDYS90L4JVA45633
1988 Ford Dump Truck, VIN 1FDYS90L6JVA45634
1989 Chevrolet Suburban, VIN 1GNER16K2KF179482
1991 Chevrolet (S-10) Pick-up Truck, VIN 1GCGS14ZXM2153887
1994 GMC (3HD) Dump Truck, VIN 1GDKC34F1RJ502454
1995 Jeep Cherokee, VIN 1J4FJ68S4SL507785.
The Resolution was declared unanimously carried and duly ADOPTED.
Hmm! Wonder if there is a connection there? Funny, how certain names keep popping up. Al Roberts...Norman Gaumer...General Property Maintenance...Roger Cleveland...Hmmm! Must be a quinky dink!
a coincidence. A sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged.
For example...We both wore red today...or two 1999 International Harvester trucks suddenly have their picture taken. What a quinky dink!
Below, a 1999 International 4700, VIN #1HTSCAAL4XH667487, with 47,182 miles sold on ebay by the Town of New Hartford on December 8, 2007 for $7,500.
Below, a 1999 International 4700 with 47,000 miles presently for sale on Seneca Turnpike in front of the Smoking Gun Saloon...Asking Price...$18,500.
We were curious as to who bought the dump truck that was for sale on eBay; when Concerned Citizens asked for the name of the buyer at a town board meeting, we were ignored. We have FOILed the information.
Not for nothing, but above is one of the pictures that the town used to sell the truck on ebay. If you are trying to sell a truck on ebay why would you use a picture of a truck that looks like it hasn't moved in forever...unless, of course, you hope that no one bids!
Notice the pile of tires...is it legal to have those sitting around?
Pictured above is the information that is taped to the window of the truck that is for sale by General Property Maintenance (a landscaping business) located on Seneca Turnpike across from the Smoking Gun Saloon. Sure seems to match the truck that the Town of New Hartford sold on ebay back in December 2007. In fact, there is one identifier that was left on the truck that some might not notice, but we did! We even have a picture of it. They also did a lousy paint job because you can still see Town of New Hartford on the door if you stand at just the right angle. They must have had to put a lot of work and parts into that "old" truck...the new owner is now trying to sell it for $18,500.
Other people have listed similar trucks on ebay...this one is a 1998 International Harvester 4700 with 114,165 miles; the seller turned down an $11,300 bid. The "buy it now" price was $18,995 and there isn't even a plow and wing for this one...it also has more than double the mileage on it and is a year older!
Oh, by the way, a tipster told us that the same business that is now selling this truck (General Property Maintenance...phone number as noted on the window...315-853-7506) also sold the 1995 Badger for $22,000. Remember...the Badger that the Highway Superintendent sold to Al Roberts for "peanuts" without board approval.
Must be a quinky dink!
Be sure to read Part 2!
Thursday, January 24, 2008
According to the Observer Dispatch article in today's paper:
Residents last year voted down a proposition that sought to replace lighting at the recreation center and for some upgrades. Now, the board has decided to bond for it.Actually, the board didn't decide to bond again...not just yet.
Jeffery said the energy savings will ultimately pay off the one-year bond.They actually approved a B.A.N. - a bond anticipation note to cover some of the items that were turned down last March during the vote on the $5 million bond resolutions. The difference between a B.A.N. and a bond is that the town board does not need taxpayer approval to B.A.N.
The troubling part is that B.A.N.s are renewable a year at a time for up to 5 years; after 5 years, the money either has to be repaid from the budget or bonding will have to be approved to pay back the money. So it is misleading to merely call it a "one-year bond"; the monies won't be paid back in one year unless the town board approves bonding that will be subject to permissive referendum just like the bonding last year where signatures were collected to force a vote of the taxpayers. Again, noted in the Observer Dispatch:
The board did not include the amount in this year's budget, but if it was included, it would have increased the parks and recreation budget by 25 percent, officials said.So, if it would increase the recreation budget by 25 percent this year, it will probably do at least the same next year... so where will the money come to repay the B.A.N.? The town board will either decide to extend the B.A.N. for at least another year or they will once again BOND like they attempted to do last year.
Add to that the fact that this comes on the heels of another B.A.N. that was approved to purchase items that were turned down in the March Bond Vote. If you recall, last May they took out a B.A.N. for the Gradall to replace the Badger that was sold prematurely without board approval. There also were the B.A.N.s from 2005 and 2006 to purchase trucks, snowplows and fund the GEIS study.
Any bonding would be subject to permissive referendum and signatures would need to be collected to bring it to a vote of the residents of New Hartford unless, of course, the town board decides to hold a mandatory referendum. A mandatory referendum would mean that the people get to decide automatically...no signatures need to be collected...that is an option the board has, but will they decide to do that?
In the Tuesday, January 22, 2008 Observer Dispatch, Councilwoman Krupa says:
O-D: Any new ideas for the town?At some point in the very near future, it will be 'time to pay the piper'...hopefully, Councilwoman Krupa is VERY creative!
Krupa: I want to find some creative ways to do the funding and town residents don't have to worry about tax impact. I have not started yet but that's where I am going to go. You will be surprised but there is a lot of funding out there. I have not put the idea to the board yet. Former politicians in my family have been advising me and I will take it from there.
By the way, the video of the January 23, 2008 town board meeting will be online in a day or two.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
1. Town of New Hartford Purchasing Policies And Procedural Manual - Revised January 1, 2006We will be blogging about these documents in the near future, but we thought we would post them for anyone who might be interested in reading. We will also be posting permanent links to all documents and contracts on our websites and on this blog shortly.
2. Highway Dept & Town Assessor's Office Contract - Jan. 2007 - Dec. 2010
3. Part-Town Storm Water Management Study - March 1991 & Rev. March 1992
Friday, January 18, 2008
But even at its worst, the house fascinated him. When Donnelly, a licensed contractor, decided to purchase 31 Sherman Drive on Frankfort Hill for $500,000, people called him “crazy.”
“You won’t find a house like this anywhere,” he said. “I think this house needs to be put together as it was. You could see what it could be.”
The challenge of fixing it excited him, Donnelly said.Supervisor Reed had some welcoming comments for the new owners:
“I want to make it a historical landmark,” he said. “It is a special house and needs to be protected.”
For New Hartford town Supervisor Earle Reed, the idea they will restore the “Pratts House” as he remembers it is a wonderful thing. In addition to it being a beautiful architectural building, it will also bring in taxes, he said.Bring on the Welcome Wagon! The article goes on to quote Supervisor Reed:
“I have a lot of memories of that house. I was friends with the Pratts,” he said. “I'd rather see it fixed up first. That house is a treasure. Let's get it restored first and then worry about taxes.”Isn't that nice...kind of gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling! Alice & Bob...we will wait until you are finished with the renovations...then all bets are off the table!
Here's an idea, Supervisor Reed. Maybe we should also worry about the fact that a good many homes in New Hartford never did get reassessed during the State Reassessment Program because they were not in the right Neighborhood Code (mistakes, probably) or they were somehow "overlooked"...isn't that right Supervisor Reed?
Thursday, January 17, 2008
"the meeting commenced at 6:00 p.m. and at 6:43p.m. an Executive Session was called "to discuss potential litigation under a contract with the New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad."
"...the Executive Session ended at 7:20 P.M. The regular portion of the Town Board meeting was immediately reconvened."Everyone's gone...time to pass a resolution:
Retention of Professional Services – Land Acquisition
The following Resolution was introduced for adoption by Councilman Payne and duly seconded by Councilwoman Krupa:
RESOLVED that the New Hartford Town Board does hereby authorize the retention of legal, architectural and appraisal services for the possible purchase of real estate.
A roll call vote ensued:
Councilman Reynolds - Aye
Councilman Woodland - Aye
Councilman Payne - Aye
Supervisor Reed - Aye.
The Supervisor then declared the Resolution unanimously carried and duly ADOPTED.Strange, that wasn't one of the items that that was supposedly discussed in Executive Session...wonder why they didn't just discuss it BEFORE the executive session.Concerned Citizens thinks it is because they didn't want any questions from the "peanut gallery" and they probably didn't want it to get printed in the Observer Dispatch.
By law, the town board can not vote to spend taxpayer dollars out of the public view; that would be a violation of the Open Meetings Law:
:§105. Conduct of executive sessions. 1. Upon a majority vote of its total membership, taken in an open meeting pursuant to a motion identifying the general area or areas of the subject or subjects to be considered, a public body may conduct an executive session for the below enumerated purposes only, provided, however, that no action by formal vote shall be taken to appropriate public moneys...But...there is ONE (1) way to pass a resolution to spend money and keep it a secret, they have to plan to do it after the public is excused...in other words, after the Executive Session...when hopefully everyone has left. Not exactly illegal, but clearly not OPEN GOVERNMENT.
Here is the information behind the town board's vote to retain legal, architectural and appraisal services for the possible purchase of real estate:
REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETING
December 12, 2007
Building Committee - Update
At the request of the Town Board, N. Joseph Yagey had put together a Committee consisting of Planning Board Chairman Hans G. Arnold, Town Police Chief Raymond Philo, Councilman Reynolds and himself. The Committee has reviewed numerous proposals that had been prepared for Town offices, dating back to the early 1990’s, keeping in mind the importance of:
• Size of facility to accomplish what needs to be done
• Affordable dollars
The Committee is nearly ready to submit a final recommendation of what they believe would accommodate and how to reconfigure current departments. Mr. Yagey referenced a recent court facility inspection by the Office of Court Administration – Chief Philo stated that with recent statutory changes, the courts can no longer use the hallways for a general waiting area for customers because it interferes with recording devices for court. “So we’ve lost that space,” he commented.
Edmund Wiatr, Jr. inquired who had custody of the study. The Town will get back to Mr. Wiatr on how he can obtain access to the Office of Court Administration study; this is not a town record.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
So we decided to email the Town Clerk for further information. We received an email back that said:
Refer to Page 26 of the Dec 12, 2007 Town Board minutes - The Resolution authorizing the Executive Session lists the reasons - the Highway Supt's was the potential litigation under a contract with the New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad.Yep, they sure do:
and the minutes reflect that the Highway Superintendent remained for the Executive Session.
EXECUTIVE SESSIONSo three people plus the five (5) town board members remained and there were two reasons for executive session...so it must be that everyone should guess who was there and for what purpose. Sort of like the old tv show "What's My Line?"
Councilman Payne introduced the following Resolution for adoption and Councilwoman Krupa seconded same:
(RESOLUTION NO. 314 OF 2007)
RESOLVED that the New Hartford Town Board does hereby move to enter into an Executive Session to discuss on-going union negotiations for the Parks and Recreation Department and to discuss potential litigation under a contract with the New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad.
A roll call vote ensued:
Councilwoman Krupa - Aye
Councilman Reynolds - Aye
Councilman Woodland - Aye
Councilman Payne - Aye
Supervisor Reed - Aye.
Thereafter, the Resolution was declared unanimously carried and duly adopted. All persons present, including the news media and Town Clerk, were then excused from the meeting at 6:43 P.M. The Personnel Technician, Highway Superintendent and Attorney Green remained for the Executive Session.
And what would be so difficult about Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland saying or the Town Clerk understanding the words "potential litigation under a contract with the New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad." Did he need time to think up a "legal" reason for the executive session?
You see, here's the thing, the Open Meeting Law says that:
"To validly convene an executive session for discussion of proposed, pending or current litigation, the public body must identify with particularity the pending, proposed or current litigation to be discussed during the executive session"Operative words..."to validly convene"...that means that they are supposed to disclose the information BEFORE they enter into Executive Session, not two plus weeks later when they make the board minutes available. What part of Open Meeting Law don't they understand!
And what about Town Attorney Green? Since he was in attendance at that meeting, wouldn't you think he would remind them that they have to disclose executive session discussions in compliance with the Open Meeting Law...for that matter as an attorney wouldn't you think he would insist that the town board abides by the law?
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Oxford Road/Kellogg Road Regional Storm Drainage Assessment dated November 11, 2005
Preliminary Design Report Oxford Road Drainage Improvements dated February 14,2006And just in case you want more studies, we have a copy of:
Coincidentally, there was an article in today's Observer Dispatch New Hartford seeks more input on future development.
Planning Board members are holding a second informational meeting on an urban design plan that will affect development in the southern part of the town.
This will help board members get more input from those would be affected by sprawl in Washington Mills and Chadwicks, officials said. The study cost about $350,000. Based on its findings and recommendations, the town will amend zoning laws so they are consistent with the plans.
The next meeting, planned for sometime in March, will push back the schedule for the project by a couple of months, he said.Guess we need to fix some of the stormwater problems already caused by developers so that we can encourage more development.
Back before the $2 million bond proprosal was voted on, Concerned Citizens tried to get the town board to be more specific as to who would see any stormwater improvements as a result of this money. Roger Cleveland didn't seem to want to "share" any information, although he did say that not everyone would be happy.
If you voted for this $2 million bond thinking your stormwater problems would be solved, we suggest you read these studies. Then wait until the money is gone and the town board once again asks for more money... and then some more studies...you might get luckier next time, but don't hold your breath thinking this $2 million will help you...the last $2+ million in the early 1990s apparently didn't solve anything.
Concerned Citizens is calling for the town board to open the Stormwater Advisory Meetings and let residents know what the plans are regarding the spending of taxpayers' money. It's the right thing to do.
Where is Councilwoman Krupa who vowed she would try to get town board consensus to follow the Open Meetings Law? Ms. Krupa some town residents don't want flooding in their backyard either. How soon can we expect the meetings to be open?
Saturday, January 12, 2008
We used our "searchable" minutes to extract portions of town board minutes that reference the stormwater issues in the area of Tibbitts, Oxford and Kellogg Road. Below are links to the minutes and a brief overview of the contents.
August 18, 2004 - talks about the Jubilee Stormwater Drainage District and calls for a study "contingent upon the developer, the drainage district or the engineer paying for any and all costs with no funds coming from the Town of New Hartford."
"Councilman Backman stated the Town Board should protect the residents not the district."
"Attorney Rossi informed the Town Board that a new subdivision will be built across from Jubilee Estates and Attorney Rossi does not want to see the same problem with flooding occurring from this subdivision as is happening with Jubilee Estates."
November 17, 2004 - Regarding Longworth Acres.
November 18, 2004 - Regarding Longworth Acres.
December 15, 2004 - Regarding Longworth Acres.
February 2, 2005 - "Technician Meagher (John Meagher - Town Engineer) has been trying to meet with Oneida County officials because Oxford Road is a county road; also, Tibbitts Road from Kellogg Road to NYS Route 12 is a county highway. A study had been completed on the Jubilee Estates development off Tibbitts Road and there appears to be a bottleneck of drainage flowing down to NYS Route 8 (Sauquoit Valley Arterial). New developments such as Longworth Acres and some land on Tibbitts Road, between Tibbitts and Snowden Hill Road, will add to this watershed."
May 5, 2005 - "RESOLVED that the New Hartford Town Board does hereby authorize and direct a stormwater study to be conducted by Shumaker Engineering for the area encompassing the Oxford-Snowden Hill-Tibbitts-Kellogg Road area at a cost not to exceed Twenty-eight Thousand Dollars ($28,000)..."
There are probably more details in the planning board minutes. This area has been studied "ad nauseum". At any rate, it is very apparent that the problems in the area in question are well documented so one has to wonder why the town board, in particular, the two board members that have attended the Stormwater Advisory Meetings, say "I am not familiar with that" in answer to the questions asked by the resident. Why did the gabion baskets that were designed by the engineer for the Jubilee Estates developer fail and who is responsible for seeing to it that town residents are not paying for the mistakes of developers and their engineers. Why is the $2 million bond money being used on county roads...Oxford, Kellogg, and Tibbitts are all county roads.
Before one penny of the $2 million bond is spent, the town board owes residents some explanations and the Stormwater Advisory Meetings need to be open to the public.
Concerned Citizens has obtained a copy of the study mentioned in the May 5, 2005 Town Board Minutes entitled "Oxford Road/Kellogg Road Regional Storm Drainage Assessment", dated November 11, 2005. We also have "Preliminary Design Report Oxford Road Drainage Improvements", dated February 14, 2006. We will post both reports in part 3 of "The 2 million dollar question."
You will need Windows Media Player to hear this audiotape
It's amazing that Town Attorney Green was the only one who knew there was a Stormwater Drainage District for Jubilee Estates...or at least was willing to admit to having knowledge of it. If you listen to the tape, you will hear him confirm that there is a Jubilee Stormwater District.
Once a Stormwater Drainage District is created, any issues regarding stormwater run-off will be paid for by assessing parcels of land benefited by the district and NOT the rest of the town...just like the $5,000 stormwater drainage study in 2004 that was financed by a tax levy on the residents of Jubilee Estates!
Of course, prior to being named Town Attorney Green, he was Town Planning Board Member Green and he was involved with the stormwater issues in that part of town in conjunction with Longworth Acres, a development owned by Judge William Virkler. Now that he is Town Attorney Green, Concerned Citizens wonders why he didn't share the information with the town board that there is indeed a Jubilee Stormwater Drainage District and also a Whitetail Stormwater Drainage District off Oneida Street. It would be particularly beneficial to share that information with the Stormwater Advisory Committee...preferably before Schumaker Engineering was hired to do another study of the Oxford, Tibbitts, Kellogg Road area. That way the town board wouldn't have had to act like deer caught in the headlights when the question was asked at the last board meeting and the Stormwater Advisory Committee could make "informed" recommendations to the town board.
And not for nothing, but the Jubilee Stormwater Drainage District is part of the budget that the town board just adopted on November 20, 2007 and it is so noted in the minutes. If they didn't know what the Special Assessment Roll item was, wouldn't you think that one of them would have asked or made some effort to find out. Nope, they just unanimously passed the budget, Jubilee Stormwater Drainage District and all.
Councilman Reynolds seems to think that the stormwater run-off problems from Jubilee have been an ongoing problem since before Jubilee was developed. Got to tell you that several members of Concerned Citizens live in the vicinity and have for many years...we haven't heard of any problems prior to Jubilee. And just in case the Town Board missed the letter from Attorney Mark Levitt regarding the issues with stormwater run-off from Jubilee; we have a copy. Since it is noted at the bottom of the letter that Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland also received a copy, he should be able to enlighten the town board and for that matter the Stormwater Advisory Committee.
Tomorrow evening we will add the videotape of the January 9, 2008 town board meeting and some past town board minutes to help answer the question that the town board seemed to be "clueless" about when asked.
Guess it's starting to look pretty clear why they closed Concerned Citizens out of the Stormwater Advisory Meetings. It's not so much that they thought we would misunderstand and report incorrect information...it is more that we will tell you things they don't want you to know!
Thursday, January 10, 2008
When the Town Clerk asked Roger to be more specific than "pending litigation", Roger mumbled something to the Town Clerk. After the meeting, Concerned Citizens asked for clarification because we couldn't hear what Roger said. The Town Clerk said she didn't understand his explanation either, but she would get further information and let us know.
Well according to the December 12, 2007 Approved Town Board Minutes, the town clerk must not have received any further explanation because the town board minutes say:
Executive SessionPending litigation without further explanation is NOT an acceptable reason to convene an executive session; Roger Cleveland has been Highway Superintendent long enough to know that! As we previously wrote:
The Highway Superintendent has a pending litigation matter for Executive Session.
According to the Committee on Open Government...possible litigation is not acceptable:It is a shame that the Town of New Hartford keeps putting up their middle finger to the taxpayers...apparently they haven't taken notice of the lawsuit that was won in the Towns of Warren and Stark. The Town of New Hartford Town Board is even arrogant enough to approve town board minutes that specifically defy the Open Meetings Law.
With regard to the sufficiency of a motion to discuss litigation, it has been held that:"It is insufficient to merely regurgitate the statutory language; to wit, 'discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation'. This boilerplate recitation does not comply with the intent of the statute. To validly convene an executive session for discussion of proposed, pending or current litigation, the public body must identify with particularity the pending, proposed or current litigation to be discussed during the executive session" [Daily Gazette Co. , Inc. v. Town Board, Town of Cobleskill, 44 NYS 2d 44, 46 (1981), emphasis added by court].
By the way, a videotape of the December 28, 2007 town board meeting is online; the January 9, 2008 town board meeting will be online by Saturday evening. All town board meetings will now be videotaped...
Ironic isn't it...the town business only took 15 minutes...yet 3 items on Attorney Green's agenda that supposedly required an executive session took 30 minutes. Attorney Green's items were:
1. Hilton Tax CertiorariConcerned Citizens decided to stay around and asked to be called back when the executive session was over and the regular board meeting resumed.
2. Husted Certiorari
3. Preswick Glen Update
When we were called back into the room, the town board passed two resolutions to accept the certiorari settlements for both Hilton & Husted. Funny though, Concerned Citizens would have thought that within a 30 minute executive session, the town board and town attorney would have discussed the amounts of the certiorari settlements...that was, or so we were told...two of the reasons for the Executive Session. However, after fumbling through his papers for a few seconds, Attorney Green said to Supervisor Reed, and we quote, "I'm going to have to get you those numbers...I'm going to have to read through this." Amazing, two of the items that the board supposedly called an executive session for and the town attorney has no idea the dollar amounts of the settlements. No problem though, the town board unanimously voted to accept the settlements anyway!
And what about the Preswick Glen update that Attorney Green also had on the agenda for executive session? Concerned Citizens thought the game plan was to give the residents regular updates on Preswick Glen. Guess not...it seems the town board prefers to work on a "need to know" basis...they "know" and town residents don't "need" to!!
Anyway, the best part of the meeting was when Supervisor Reed asked to move to adjourn and a resident spoke up and asked to be recognized because he had a question for Supervisor Reed. If you have stormwater issues or just pay taxes in the Town of New Hartford, you don't want to miss this one!
We audio-taped and video-taped the town board meeting and it will be online by Saturday along with our commentary on what happened "after the meeting".
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
So let's start with General Wholetown. This is the portion of the budget that everyone, including the Village of New York Mills pays. Click on each of the charts to view a larger version.
In our chart above...Wholetown Budgeted Revenues (black print) are the total of the itemized revenues for each of the budget line items. Summary Sheet Revenues (red print) are the amount of revenues that the town board plans to use to offset the appropriations per the Summary Sheets that are always attached to each budget.
By reviewing the Summary Sheet each year you would be able to figure out the tax rate. To determine the dollars to be raised by taxes you would subtract the Estimated Revenues from the Appropriations, less any Fund Balance; to determine the tax rate you would then divide the amount to be raised by the Assessed Value. The amount of revenues used vs. the anticipated revenues has a direct effect on the tax rate.
Looking at the chart above, you will notice that for the 2006 General Wholetown budget, the previous administration used slightly less revenues on the Summary Sheet than they actually anticipated would be collected. Probably in case some of the anticipated revenues were not received. Remember a budget is only an estimate.
Now look at 2007 and 2008 under Supervisor Reed. By comparing the two numbers for each year, you will notice that the town board actually overstated the amount of revenues used to determine the tax rate on the Summary Sheet compared to the total of the actual budgeted line items for General Wholetown in each of those years.
Next let's look at Wholetown Minus NYM. As we have already discussed this is the budget associated with the Police, Animal Control and Traffic Control. The Village of NYM is not taxed for this portion of the budget. Again, click on the chart to view a larger version.
For General Wholetown Minus NYM in 2007 and 2008, the present administration understated the revenues by about $100,000 in 2007 and $150,000 for 2008. It makes no sense why would you overstate revenue for one portion of the town and underestimate on the other portion?
Now let's combine both the General Wholetown and General Wholetown Minus NYM revenues for each year to get a combined total of anticipated revenues:
You will see that in 2006, the previous administration overall used slightly less total revenues for the Summary Sheet. Makes sense.
However, in both 2007 and 2008, for some reason, Supervisor Reed's administration overstated total anticipated revenues on the Summary Sheet. This makes it quite apparent that the overstating and understating in each portion of the budget is not a matter of a misunderstanding of how the appropriations and revenues are split between the two parts of the budget. Obviously, if the total revenues when combining both parts of the budget are more than even anticipated for total General Town Revenues, there is something else at play here.
Just doesn't make sense...why would you use more revenues to offset the appropriations than you think you are going to get by year end?
a. Because you have left some revenues off the budget detail that you know will be available...you just didn't bother to itemize them.It certainly makes one wonder if the appropriations have been correctly stated, for that matter, can anything in the 2007 and 2008 budget be believed?
b. Because you put the budget together on a "wing and a prayer".
c. Because you are playing games with the budget?
d. Because you are trying to artificially keep the tax rate low...Can you say BOND?
- In 2007, the General Wholetown Minus NYM tax rate tripled and the General Wholetown tax rate decreased.
- In 2008, the General Wholetown Minus NYM tax rate dropped by 25% and the General Wholetown increased.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Budget Year 2006 was done by the previous administration. Budget Year 2007 and Budget Year 2008 were done by the Earle Reed administration.
General Whole-town Minus NYM is the revenue generated by the Police, Animal Control and Traffic Safety.
So, we totalled up all the revenues in General Whole-town that could be attributed to the Police Department, Animal Control or Traffic Safety and we prepared a spreadsheet. What we found was interesting to say the least.
According to the actual budget, revenues didn't go down in General Whole-town Minus NYM...oh, they went down slightly, but remember, a couple of items that should have been included in the Police Revenues were left off for some reason. What actually declined is the amount of revenues that the town board is using on the Summary Sheet to off-set the appropriations in General Whole-town Minus NYM. When we totalled the revenues that are actually listed for Whole-town Minus NYM, we got a total of $434,407 not $285,026 as stated on the 2008 Summary Sheet. When we totalled the remaining revenues that would be applied to the General Whole-town we got $4,281,347 not $4,467,413 like on the 2008 Summary Sheet. So basically, General Whole-town revenues were overstated and General Whole-town Minus NYM were understated for purposes of figuring the tax rate for each section of the budget.
So then we ran a report for 2006, 2007 and 2008. Interesting!
Concerned Citizens has their opinion and there are probably many more explanations as to our findings, but we whittled them down to a few of our favorites:
a. The town board really does not know the difference between the General Whole-town and the General Whole-town Minus NYM.Next, we will show you our spreadsheet and you can decide for yourself.
b. Someone on the town board was trying to give a recent candidate a "extra" push by lowering the tax rate 25% in her home base to make up for the previous year when they tripled the tax rate in that part of town. If you remember, this candidacy was actually funded by the Reeds.
c. The town board is trying to add to the fund balance by manipulating the budget and is failing miserably.
d. The Citizens Budget Committee needs to be reinstated because they really did have more information than Supervisor Reed gave them credit for.
To be continued....
Sunday, January 6, 2008
On December 21, 2007, we also FOILed for a copy of the newly signed Teachers' Contract. Ms. Greico, Records Management Officer for New Hartford Central School, said the new contract is at B.O.C.E.S. and they will get it to us soon. So, Mr. Dan Gilligan, School Superintendent and Mr. Nole, Assistant Superintendent of the Business Office does not have a copy in their office?
At any rate, we have once again posted a clock to keep track of how long it takes before we receive the FOILed contract.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
The need to cover overdrawn accounts to this magnitude at the end of each year signifies one of two things. Either the Town of New Hartford budgeting process is flawed or there is little to no control over how taxpayer dollars are being spent.
Getting to the actual transfers...we are going to assume that Mr. Frank Basile, CPA, whose firm is being retained by the Town of New Hartford to help with the budget and other related matters, is probably aware of these 2007 transfers...but, we may be wrong!
Let us give our readers a little history as to how the town of New Hartford budget is set-up. The town budget consists of General Whole-Town, General Whole-town Minus NYM, General Part-Town, Highway Whole-Town, Highway Part-Town, water, fire and several other Special Districts.
We have talked about it before, but to recap, the difference between General Whole-Town and General Whole-town Minus NYM is the tax base. All residents in the Town of New Hartford, including people living in the Villages, are taxed for General Whole-town expenses. Only those people living outside of the Village of NYM are taxed for General Whole-town Minus NYM expenses...these monies are for the operation and maintenance of the New Hartford Police Department. Since the Village of NYM has their own Police Department, Village of NYM residents cannot be taxed for the expenses of the New Hartford Police Department. However, the exception appears to be "...the exemption in section 150(1) does not apply to capital expenses, such as for the acquisition of land or the construction of a building, to support the town police department. See Opinion 2003-6 from the NYS Comptroller's Office.
The General Whole-town Minus NYM consists of budget lines under three (3) areas --Police, Traffic Control and Control of Animals. Residents in the Village of New York Mills who reside in the Town of New Hartford cannot be taxed for any of these budgeted expenses.
Among the five (5) pages of 2007 year-end budget transfers, there are several questionable year-end budget transfers. Look at the spreadsheet. All of the budget lines in red are funded by tax dollars of ALL town residents including Village of NYM residents...General Whole-town. All of the budget lines in black are funded ONLY by residents outside of the Village of NYM tax dollars...General Whole-town Minus NYM.
Using left-over monies in General Whole-town budget lines to offset overdrafts in General Whole-town Minus NYM accounts is extremely questionable, if not illegal. How can you use the tax dollars of one tax base to offset the over-expenditures of another tax base? Doesn't it equate to taxing residents in the Village of New York Mills "behind their backs" for a service they don't get?
Town Attorney Green...Mr. Frank Basile, CPA...your opinion please!
Stay Tuned...we're not done yet!
Well, about an hour after we blogged about our December 12, 2007 town board minutes FOIL request, we received those very town board minutes...attached to yet another email from the Town Clerk.
No wonder the town was dragging their heels on getting these minutes out...there is enough blogging material to keep us busy for the next week!
Let's start with the Public Hearing that took place at 6:03 p.m. Fortunately, Concerned Citizens audio-taped the meeting because after you listen to the audio-tape it will become rather obvious that the town board had no clue what the Public Hearing was all about. For that matter as you will hear for yourself, the Town Supervisor had no clue even how to conduct a Public Hearing. How long have they been in office?
Here is the audio recording of the Public Hearing on December 12, 2007.
At first, you will hear Town Supervisor Earle Reed start to conduct the Public Hearing without without first opening it up for discussion. Councilman Payne had to remind him to open the hearing.
Next, Supervisor Reed asks if Joe Booth, Codes Dept., is in attendance...he is, according to Supervisor Reed, "hiding in the back". O.K., Joe Booth is the person in the Codes Dept. who came up with the plan to increase the rates to begin with...what is he doing hiding in the back of the room?
Next, Supervisor Reed announces that the purpose of the hearing is to amend the fees for building permits, etc., but only for commercial properties...he further states that he doesn't believe that residential rates are affected. Supervisor Reed asks if anyone wants to speak for or against...mind you, at this point no resolution has been read. Guess no one wants to speak...so after being reminded by the Town Clerk, Supervisor Reed closes the Public Hearing at 6:06 p.m. and a vote takes place...again, no resolution is read prior to the vote. Supervisor Reed says, and we quote, "I would like a motion to move to adopt the new commercial rates for 2008". Councilwoman Krupa makes the motion and Councilman Woodland seconds it. The resolution is passed and the new fees become a local law.
Two and a half weeks after the resolution to adopt the local law is unanimously approved by the Town Board, we get our FOILed copy of the December 12, 2007 Approved Town Board minutes and they say:
The purpose of the Hearing is to offer the public an opportunity to speak in favor of, in opposition to, or to comment upon Local Law Introductory “C” which, if adopted, would amend Chapter 118 of the Town Code, providing updated permit fees for residential and commercial activity such as Building Permits, Demolition Permits, re-inspection fees, zoning variances, and the like.Surprise...!!! The rate changes are for commercial AND residential! So let's say a concerned resident attended that board meeting just to take part in the Public Hearing because they had questions or comments regarding the residential rate increases. Supervisor Reed says...residential rates aren't affected by these increases...what possible question or comment would be appropriate for the concerned resident to make regarding something that Supervisor Reed has said isn't going to take place? Might be why there were no comments at that Public Hearing...ya think?
We are providing a copy of the entire resolution and here is a copy of the "old" code and fees.
So why does the town board even bother holding an organizational meeting at the end of each year and making resolutions like:
VIII. LEGISLATIVE MATTERS:Basically, what we have here is either:
All resolutions, ordinances and local laws, other than routine resolutions approving payment of bills, minutes and like matters, shall be in writing and filed with the Town Clerk and made available to Board members not later than the Saturday prior to the meeting at which they are to be introduced unless this provision be waived as to any such resolution, ordinance or local law by a majority of the members of the Board present at such meeting.
Resolutions, ordinances and local laws shall be introduced in the regular order of business and shall be read aloud by the Town Clerk before being acted upon by the Board.
a. The town board purposely mislead those in attendance so that the board didn't have to answer any questions or listen to any comments...
b. The town clerk was not given a copy of the resolution on the Saturday preceding the board meeting as is required by the organizational resolutions therefore she was "helpless" to correct Supervisor Reed.
c. The town clerk got the resolution and never bothered to read it.
d. There is total incompetence in Town of New Hartford government. Not one of the 5 board members; or the town clerk; or the codes officer who helped prepare the rate structure; OR the town attorney (who was actually in attendance for this meeting) knew who was to be affected by the rate increase...how sad!
e. Any combination of the above...
At any rate, Concerned Citizens believes that the validity of that resolution and town law comes into question and it may well be advisable for the Town Board to rescind their resolution, hold another public hearing and concoct another resolution...this time following their own rules and reading the resolution out loud before the vote. To not do so, would probably further erode the public trust in New Hartford town government and it just might be illegal. How can the Town Board pass a resolution adopting a local law when they have mislead those in attendance at the Public Hearing?
In accordance with the Open Meetings Law, and as clarified by Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government in an Opinion written in 2000 and an Opinion written in 2005, Concerned Citizens will continue audio-taping and video-taping all town board meetings.
We will be pointing out some more baloney in the December 12, 2007 town board minutes in between writing about the year-end transfers and the 2008 budget.