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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bond Propositions 1 & 2

Recently a Chadwicks resident wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Observer Dispatch wondering if the advertisement that was placed in the Pennysaver by the Citizens for Open & Honest Government was true regarding the purchase of trucks in Proposition 1 & 2.

We are here to tell you that our ad is absolutely true--we have no reason to be less than honest. Here, from the town's website, are the propositions and on page 2 are the pictures of the new trucks.

Proposition # 1 - $243,174
Proposition # 2 - $173,205
As you can see, the plows & trucks have already been purchased and are sitting in the Town Highway Garage. The plows were purchased in 2005 and the trucks were purchased in 2006. You are only voting as to whether to not to extend the time to repay the debt from 5 to 14 years.

Initially, the trucks and plows were purchased with a Bond Anticipation Note or BAN. This type of funding only requires approval by the vote of two-thirds of the Town Board and can only be used for purchases where the repayment will not exceed 5 years. Residents do not have a say as to whether or not the town purchases equipment by a BAN.

In 2005, when the BAN for the plows was approved (Proposition 1), it was with the understanding between the previous town board and Roger Cleveland that the BAN would be paid off with the next year's Highway Equipment budget line. That didn't happen. Then in May 2006, 5 months after Mr. Reed took office, the town board again approved additional spending for Highway trucks with the use of a BAN (Proposition 2). Now the bond propositions before you are to extend the time the Town has to pay the BAN from 5 years to 14 years. Since the length of the indebtedness is now over 5 years, by law, the purchase of these trucks and plows are now subject to permissive referendum. Because almost 600 signatures were collected last October, the permissive referendum now must go to the voters of the Town of New Hartford for approval on March 29, 2007.

Some of our questions to the town board are what about next year and the year after? Will you once again be bonding to pay for Highway equipment? When is the next time you will need to purchase new Highway equipment?

Previously, approximately $350,000 a year was allocated in the approved town budget to replace Highway equipment. This year, even though they are hoping to bond for almost approximately $800,000 in equipment, they have also budgeted an additional $136,000 in the 2007 Highway Purchase New Equipment budget line. There is no answer for the question of when the board plans to bond again for highway equipment, but if you read Roger Cleveland's message on the town website, they are already looking at purchasing equipment to clear the sidewalks that they anticipate they will be putting in and around the town.

On February 16, 2007, we submitted a Freedom of Information request for a list of all town equipment, but it has not been made available to us as of yet. We are puzzled by the delay in being able to obtain this information because by town board resolution on May 5, 2004, the Town Clerk is supposed to keep an updated list of all vehicles (Town Board Resolution below):

Motor Pool Committee (From the May 5, 2004 town board minutes)

Councilman Backman and Councilman Woodland finished the review of town vehicles and will review further which ones shall be removed from the Town’s fleet and insurance coverage. The Parks/Recreation and Police Department vehicles are in order; all vehicles from all Departments will be required to carry a current insurance card. Because of a recent accident involving a Town vehicle not covered under the Town’s insurance policy and the Town Clerk’s offer to handle insurance coverage, Councilman Butler presented the following Resolution for adoption; seconded by Councilman Woodland:

(RESOLUTION NO. 162 OF 2004)

RESOLVED that the Town Board of the Town of New Hartford does hereby establish the following policy regarding the Town’s fleet of vehicles, effective May 6, 2004:

all Department Heads shall notify the Town Clerk’s Office in writing when a new or used vehicle that has been purchased has been received, including the descriptive listing of that vehicle (VIN, year, make, model, color, cost, etc.) and the date received

all Department Heads shall likewise notify the Town Clerk’s Office when a vehicle has (is being) removed from the Town’s fleet, including the date sold or otherwise disposed of

all Department Heads, upon receiving the Certificate of Origin for a vehicle, shall immediately arrange to register the vehicle with the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles so that a Certificate of Title will be issued

all Certificates of Title shall immediately be filed in the Town Clerk’s Office

upon receipt of a Department Head’s written notification that a vehicle (s) has been received, the Town Clerk’s Office shall immediately arrange for insurance coverage

upon receipt of a Department Head’s written notification that a vehicle has (will be) removed from the Town’s fleet, the Town Clerk’s Office shall arrange discontinuance of insurance coverage.

So is someone not doing what Town Board Resolution 162 of 2004 states or is there another reason why we are not being given the information we requested? Perhaps they prefer that residents do not know the age and type of equipment presently owned by the town. The Town Clerk says she is waiting for information from the Highway Superintendent. We believe that residents have a right to view the town vehicle inventory so they can make an informed decision when they vote on a plan to spend additional tax dollars and since the information should be readily available in the Town Clerk's office, we have to question the motives behind the delay in responding to our FOIL request.

For more information on these bond propositions and/or to find out where to vote, visit our website.

1 comment:

KnightRyder said...

I am a newcomer to reading about issues that impact town residents and find your articles well-written, balanced and most importantly extremely credible. Not being sure of where your information was coming from; I did take the liberty of independently reviewing your commentary and there can be no doubt that the substance of your articles is correctly stated.

I was particularly concerned over the Town Clerk’s failure in not providing timely information requests. Common sense tells me that any requested document should be readily available from the Town Clerk’s files and/or the Town accountant. It is my understanding that both these individuals work in the same building. It would seem to me that the Town Accountant would need a vehicle inventory to reconcile to the Town’s General Ledger account both as to value and depreciated value. This is Accounting 101, “books of original entry.”

I did take the time to go to the Town’s internet page and attempt to find out more information about the Town’s Bonding Proposal. In reading the Town’s comments, I got a funny feeling that the Town was not being truthful to the residents. Your explanation of each Bond proposal together with specific examples made much more sense. Why is the Town not coming forward with the truth?

The conclusion I am reaching in the requested Bond Proposal is that it points to the Town having something to hide. We have all heard, “where there is smoke there is fire.” The Town’s explanation lacks credibility; however, it does support a need to have independent auditors examine the Town’s books, especially the spending requests initiated by the Town Highway Superintendent. Town residents deserve more information from Town Officials than what they have received to date.

Incidentally, I was one of those 600 signatures to the petition giving Town residents their rights to vote. I was upset that town officials did not voluntarily go forth and put this matter to a public vote.

I would like to see more information made available on your internet page, especially, anything that pertains to the 1 Oxford Road Crossing. In doing my own independent research, I found where the current owner had his assessment reduced after purchasing this property. If true, who did this and how did this come to pass? Where was the town assessor when all this was going on? Also, I did note that the Town Highway Supervisor has leased (?) a Gradall at $5,000/monthly??? In reviewing the Town budget; I did not see where there was a line item approving this monthly expense. Who approved this and how much money has been paid for the Gradall – to date??? Seems like a total waste of monies and questionable acquisition of this piece of equipment. Is this something the Town wants to Bond for? If so, how can this be done…after-the fact???

I do hope this is NOT business as usual that the Town residents will demand more information and accountability from our town officials, hopefully, before the March 29, 2007 vote.

Lastly, on a personal note, I would like to thank all town residents (Citizens For Honest and Open Government) who came out in the cold to obtain not only my signature but from others who want OPEN & HONEST GOVERNMENT within the Town of New Hartford.

RECOMMENDATION: I think you should start an e-mail address for those wanting to hear more from your well-written articles in this and related matters.