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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Highway Department (cont'd)

So what happened to the Gradall that the Town of New Hartford used to have? We don't have an "official" answer to that question because we have not received a reply to our Freedom Of Information (FOIL) request of February 22, 2007, but we heard from a reliable source that it was indeed sold this past Fall. We have looked over the town board minutes, but can find no resolution regarding the sale of a Gradall.

According to the Freedom of Information Law, the town has 20 business days to respond to us after they receive our request. Therefore, they have until March 22, to respond. If they don't respond by then, we then have to file an appeal with the Town Board. It won't be the first and I am sure it won't be the last!

Questions still are unanswered regarding the February 26, 2007 Invitation to Bid request that was advertised in the Observer Dispatch.

1. The company who bid on the Gradall is from Syracuse and just happens to be the same company that the town currently has a lease purchase agreement with. Does the Syracuse company get the Observer Dispatch and, therefore, they saw the Invitation to Bid or did the town notify them of the bid invitation? If they notified them (Vantage Equipment), how many other companies did they make aware of the Invitation to Bid? At the March 14, 2007 town board meeting Roger Cleveland said he only received one bid. Although the Gradall bid was on the town board agenda, Roger Cleveland's comments were brief and the town board, at the suggestion of Roger Cleveland, decided to sit on it for the time being.

2. According to the bid request in the Observer Dispatch, the town was looking for bids for a "used" Gradall. The Gradall they are currently leasing is a 2006 demo, in other words, a used vehicle. Was this bid proposal purposely "geared" toward the Gradall that the town is currently leasing so that no one else would be able to bid?

3. While we don't know the actual bid price, the price quoted in the bond resolution was $225,800. We did some internet searches and found a link to the Gradall Company and a brochure on the same model as the town is currently leasing. The LIST price for that equipment is $211,000--you will find a red box around the model the town is currently leasing if you view the brochure. The Gradall the town is leasing does seem to have a few extras, but this is a used Gradall. Why are we paying so much for a used Gradall, when a brand new one lists for $211,000? Are list prices what you would usually expect to pay for the equipment?

4. How many hours of operating time does this "used" Gradall have? Would we be better off buying new?

While we are on the subject of Highway equipment, we filed a Freedom of Information request on February 16, 2007. We asked for a listing of all town vehicles to include:
1. Department assigned to
2. Vehicle Year
3. Vehicle Make
4. Vehicle Model
5. Date Acquired by the town

We also asked the Town Clerk to note the "as of" date of the list of vehicles we are provided with as a result of our FOIL.

To date, the town has been unable or unwilling to provide us with the list of equipment currently owned by the Town of New Hartford. The last time we heard from the Town Clerk, March 14, 2007, she said and I quote "I'm awaiting verification from certain departments to ensure we have an accurate list". That is very strange, because in the minutes of May 5, 2004, the following resolution was passed as the result of an accident with a town vehicle that was not insured at the time of the accident. No one was injured; however, because there was no insurance on the vehicle the town (i.e. taxpayers) paid to have the vehicle repaired. That accident with an uninsured truck prompted the following resolution on May 5, 2004:

    Motor Pool Committee

    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..The Resolution was declared unanimously carried and duly adopted.

So it begs the question, if everyone is supposed to report any new vehicles purchased by the Town of New Hartford to the Town Clerk's office and the Town Clerk is supposed to be the keeper of the Title Certificates and make sure that all vehicles are insured, wouldn't you think that the list of vehicles in the Town Clerk's office is up-to-date? Why then, can't we get a copy within a month's time period?

If we aren't keeping an up-to-date list of vehicles currently owned by the town, how do we know whether or not all of our vehicles are insured?

To top it off, I requested the Highway Superintendent's budget worksheets to see the detail for the $136,000 in the 2007 Highway Purchase New Equipment budget line. I found it interesting that with all the new equipment we are being asked to bond for the Highway Dept., the Highway Superintendent still felt he needed an extra $136,000 in the 2007 budget line for new equipment.

Greed abounds in the Town of New Hartford Highway Department! Furthermore, all of these questions are really just thinking out loud, because in reality, the Highway Superintendent did not have the authority to enter into a contract for a lease purchase agreement with Vantage Equipment for the Gradall and does not appear to have been given any authority to dispose of the old Gradall. And if the Highway Dept. "needs" a Gradall as Highway Superintendent Cleveland says, then why would you get rid of the one that you have before you are sure that you can replace it. Remember, the Gradall is currently one of the pieces of equipment that is part of a bond resolution (Resolution #6) that has yet to be voted on by the residents. The vote will take place on March 29, 2007. Guess our vote doesn't matter, some town officials seem to think they can do whatever they want!

Stay tuned! There is still more to come!

2 comments:

Jason said...

So...it appears that the Town of New Hartford elected officials think that they are above the law. I think not!

Remember the old nursery rhyme, "All the Kings horses and all the Kings men...could not put Humpy Dumpty back...together again."

I am concerned that the Town Supervisor has given the Town a "black-eye" in terms of Honesty & Integrity.

Question remains: where do we go from here?

Can anything be done to get remove these people from office. How about the NYS Attorney General and/or Governor? It surely is worth a try.

Anonymous said...

Oh what a tangled web we weave.........