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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Hartford Town Board Meeting...

tonight, May 27, 2009 at 6 p.m. in Butler Hall. Agenda now online!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Now and into the future...

Two interesting editorials in today's Observer Dispatch; Reed must now focus on town's future and Successor needs vision.

Expecting Supervisor Reed to suddenly ask for public involvement is a long stretch, but it needs to happen if the Town of New Hartford is to truly move forward.

The Observer Dispatch editorial says:
One of Reed’s suggestions is for the town to hire a comptroller, and that idea certainly needs to be part of the public discussion.
Didn't the town just announce last week that Councilwoman Krupa would be screening candidates to possibly hire a comptroller? Where did they advertise the position? Who do they plan to interview? Shouldn't everyone who is interested have a chance to apply?

The editorial goes on to say:
The position was eliminated in January 2002 by then-Town Supervisor Ralph Humphreys and approved by the board as a way to save money. That hasn't been the case. Since the job was scrapped, it has actually cost the town a considerable sum for accounting and financial services, most of which could have been handled by a professional financial officer.
True, Ralph Humphreys did eliminate the position in 2002, but let's be honest about something. The financial problems didn't start with Ralph Humphreys; it didn't start costing the town "a considerable sum for accounting and financial services" until AFTER Earle Reed took office.

It was during Reed's administration that the Citizens Budget Committee was disbanded. Reed was quoted in the Observer Dispatch at the time saying:
'My philosophy is, citizens don't have all the information we have.' 'My (department) leaders have too many things going on to sit with residents on the committee.'
As today's editorial points out:
Fact is, in this case, blame can also be placed on town board members — some of whom have been publicly silent on the issue — who share responsibility for this financial fiasco. While the overseer of town finances might be the supervisor, board members, too, are guardians of public dollars and have failed the people who elected them by not keeping track of their money.
You bet the entire town board is to blame for this financial fiasco. However, of the candidates recently endorsed by the New Hartford Republican Committee for re-election, only three (3) nay votes were ever cast at a board meeting; one (1) 'nay' vote by Councilman Reynolds and two (2) 'nay' votes by Councilman Payne.

  • At the Sept. 12, 2007 meeting, Reynolds & Payne voted 'nay' regarding possibly opening the Stormwater Meetings to the public. That vote was rescinded after Concerned Citizens filed a Notice of Claim against the town.
  • On July 11, 2007, Councilman Payne voted 'nay' to allowing Concerned Citizens to have a copy of the assessment database; even though by law it is FOILable. Once again Concerned Citizens prevailed and a copy was eventually made available to us.
Quite a track record! Without any discussion, the biggest share of the time, all board members were in total agreement with everything that came before them to include the payment of bills and the budget. Are they are truly looking out for the interests of town residents and taxpayers that they were elected to represent or rubber-stamping the desires of the party led by Town Attorney Green?

Take a look at Attorney Green's invoices...he billed the town to investigate whether or not we could post videotaped town board meetings on the internet. He billed the town to make decisions on almost every FOIL request we submitted as to whether the information could be released to us; he billed the town to investigate whether documents needed to be released to us in their native format or whether the town could use pdf files as a means to try to make it difficult for us to use the information. How much money did it cost taxpayers for Attorney Green to try to block our attempts to make information readily available to residents in New Hartford?

So now the Town of New Hartford is in financial trouble. Do we sit back and merely vote in the same old politicians endorsed by the Republican Party hoping that this time it will be different? Clearly, if you attend town board meetings you would know that Earle Reed was not the man pulling the strings. He was the puppet for Dave Reynolds and Attorney Green.

The editorial goes on to say:
The discussion needs to begin now. And part of the dialogue needs to be a public explanation of what went wrong and what safeguards must be put in place to make sure this never happens again.
We agree wholeheartedly; the discussion needs to begin now and the public needs to be involved. Mr. Kalil has already stated that if he decides to run, he will be an advocate of open government. Will Mr. Tyksinki, the candidate endorsed by the New Hartford Republican Party that is headed by Attorney Green, vow to go against the current Republican controlled board and make town government open?

We offer our forum to any candidate running for office in the Town of New Hartford. We will post in its entirety any commentary submitted to us for publication. Let's see which candidates are willing to be open about their ideas and goals if they are elected this Fall.

Our email is concerned@nhconcernedcitizens.com.

For more commentary on Attorney Green's invoices to the Town of New Hartford, be sure to read Strikeslip's blog, Raining Nickels and Dimes....

Saturday, May 23, 2009

So just who...

has really been running the show for the past 3 1/2 years?

Earle Reed recently announced that he will not be running for re-election. Of course, that was right after the Observer Dispatch ran an article that the General Fund (the rainy day fund) is $2.6 million less than it was when Earle took office, leaving only $250,000 available at year end in 2008.

We have a copy of the 2008 financials that were filed with the State Comptrollers' Office and we will be blogging more about the contents of them soon. At any rate, we thought we should put some invoices out there so you can actually see for yourself who was making some of the executive decisions. It wasn't Earle...

Town Attorney Gerald Green was billing the town $150 an hour. The town even paid him $150 an hour to attend staff meetings and other meetings and telephone conferences with staff. He was even paid $150 an hour to decide whether or not Concerned Citizens would be allowed an answer to our FOIL requests (a determination that is supposed to be made by the Records Access Officer - Gail Wolanin Young). You will need Adobe 4.0 or later to view these files:

2006 Invoices
2007 Invoices
2008 Invoices
2009 Invoices (January and February only)

Frank Basile's CPA firm has been billing the town $150 an hour for his work and $80 an hour for an associate.
Sept. 2007 to Dec. 2007
Jan. to Dec. 2008
Amazing that it could cost taxpayers about $150,000 over the 16 month period of Mr. Basile's contract for "professional accounting services" and we now find out that the General Fund has basically been depleted. Further, according to a recent Observer Dispatch article, Councilwoman Krupa, an accountant and lawyer herself, stated that Frank Basile hasn't been ruled out to be hired as comptroller to figure out where the $2.6 million went.
Krupa said firm owner Frank Basile had not been called in for interviews.

“That doesn’t rule him out,” she said. “It just means we are looking for different ideas than we have used in the past.”
Wouldn't that be like throwing good money after bad?

Different ideas? Perhaps different people sitting around the table might be the answer starting with a new town board. Amazing how you can tell the Observer Dispatch on Tuesday that you will be holding interviews on Thursday (2 days later)...where did they advertise for the position? Perhaps Ms. Krupa might do best to read the town's Procurement Policy...the one mandated by Town Law.

Just what role did Earle Reed play? It was obvious if you attended any of the town board meetings. It wasn't Earle Reed calling all the shots. So just what will be accomplished by replacing Earle Reed with Pat Tyksinski when all the rest of the players will be the same?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The race is on....

Tonight, the New Hartford Republican Committee chose Pat Tyksinski as their candidate for Town Supervisor.

However, another viable contender has come forward; John Kalil.

Mr. Kalil is a newcomer to the political scene; exactly what this town needs. New Hartford needs someone who has the best interest of taxpayers in mind...someone who cares about the community and has no allegiance to the "good ole boys"!

According to an article in the Observer Dispatch:
Kalil, 38, is a financial adviser. He said he would consider running for the office despite not getting his party’s nod, and he may try to screen before other parties to see if they will back him.

“I would certainly be willing to run if others were willing to step forward in support of me,” he said.

Kalil said he would work to make the town’s budget process more open to the public, and would even seek to create a citizens’ budget committee.

He said he also wants to see more openness in town government in general.
Citizens' Budget Committee...budget process more open to the public...Open Government...What a concept!

Mr. Kalil, Concerned Citizens wants to talk to you and we ARE interested in supporting you; we will be in touch.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's NOT the Economy, stupid!

There's not much more we can add to the article in today's Observer Dispatch Town fund down $2.6M since ’06 - Reed ‘distressed,’ cites economy for 90 percent drop.

We can tell you that there is evidence that the town board knew about the problem for months and more than likely they were aware of their problems for a couple of years. Concerned Citizens FOILed all of Town Attorney Green's invoices from 2006 through February 2009. A lot can be gleaned from looking at them. One invoice submitted to the town by Attorney Green was of particular interest. It reads:


05/31/07 Meeting with Fairbrother re: check for Kavod Rd., accounting/bookkeeping concerns. (9:00-9:30)
Ms. Fairbrother is the appointed town bookkeeper who received over $71,000 in overtime that was not due her. Why would the town bookkeeper go to the town attorney for bookkeeping/accounting concerns when her direct supervisor is Earle Reed? Shouldn't Ms. Fairbrother have approached Earle Reed first with any problems concerning the financials of the town? Why was Ms. Fairbrother paid overtime when she clearly was not entitled to overtime or compensatory time because she is an exempt Civil Service employee who was appointed rather than hired by taking a Civil Service exam?

By Town Law, Supervisor Reed is responsible for the fiscal operations of the town. Was Frank Basile's CPA firm hired in August 2007, shortly after Ms. Fairbrother's visit to the town attorney, to fix a mess or cover-up problems when Earle Reed had no idea what to do?

Several hints of the financial problems plaguing the current town board have been given at town board meetings over the past few months. For example, there is no money for Highway paving in the 2009 Adopted Budget where normally $300,000 is made available. There is no money for new town highway equipment in the 2009 budget where normally a minimum of $300,000 is budgeted. Often times, Earle Reed has made inferences during town board meetings that there are budgetary problems. For Earle Reed to say:


“We are distressed about the situation, but we are on top of it,” he said. “I don’t think anyone visualized the meltdown of the economy. It’s affected us, but we still have to maintain basic services.”
Supervisor Reed, you are distressed...that is hardly the word for the way that the majority of town residents feel...pissed is more like it! Meltdown of the economy...you have to be kidding! There was no meltdown of the economy in 2006, 2007 or early 2008. Even when the economy started failing, the New Hartford Town Board adopted a 2009 budget with far more anticipated sales tax then they could ever hope to get in a good year, let alone a year of declining retail sales. This was done in a apparent attempt to keep the 2009 tax rate down so that the bonding for development of Larry Adler's business park would be passed by the voters. Supervisor Reed do you call this being "on top of it"?

Three members of this town board are up for re-election in November 2009; Reed, Reynolds and Payne...all Republicans. To think they will resign before November is hopeful, but doubtful. However, to expect them to not run again is not out of the question. The Republican Party needs to find qualified people to run in November and not back the current regime just because Town Attorney Green is the chairman of the New Hartford Republican Committee...to give the backing of the party to these same people is not in the best interest of the town or representative of the wishes of the majority of registered Republicans. And just because this is a Republican town doesn't mean that the Democrats, Conservatives or any other party that puts up a candidate can't win the election.

It's time for a change starting from the top down!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Word for the Day is...

Windmills


in a non-agricultural district of Ward 1 in the Town of New Hartford

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fees in Lieu of Mitigation and Flow Credits...

A recent Observer Dispatch editorial regarding the sewer credit system doesn't tell the whole story in the Town of New Hartford.

According to Resolution 69 of 2008 - Intermunicipal agreement with NYM adopted at the March 9, 2008 Town Board meeting, the Town of New Hartford signed a Intermunicipal Agreement with the Village of New York Mills.

The Town paid $31,000+ for sewer repairs in the Village of New York Mills and in turn the town received the sewer credits that would have been given to the Village of NYM.

The Village of New York Mills was agreeable because they felt it would give them the money they needed to pay for sewer repairs in other parts of the Village. From the minutes of the December 11, 2007 Regular Board Meeting, Village of New York Mills:
Engineer - Al reported the Town of New Hartford has agreed to fully fund $31,000 for the Henderson Street project. We will now be able to complete other work on Royal Brook Lane and Burr Ave. The contractor is willing to do extra work for the Town of New Hartford to buy infiltration removals credits. Trustee Semeniak made a motion seconded by Trustee Jarosz to approve the Engineer written report which is on file in the Clerk's office.
No problem. Everyone got what they wanted, right? Not exactly.

To pay for the sewer credits, the Town of New Hartford used Fees in Lieu of Mitigation collected from developers in the Seneca Turnpike/Commercial Drive Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) area (i.e. Sangertown Square, Consumer Square, Pep Boys, etc.). According to the April 9, 2008 Town of New Hartford board minutes - Budget Transfer/IMA - Resolution #69 of 2008 Seneca Tpke-Commercial Drive GEIS explains the plan. Here is an excerpt:
WHEREAS, as the I/I removal was a mitigation project for offsite issues of environmental significance in the Seneca Turnpike-Commercial Drive Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) corridor, funds from the Seneca Turnpike-Commercial Drive GEIS’ Mitigation Fees, Sanitary Sewer category shall be used to procure the offset credits;
It is not the responsibility of the town to fix Village of NYM sewer problems; NYM is responsible for fixing their own sewer problems. And the main problem with the deal is that the Village of NYM is not even part of the Seneca Turnpike/Commercial Drive GEIS; Concerned Citizens confirmed that with Town staff.

Fees in Lieu of Mitigation (FILM) are monies collected from developers in a GEIS area in order to mitigate any potential problems that might be caused as a result of their development. The town used monies collected from developers in the Town of New Hartford to pay for repairs in the Village of New York Mills. Why aren't developers paying for their own sewer credits?

Fast forward...At the April 8, 2009 Town Board meeting, the board approved the hiring of former Town Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland as a consultant. According to the proposal submitted by Mr. Cleveland and unanimously approved by the town board:
Fees In Lieu of Mitigation (FILM)

BACKGROUND: The Town of New Hartford currently has an unclear spending policy for monies offered to the Town by developers within the two existing GEIS areas that is in lieu of actual mitigation of offsite environmental issues of significance related to economic development. Past expenditures have been based on either the unilateral recommendation of a former Special Counsel, or the unilateral recommendation of a Town staff member, albeit all past expenditures have received approval of the Town Board. At this time none of the original Town staff or Town Board members who were intimately involved with the GEIS studies or the original thinking as to how and on what to expend FILM monies are employed by the Town, so any original unwritten standards are no longer available as a guide.

To clarify this matter, and to adopt policy that is applicable for the variety of offsite issues of environmental significance that are identified in the GEIS and well as others, that while not specifically identified, are determined to have a reasonable nexus, it is deemed necessary to have a written policy upon which every consideration of expenditure can be evaluated.
FLOW CREDITS

BACKGROUND:
It has come to light that the acquisition, banking and selling of flow credits to progress economic development while under the Oneida County Sewer District Consent Order is bereft with possible legal challenges. These challenges include, but are not limited to the actual sale price, priority in disposing of, and retaining them for future projects. As we know of no other community in the district that has as yet banked or sold flow credits, and as the Town of New Hartford has generated flow credits and has developers wanting to purchase them, the Town Board desires to develop a written policy for dealing with them so that every developer is subject to the same criteria, at both the Town Board level and at the Planning Board level.
For his work, Mr. Cleveland will be paid $1,800 lump sum for the FILM project and $1,800 lump sum for the Flow Credits project. Plus Mr. Cleveland will receive:
Additional Direct Expenses Travel out of Town at Town established rate per mile.

Town to furnish working space including phone, internet service, and printer at no cost to service provider.

Town to provide photocopier at no cost to service provider.

Typing services and photocopying time to be provided at no cost to provider.
So if the town board felt there was no clear-cut policy, why did they unanimously approve the payment of monies from fees collected from developers in the Town of New Hartford to pay for mitigation in the Village of New York Mills? Shouldn't at least one of them questioned the legality of the deal given the policy that was clearly in place prior to this administration? Under what authority did the Town use monies collected from developers in the town proper to mitigate issues in the Village?

This sounds more like a plan to re-write the policy to suit the needs of the current town board and their "developer" friends!

Strikeslip over at Fault Lines has more...The Down Side of Sewer Credits...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The more you know...

On page 37 of the May issue of the Town Crier is an article that was submitted by Edmund Wiatr, Co-Founder, Concerned Citizens for Honest & Open Government entitled "SCULLY Toxic Waste Dump Site – CLEAN-UP or COVER-UP?" Mr. Wiatr presents some facts that are contrary to information being given to the public by the town board, Lockheed Martin, and the D.E.C.; facts that Concerned Citizens can support with actual documentation we have received through diligent research and through Freedom of Information Law requests to the D.E.C., the E.P.A., and the NYS Health Department.

Concerned Citizens has been investigating the Scully Toxic Dump Site for some time now. We have old newspaper articles; we have talked to people in the area; and we have scoured old town board minutes.

Of particular interest is the town board minutes from a meeting held at the New Hartford Central School on Oxford Road dated Wednesday, April 8, 1987. This meeting was held to give residents a chance to voice their concerns and to ask questions of officials in attendance (all officials at this meeting are listed at the beginning of the minutes). Here is a copy of those minutes...16 pages long! We have highlighted some of the more important parts in yellow.

The 1987 minutes state that:
Once the clean-up is completed, there is a long-term monitoring program normally at this point for thirty (30) years.
This ties in with the email dated March 3, 2008, that former Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland sent to all town board members, the town planner and the town engineer:
This matter has been going on for a number of years now, and if memory serves me right, remediation of this site will continue for another 50 years.
Yet at the February 25, 2009 Town Board Meeting Lockheed Martin representatives and the D.E.C. state:
The Scully site cleanup occurred throughout 2008 and will be finished in the first part of 2009. The “old” soil has been replaced with certified new soil.
We have proof that the "old" soil was not removed off-site; it was merely moved to one side of the "site" and then used to fill the hole back up!

Further, according to the February 25, 2009 town board minutes:
Answering Councilman Reynolds' inquiry about what the land could now be used for, Mr. Blackman replied that it could be used to build homes.
Homes???? As in "Welcome to New Hartford!"????

The April 8, 1987 minutes also include information regarding the dump site on Chenango Road where the town is planning to build a park with sports fields and where the extension of the Rayhill Trail is planned. As evidenced by invoices submitted to the town by Town Attorney Green, the town is already planning "behind the scenes" and it's "full speed ahead" to develop this area.

To quote from the 1987 town board minutes regarding the Chenango site:
County Legislator John Collins inquired of Frank Chudzinski [a resident of Campion Road at the time of the 1987 meeting] whether the DOT was still dumping hazardous wastes at the Chenango Road site and Mr. Chudzinski responded, "I don't know; I stopped going over there. Do you know where the old railroad bridge is that's been abandoned? The minute you cross over on the side of the Creek where the State (DOT) building is, right down over the bank, right there, in that corner, is where they were dumping those big drums. There were a lot of them there two years ago and when I saw all that gook in there, I quit going over there fishing and this is something that DEC should know about."
The town knows exactly where that old railroad bridge is because they plan on putting a new bridge over it as part of the Rayhill Trail extension.

The 1987 minutes go on further to say regarding the dump on Chenango Road:
The time of operation was until 1965. Again, the generator of wastes, we believe, was General Electric...We did some surface soil sampling on the site and two of the sampling sites did show abnormally high levels, that is above background levels, of copper, chromium, lead, mercury and zinc."
According to the February 25, 2009 town board meeting, that site is still being worked on.

Concerned Citizens encourages everyone to read the entire 16 pages of the 1987 town board minutes; particularly if you live in the Valley View Road area or have any connection with the playing fields on Campion Road, the proposed park behind the Highway Garage or the proposed Rayhill Trail extension into NYM.

We will be continuing this blog...we have so much information that it is overwhelming...Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Town Board Meeting...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 6 p.m. in Butler Hall.

Agenda now online!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Concerned Citizens is now...

a 501 (c) (4) tax exempt organization.

What does that mean? It means that we are now able to accept donations.

As a 501 (c) (4) organization, we are not required to pay income tax on any donations we receive. While donations to our organization are not tax-deductible, ALL monies donated to Concerned Citizens will be used to further our goals as outlined in our mission statement.

We will be posting further information shortly.

New Hartford Central School Budget Hearing...

This Tuesday, May 5, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. in the High School Library.

New Hartford budget is approximately $3 million more than the 2008/2009 school budget and yet they tell us there is no tax increase. Hmmm... If no tax increase, where are they getting the extra $3 million dollars?

If we compare the revenues from the 2008-2009 budget to the 2009-2010 budget, it is quite easy to see where the bulk of the additional revenue is coming from (click on the graphic for larger print):

Most revenue source increases are $0, but the biggest increase in anticipated revenue is Tax Levy, State Aid, BOCES AID, and End of Year Balance with the largest source of additional revenue coming from State AID and BOCES AID.

The Tax Levy line item is an educated guess (no pun intended) because there is no way the school can know now what they will receive in tax revenue until after any grievances or certioraris settlements are taken into account and the tax monies are received by the District.

However, the State Aid and BOCES Aid are actual numbers. Almost $2.5 million more aid will be received in 2009/2010 than the previous year. Ah, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 whereby the school will receive extra AID this year and in the 2010-2011 school year. After that, in the 2011/2012 school year, the aid will no longer be available. So with an increase in this year's budget and more than likely next year's budget, what will happen for the 2011-2012 school year when the extra aid is no longer available? How will the school make up the shortfall?

We can believe that once the stimulus money is no longer available the school will cut the extra spending, but that's not being realistic...when was the last time the school budget decreased?

We can be optimistic and talk about all the new commercial development that will take place between now and 2012 thus giving us extra property tax revenue. However, let's look at the PILOT given to a private developer whereby school, town and county tax revenue will be used to build the infrastructure in the New Hartford Business Park. Here is a copy of the PILOT letter sent to The Hartford for the 2008/2009 school year. A note at the bottom of the letter states:
Please forward a check payable to OCIDA in the amount of $24,535.37 to my attention in the Business Office of the New Hartford Central School District, 29 Oxford Road, New Hartford, NY 13413.
The school is requesting that the check be made out to OCIDA because the tax revenue is being forwarded to OCIDA (Oneida County Industrial Development Agency). The school will not see a penny of tax revenue from this 'new development' for the next 15 years. How many other PILOTs will be approved in the same fashion where the school sees no extra tax revenue for 15 years as a result of the OCIDA new Uniform Tax Exemption Policy (more on that on a future blog). Here is a FOILed document listing the PILOT payments for New Hartford Central School from 2005 to 2008.

We can talk about all the new people moving into our area as a result of job growth in our area. But is that being realistic? Over the past several years, we have seen an exodus from our area leaving behind an aging population in the Town of New Hartford. A copy of the 1992 GEIS for the area to include Seneca Turnpike (NYS Rt 5) - Commercial Drive (NYS RT 5A) - Middlesettlement Road (NYS RT 5B CTY RT 30) stated back in 1992...the school enrollment was declining, we have an aging population and population in general was declining. It was felt that we needed to encourage development in this corridor of New Hartford in order to reverse the trend. Almost twenty (20) years later, we are still facing the same issues as evidenced by an Observer Dispatch article in 2007. How many new homes will we realistically see built in New Hartford in the next 2 or 3 years?

Here are some reports that we received through FOILs:

  • the 2006 and the 2007 Financial Statements.
We were also given answers to the following questions asked through FOIL requests:

1. Cost of tuition to attend New Hartford Schools for those outside of the District.

The cost of tuition in accordance with the State Education formula (referred to as the Seneca Falls formula) is as follows:

Grades K-6.......$8,552
Grades 7-12.......$11,444
2. Twenty-one (21) students are known to attend the school district, however are not residents. Seven (7) at Myles, Seven (7) at Bradley and Seven (7) at Hughes. We would like to know how many of the 21 students are paying school tuition for the 2008-2009 school year.
Currently two (2) non resident students are paying tuition.
3. We would like to know the actual cost to educate each student within the school district.
The most current cost according to the New York State School Report Card to educate each student within the school district is $8,258.
Hmm...is this the cost we would get if we divided the budget by the number of students enrolled in the district?

Is a budget with a $3,000,000 spending increase and $0 tax rate increase a good thing or an attempt to fool you into believing the school is being fiscally responsible with your tax dollars?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hmmm....

Did the Town of New Hartford all of a sudden find some 'extra' money? Funny, we don't remember the topic "obtaining bids for new carpeting in the courts" being discussed at a town board meeting. One would think that since the town board is looking at a $500,000 sales tax revenue shortfall, they would be looking to get the best price whenever possible, particularly on non-essential items like carpeting.

Snyder's spent most of yesterday ripping out old carpeting and putting in new. Does this mean that the purchase of 19 Campion Road and the search for a new town court building are off the table?