Citizens for an Informed Yorktown

 

 

Town Board

August 13, 2013

 

Closed Session

For advice of counsel and personnel

 

Open Session

 

1. Financial Update

Nick DiSantis of the outside auditing firm of O’Connor Davies, along with a second representative of the company, presented  a summary of the 2012 audit which is still in draft form pending some legal opinions. The auditors are expected to make a public presentation at the September 3 meeting. Overall, the auditors stated that the town is in very good and sound financial shape. They noted that the town benefited from increased economic activity, that the town did a good job of managing the budget and that the town was able to absorb the unanticipated costs of Hurricane Sandy (note: the FEMA reimbursement will be revenue for 2013.)

 

(Note: The following numbers are based on the verbal presentation and may not be 100% accurate.)

The general fund ended the year with a $1.2 million revenue surplus, the largest variances from the budget coming from $394,000 more in sales tax and franchise fees, $240,000 from licenses and permits, mostly building permits, and $114,000 in state aid.  Expenses were $252,000 less than the revised budget. 

 

The total fund balance for the general fund is somewhat more than $7 million, but of that amount only $4.7 million is unassigned,  an increase of $1.6 million from the 2011 fund balance.  The funds within the remaining four categories of the fund balance are committed to other expenses. 

 

Fund balances for the other funds were:

Combined water districts: $6.2 million

Combined sewer: $6.175 million

Refuse: $767,000

Library: $996,000

Highway: $400,000

(Note: the auditors did not distinguish what portion of these fund balances were unassigned.)

 

In response to the auditor’s comments about the $1.1 million in general fund revenue from transfer payments from the special districts, Councilman Bianco asked the auditor if there was a formula for how to assess those payments. In response, the auditor said that there are a variety of ways the amount of the payments can be determined but that there should be a plan describing how those payments are arrived at, the methodology should be documented and the methodology should  be periodically reviewed and updated. The auditor offered his assistance in helping the town arrive at a methology.

 

Supervisor Grace stated that 17% of the town’s budget represented special districts and that if the town was run like a business, it would be able to shed 17% of its overhead.  When he noted that it cost the town money to save $800,000 on the garbage contract (to prepare the new contract), he said that the cost to administer the new contract didn’t change. Which led Councilman Bianco to state that by the same token, then next year the payment could be reduced.

 

The auditors noted that under new accounting rules, the town has to quantify its long term costs for health benefits for current and retired employees although it is not required to set aside money for that future expense.  They said the town’s liability was $37 million. (The discussion was not clear on how that translated into yearly costs compared to what the town currently pays but the auditors did say that basically the town couldn’t afford to put that future requirement into a current reserve fund.)

 

There was also a brief discussion about debt service and the amount of debt service the town could take on in future years. (See below for discussion on capital budget.)  Debt service currently costs the town $2.5 million but that amount is scheduled to drop through 2015 and then drop more quickly after that.  The auditors suggested that as the debt service payments for existing debt decreased, the town could, if it wanted, incur new debt without increasing the overall debt service portion of the town budget.  The auditor advised the Board to discuss debt service issues, including the changing interest rate picture, with its financial advisor.

 

2. Capital Budget

Supervisor Grace said that as some current debt is retired in 2015, the town should deal with certain deferred maintenance issues that needed to be done immediately. Based on discussions at staff meetings and his tour of building roofs, he said that the YCCC and police department roofs were in good shape but need3ed some repair and that the roof over the town hall board room needed to be replaced. He noted that there were exhaust fans on the top of the YCCC roof and he has directed staff to examine whether they are being or can be utilized.  Windows at the YCCC did not have to be replaced.

 

Other necessary capital projects included work on some culverts and digitizing town records which he said would result in significant savings.  A list of $2.93 million worth of capital projects has been drawn up. If that amount were to be borrowed, it would add $422,000 in debt service to the annual budget.

 

Looking over the list, Councilman Bianco suggested that some items, such as vehicle purchases could be eliminated and paid for out of current funds, reducing the amount to be borrowed to about $2.5 million.

 

No decisions were made.

 

3. Town web site

Assistant Town Planner Robyn Steinberg unveiled a proposed new design for the town’s web site which, she explained, would be more user friendly.  The Board gave her the okay to proceed with her plan.

 

4. Towing bid

(Note: the bid gives the winning vendor the ability to tow distressed vehicles within the town and also includes towing town-owned vehicles. Bids were received in April, but no decision has been made to award the bid.)

 

The two bidders appeared before the Board to argue their case why they should be awarded the bid. The attorney for Yorktown Auto Body acknowledged that Hilltop Service Station was the highest bidder but stated that the latter did not meet several items in the bid specs such as the required storage and the availability of a heavy duty tow truck. He also questioned why it has taken so long to award the bid.

 

Calling the issue “complicated,” Councilman Paganelli said the town would do a better job on the bid specs next year and Supervisor Grace said it was unfair to hold up awarding the bid much longer. Councilman Murphy, noting that both bidders were local businesses, said he wanted to do what was best for the constituents.

 

The Board decided that the town attorney would complete the vetting process and make a recommendation to the Board. Both sides were directed to provide her with any documents in support of their position.

 

5. Yeshiva solar panels

Environmental consultant Bruce Barber explained the mitigation requirements under the Tree Law and suggested that a suitable mitigation measure would be constructing deer fencing either on-site or off-site, such as Turkey Mountain, to assist in the regeneration of the forest area.  The Board agreed with the concept and added as a condition of approval that the applicant install up to three acres of fencing in areas determined to be appropriate by the town engineer. An alternate mitigation measure that was suggested by Ron Buehl, a member of the Tree Commission, was for the applicant to do a Forest Management Plan. He explained that there would be no cost for  preparing the plan and that the property owner would not be required to implement any of the plan’s recommendations. However, Councilman Murphy objected to the idea explaining that he didn’t want to tell property owners what they should do on their property.

 

In a related issue having to do with a neighbor’s concern about runoff of  fecal coliform into Dream Lake, Dan Ciarcia advised the Board that the applicant will take care of a failing septic system on the site and would comply with all Department of Health requirements. Supervisor Grace noted that the county agency, not the town, had jurisdiction over the issue.

 

The Board voted to declare itself lead agency, adopt a negative SEQRA declaration and approve the excavation permit. The permit will not go into effect until after the Zoning Board approves the special permit next month.  It was noted that the applicant can excavate up to 5,000 square feet without the permit. This would only become an issue if the applicant needs to demonstrate to NYSERDA that work had begun on the project prior to the next Zoning Board meeting.

 

6. YCCC rental waivers

The Board had a brief discussion on the request from SPARC and Nor-West, two agencies that use the YCCC to provide recreational activities for disabled people, to waive the rent requirements. The combined annual amount of the rent was about $5,300.

 

Councilmen Murphy noted that sometimes the town “took a bath” when it waived rent fees and suggested that possibly the town could split the rental fee 50/50. He wanted a fair deal for the organizations as well as the town. Councilman Paganelli said the town needed to work out a formula for non-profit groups.

 

Initially, Councilman Paganelli noted that the town had an IMA (intermunicipal agreement) with Nor-West that included annual support, plus the rental. However, further into the discussion, Town Attorney Koster said that the IMA had to be reviewed as the rent issue seemed less clear.

 

The Board decided to postpone taking any action until either the Nor-West issue was cleared up or until budget time. 

 

7. Sludge removal bid

Apart from the discussion of relocating the highway garage to the Hill (see below), the Board agreed that it would be a cost savings to eliminate the sludge compacting operation and truck out the dewatered sludge. Based on that decision it awarded the bid for at a cost of $105/ton.

 

8. Highway Garage/Depot Square

(Note: The discussion and subsequent votes went back and forth between the two Request for Proposals (RFPs) being requested by Supervisor Grace: hiring an architect to design the new buildings, and an environmental consultant for the Phase II study. For clarity, the following summary tries separate the two items.)

 

Highway and Parks building

Councilman Bianco questioned whether Supervisor Grace’s $300,000 estimated cost for the highway garage, noting that when two bays were added to the existing garage many years ago it cost $180,000. He said he wanted to see more numbers.  He also raised the issue the county trailway that crossed the site, the need for input from DEC and DEP and he wanted to know who owned the Hill parcel, the sewer district or the town, Supervisor Grace said he had checked the records and that it was owned by the town.  When Councilman Bianco suggested that any design wait for the new highway superintendent, Supervisor Grace said he wanted to take advantage of the outgoing superintendent’s 18 years of experience.

 

Councilman Paganelli said he wanted the project to be cost neutral to taxpayers, that he thought the sale of the property could bring in more money than the new garages would cost to build, but that he wanted to see more cost information in writing.  Citing what appeared to be current commercial square foot construction costs, Supervisor Grace estimated that the 1˝ acre site was worth $1.8, plus an unspecified amount for demolition and cleanup. He said the demolition cost would be absorbed by the purchaser and held out the possibility of brownfield grants for the cleanup.  (Someone in the audience added:  if any are available.) Councilman Paganelli noted that in Greenburgh, the buyer of the contaminated former Franks Nursery was obligated to pay for the cleanup. And in response to his question about what would happen to the existing Parks Department building in Downing Park, Supervisor Grace said that the department already had ideas for its future reuse.

 

Planning Director Tegeder suggested that the issue be broken up into small steps, with an initial step being getting more information about the cost factors.  Councilman Bianco agreed with the idea but it wasn’t clear if he meant that town staff should gather some of the additional information before going out for an RFP or the RFP should generate the information.

 

After two votes were taken about the Phase II RFP (see below), Supervisor Grace said he would proceed with the RFP for the architect. (Note: it was not clear to the observer if there was a motion, second, or vote for this RFP.)

 

Phase II Environmental Study

Councilman Paganelli suggested that the issues of the removal of the highway garage and its relocation be taken up one at a time and that the town first get the quotes for the Butler buildings and then get input from the DEC and DEP in order to make sure that the Hill site is adequate. Councilman Murphy said he wanted to proceed with this RFP as he wanted to make sure the site was safe for the staff in the building and Supervisor Grace said it was irresponsible not to deal with a suspected contaminated site, even if it was a minimal contamination.

 

Supervisor Grace told the Board that going out for an RFP didn’t mean that that an award would be made and that there would be votes at every step. In response Councilman Bianco said that once the town did an RFP, a project typically moved ahead, to which Supervisor Grace responded: it doesn’t have to be that way.

 

When Councilman Patel suggested the Board wait until January and asked, “What’s the hurry?”  Supervisor Grace said the town has already waited 14 years for this project, a point challenged by Councilman Bianco.

 

On a motion from Supervisor Graceto proceed with the RFP, seconded by Councilman Murphy, the Board voted 2-3 with Councilmen Bianoc, Paganelli and Patel voting against the motion.

 

After the vote, Councilman Paganelli  asked town engineer Sharon Robinson, town attorney Jeannette Koster and Mr. Tegeder for their opinion about doing a Phase II. Ms. Robinson said that in the past, if a Phase I had been done, she recommended that a  Phase II be done although, she added, Town Board’s haven’t always taken her advice. Mr. Tegeder said he had no objections to a Phase II RFP as it was only to determine what the cost would be to do one. He said advertising for an RFP did not mean the town had to actually select someone.

 

Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, said she supported the concept of relocating the highway garage but questioned Councilman Murphy on why he favored a Phase II now when he opposed having the town do a Phase II in 2010 when it was proceeding with the $2.3 Granite Knolls purchase .  In response he said he opposed the purchase because he felt the property should have been foreclosed on but Councilman Bianco added that he did vote for the purchase. She also questioned why the town didn’t do Phase II studies on other town-owned property if it was concerned about the welfare of its employees. In response to her comment about why the rush to do a Phase II in the absence of any buyer, Supervisor Grace said he had at least four people interested in the property.

 

A second vote was called for (it wasn’t clear who made the motion or seconded it) and this time the Board voted 5-0 to advertise for the RFP.

 

9. Selected other resolutions

a. Greewood Street bridge. Awarded bid of $129,648.

b. Advertised bid for children’s room at library renovation

c. Approved selected budget transfers

d. Advertised  bid for street light maintenance

e. Granted a police officer GML 207c status for days of missed work related to injuries.