Letters (9/12-9/19)

mailHighway Department mismanagement

I wish to discuss the current state of the town Highway Department. After having received a series of freedom of information requests, I believe that the public pronouncement by the current highway supervisor and the reality of what is occurring is vastly different, and the taxpayers need to hear the rest of the story.

First I will acknowledge that in elected positions, difficulties are inevitable. Thus it is very common to surround yourself with competent individuals, people that you are familiar with who have a track record that can be relied upon. In the case of the current highway supervisor, Mr. Myer, he has hired an assistant supervisor who is a longtime friend. Unfortunately friendship does not equate to management competency. More importantly, friendship makes it difficult to say no to performance that is less than the taxpayers deserve. Mr. Myer’s assistant in the first 18 months in his position made nearly $100,000 on a salary of $48,900; this during one of the mildest winters on record. Although not received in the foil request, it has been reported that this individual has been so poor in management of paperwork and recordkeeping, which is a key requirement of the position, that he has been relieved of many of those duties. This is in reality not the fault of the assistant, but in a leadership lacking in the ability to make the decisions that need to be made to ensure proper functioning of the department. If not corrected this just seems as if it is a “money grab.” The taxpayers deserve better from your leadership. For leadership is about saying “no” not saying yes, because it is easy to say “yes.” Any leader, any parent will tell you that.

The second issue is even more problematic. It calls into question the honesty of the Highway Department and jeopardizes the ability of the Saugerties community to easily receive monies through the fema account. For those unfamiliar with fema it is a federal program which is funded through taxpayer dollars to support communities that have suffered a catastrophic event. The current highway superintendent has control over all bookkeeping and is the final approving authority for pay and billing. Mr. Myer billed his secretary/assistant out to fema as having worked an entire year, over 1,930 hours, doing nothing but fema-related work– nothing billable to the town. If true, Mr. Myer is fully within his right to bill her accordingly, however the reality is quite different. Mr. Myer is quite aware of this error, and this “oversight” left unrepaired is frankly illegal.

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Lastly, Mr. Myer is quite comfortable allowing his department to be utilized as the workforce for grants received by the community where “in kind” work is a requirement. I am not opposed to grants, but understand that these monies are the result of taxes, so we have already paid to fund the programs; these are not “free or found monies.” Problematic is the cavalier attitude of some in town government that the Highway Department would pay their employees anyway so why not utilize them for “in kind” work. That’s fine as long as the employees are first completing the primary reason for their employment and that is roads. Additionally, why are the records in relationship to these construction evolutions so poorly kept? When this “in kind” work occurs it is difficult to discern how much was spent in total, how many man hours were utilized, and what equipment was used. This had never been a problem in past administrations. Also why is there not transfer of funds from the department who received the grant to the Highway Department to at least partially cover expenses that the taxpayers assumed were set aside for highways?

I will close by saying that Thomas Jefferson said, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle stand like a rock.” Mr. Myer, I see a whole lot of swimming.

Steven J. Guerin
Saugerties

 

Myer responds

Armed now with the foil information, you try very hard to make a case, but it appears you are having difficulty presenting the facts in your possession. Let me help you if I may, Mr. Guerin.

You state when referencing fema that “The highway superintendent has control over all bookkeeping and is the final approving authority for pay and billing.” This statement is so untruthful it’s comical. When a payment is ready to be presented on a fema project, a system of checks and balances begin, initiating the following chain of events. All completed work is presented to the town engineering firm by the contractor and the inspector assigned to said project as acceptable, including all outside test reports and information required under the contractual agreement. Then all presented data is scrutinized again by a civil engineer and a stamp of approval is applied. Once this has been accomplished, the town’s engineering firm presents a payment certification document, the invoice and certified payroll for my additional approval and signature. Next step is the accounting department in the town to be analyzed and paid. From there Mr. Guerin, we go through a close out meeting with representatives from fema and/or New York State Office of Emergency Management presenting all documentation once again for approval. Once this is accomplished all documentation is presented to fema/nysoem accounting departments for review, further approval and reimbursement to the town.

Addressing your misleading information on the interdepartmental cooperation the town now enjoys, I will be brief in my response. If municipal manpower and equipment isn’t made available to these departments, outside contractors would be necessary, creating a substantially greater cost to the town. I bring your attention to case in point when the town hall parking lots were paved; outside contractors were necessary because interdepartmental harmony was absent. When outside contractors are needed, you failed to mention that prevailing rates become necessary when dealing with tax dollars. Are you further implying, Mr. Guerin, that we exclude ourselves from the shared services agreements we have with various towns and county to help offset taxpayer burden by cooperating with each other? Are you also suggesting we should abolish or withdraw from the EMS Mutual Aid System, where all fire departments in the county lend manpower, equipment and assistance to other fire districts in a time of need? This is also done with taxpayer money.

In response to your venom tainted, malicious and near slanderous statements about members of my administrative staff, you sir, in your own words imply, all accusations are unsubstantiated hearsay.

In closing, I do sir; stand on my principle like a rock.

Doulas F. Myer
Town of Saugerties Superintendent of Highways

 

Sinkhole problem blown out of proportion

The claimed sinkhole issue in the Bishop’s Gate development has been blown out of proportion because highway superintendent candidate Ray Mayone was the contractor. The present highway superintendent, Doug Myer, has contrived to make it a political issue in the campaign. However, this manufactured political issue melts like an ice cube when subjected to close scrutiny as will his campaign when his job performance is exposed during the campaign. It will also explain why the Saugerties Republican Party leaders abandoned the incumbent in favor of Ray Mayone.

The late Bernie Ellsworth, the previous highway superintendent, had inspected and approved the catch basin construction and the Town Board accepted all of them beginning in 1999. The town’s engineer told me that undoubtedly Ellsworth “gave his blessing” to the existing catch basin construction. He did it to lower the water table and avoid flooding. Ellsworth’s intent has been realized. There has been a 200-year and a 100-year storm in the past two years without any catch basin over flowing or water flooding the streets in the development. There is no catch basin failure.

If there was a problem with the catch basins, why didn’t Myer address it during his 1 ½ years in office? Why did he wait until now to raise this issue? The answer is simple. In the midst of an election campaign, Myer tried to get the public alarmed by claiming it was going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to correct. He wanted the town’s engineer to say all 90 needed to be revised despite his telling Myer that only 14 needed revision at a cost of $1,500–$2,000 each for a total of $21,000–$28,000. The town’s engineer told me it was “no big deal” and could be done in house for a lot less.

The town’s engineer also admonished Myer not to make it a political issue. Myer has tried to make it a political issue by calling for the engineer to make a presentation to the Town Board. He has now withdrawn that request. Evidently he realized the manufactured political issue is about to be exposed as a non-issue.

Michael E. Catalinotto
Saugerties

 

Time for new blood

In March both the Saugerties Times and the Daily Freeman reported that Saugerties’ bond rating dropped two points. That means Saugerties taxpayers are paying more for the money that is borrowed by the town. The articles state that the drop in our status was based on the town’s status at the end of 2011 (Helsmoortel’s leadership). When we get a “grant” most of the time there is a matching sum of money which the taxpayers must contribute. Both Greg Helsmoortel and Kelly Myers acknowledge that this lowered status will negatively impact long term bonds.

So why did the Town Board under the leadership of Kelly Myers choose to burden the residents of the Glasco Water and Sewer District with a long-term bond by going on a spending frenzy for unneeded Smart Water meters which the residents neither want nor need?

Why did the Town Board recently approve an application for a $220,000 grant application for a trail to connect Seamons Park and Cantine›s Field. (Saugerties tax payers will contribute 50 percent and future upkeep expenses)?

Our current and past supervisors be unconcerned with the struggle many are facing to survive. Many long-time members of our community must relocate to places they can afford which is far away from Saugerties. Kelly seems to be looking for a career in politics and Helsmoortel›s family sells our homes and makes money when we can no longer afford to keep them. Time for a new supervisor?

Gaetana Ciarlante
Saugerties

 

Editor’s note— We can’t speak for the Freeman, but our article made no explicit reference to the town’s fiscal status at the end of 2011 being the cause of the spring 2013 downgrade. Overall debt and a negative fund balance at the time of the downgrade were cited. Also, Supervisor Kelly Myers did not say in our article that the lower grade would have a negative effect on bonds; she said it wouldn’t have any impact and the town had actually found a better rate by shopping around. This is not to dispute Ciarlante’s interpretation of these events and their causes, only to clarify, for the record, what our coverage said at the time.

 

Library is in good hands

Although bested by my worthy opponents for one of the seats on the Saugerties Public Library Board and the opportunity to directly serve our town, I would like to thank those dear friends, neighbors, fellow congregants at St. John the Evangelist and all the dockside denizen of Ferry St., who found or made the time to come out and give me their vote and who were most supportive in the run up to the actual election. Your support alone was a daily gift unsurpassed by even a victory in the contest itself. In a George Bailey type of way, today, the day after the election, I feel like one of the richest persons in town, one who has friends. Hopefully everyone will congratulate and get behind Mr. Benjamin, Ms. Hurst and the rest of the Library Board, so as to provide them with the community support required to keep our library the innovative, vibrant and community building entity it has become. Under the current management team, with its more than able staff, the Saugerties Public Library is a shining example of how best to operate a public library. Thank you all again for your priceless good will and I look forward to the next opportunity to participate, and perhaps serve, in our most worthwhile communal endeavor, which is our public library.

Brian Collins
Saugerties

 

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