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City officials review list of capital projects

Police Chief Greg Culick passed out pictures of the public safety building’s dilapidated air handlers in order to illustrate just one of the needed improvements included in a list of capital projects that were reviewed by the Common Council, Mayor and Controller at last Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting. Culick said that 2 out of the 10 units that are critical to heating and cooling the building are currently inoperable and that rest of the units need to be replaced. Culick asked for approximately $20,000 for an engineering study to evaluate the entire building, and said that each unit would cost approximately $40,000 to replace.

City Engineer Rich Miller was present throughout the meeting to explain details on each item and answer questions. The list is still a draft, and some of the items, such as maintenance work on City Hall and separation of storm and sewer lines, were removed because grant money had already been secured. Council members also discussed putting off some non-critical projects until next year, or in the case of certain vehicles that are needed, looking at leasing instead of buying. Miller said that further revisions to the list are needed but expects the total amount to come in somewhere between $2 to $3 million.

Included in the list are several immediately critical projects such as a NY State mandated inspection of the city’s sewer and storm drainage systems which will cost approximately $280,000. Miller told the council last week that the city is facing a fine for not having the work done.

Miller also said that an upcoming mandatory inspection of the dam in the city’s reservoir area near Brookside Avenue will cost $30,000. If any deficiencies are found, then the city will need to pay for additional repairs. Miller said the dam is no longer needed, as the city now keeps its reservoir water under a dome structure. Miller said the cost to demolish the dam is approximately $50,000 but will save the city from any future inspection or maintenance costs.

Another project on the list is the repair of the roof of the Department of Public Works building on the East End. The estimated cost of the project is $400,000 however both the mayor and common council members agreed to have a separate discussion as to whether constructing a new building in a new location would be more cost-effective long-term.

A new sewer jet apparatus is another item on the list. The city’s current apparatus is not functioning and has had to rent a unit at the rate of $1400 per day.

Other projects on the list include: a new computer network for the public safety building, new OSHA compliant and insulated garage bay doors for the public safety building, additional laptop computers for police cars to improve ticketing efficiency, replacement of aging vehicles at the Department of Public Works, an additional snow plow, work on certain problem areas with the city’s water lines, a heavy-duty snowplow for clearing sidewalks, maintenance on the flood wall on the South Side, maintenance on the water tank near Tecler School, and system to scan and digitally store city records. Also included in the list is approximately $500,000 for demolition of dilapidated and foreclosed buildings.

The city’s total debt at the time of the adoption of the 2014-2015 budget was $24,761,703. The current amount is likely less due to retirement of some of the debt and the fact the council did not bond for any major projects last year. The council will decide in the next few weeks which projects to borrow additional money for and which projects to put off until next year.

About Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of AnthemWebsites.com LLC which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

7 Responses to City officials review list of capital projects

  1. rogo says:

    Once again we are asking council to borrow money when we have no idea how much money we have!!

    • Tim Becker says:

      Once again Rogo, it is not correct to say “we have no idea how much money we have.” We know our total debt. We know what the debt will cost us, and we know what our inflows and outflows are and what we have in the bank accounts. Just because the Controller cannot (and rightfully will not) give out an exact number on the general fund balance does not mean we are flying blind. Many of the issues addressed at this meeting could cost us more money down the road unless we take care of them now. The problem with the sewer jet, the reservoir dam, the sewer/drainage inspections are all perfect examples of problems that have been ignored and are going to cost us more the longer we wait. It would be irresponsible for the council to continue to wait on these, but that’s what you are suggesting they do.

      • “(and rightfully will not) give out an exact number on the general fund balance…”. What set of directives are you getting this from? The Controller has a DUTY by Charter to provide that information. C-40 F.
        Transmit to the Mayor and the Common Council monthly statements of cash on hand and of classified unencumbered appropriation balances for the City as a whole and such other financial statements as may from time to time be required. The Controller at all times shall keep all departments, boards, commissions or other agencies currently informed of their classified unencumbered appropriation balances.

        Tim, your blog is no longer the impartial source of information it once was.

      • Tim Becker says:

        Yeah whatever Jerry, you and your group can think that all they want, that’s fine 🙂

        The controller cannot give the the exact fund balance because the records for the past 2 fiscal years have not been reconciled yet. Simple as that. The council members all understand that, I’m surprised to hear you imply impropriety. The controller has given out any set of numbers he’s been asked to. He can’t say however, the fund balance is exactly X, because he cannot verify 100% that it is x.

  2. diane says:

    And the bank balances are not correct either. Money set aside for Sassfrass Park, 40,000.00 (may be the amount) and that is still unaccounted for. Along with seizure monies that were supposed to be kept separate, ( I heard mention of 90,000.00) they are still unaccounted for. There may be other items that we owe, like the school taxes, county taxes. My biggest concern is the ability of the city being able to repay their debt. In an audit done three years ago, it was determined that there was 9 million dollars that the, auditors had no idea how it was spend. So where did it go ??

    The common council will no doubt ban for the mandated items that must be done, but until we know the bottom line, I cannot go above and beyond to bond for more until we find out where we are.

    • Rob Millan says:

      “…(may be the amount”… and “( I heard mention of 90,000.00)…”

      See why people don’t know what to believe?

    • Tim Becker says:

      I searched and I have not found any articles about a “missing 9 million”. Can you provide a link or citation?

      Of course, last year year we had the alleged “missing million” which if anyone had bothered to follow up on, would have been explained fairly easily (ie there was never any money “missing”.) Of course making up unsubstantiated accusations about the city’s finances has become a passionate hobby for some folks these days 🙂

      Seriously, stop and think about it. If the city was really “missing” 9 million, the city would have been bouncing checks years ago. The city hasn’t had much more than 3 million in it’s fund balance in any of the past ten years, so how would a missing 9 million *not* have affected our ability to function all this time?

      “We don’t know where we stand!” has become the catch-all excuse for doing nothing by this council. Hopefully given that work on the FY 2013-2014 AUD has already begun, we won’t have to hear that for very much longer.

      The controller should be able to tell you how much debt the city has as reported by the bond holders. We can calculate what it will cost to service the amount of debt we want to take on, and the council can then pass a responsible budget that takes that amount into account. To continue pushing off repairs to the city’s critical equipment and infrastructure is blatantly irresponsible.