“Bottom Line Concepts” deal approved, vegetation work switch discussed

The Amsterdam Common Council passed a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting approving a deal with Bottom Line Concepts of New York City to find potential cost savings for the city. Last September, Josh Fox, founder and CEO of the firm told the council that there would be no up-front costs or out-of-pocket costs to the city for his company to look at ways to cut costs in a number of categories including energy costs, telephone and cellphone costs, office supplies, and other areas. The company would only make money if the city decided to go ahead with their recommended cost savings ideas, with a 50% commission paid on the savings the first year, and a 35% commission paid the second year.

At a committee meeting held earlier in the evening, council members discussed the idea of permanently transferring the staff and equipment for cutting down vegetation on city owned properties from the Recreation Department to the Department of Public Works.

“The question I have is now that you are moving that away from recreation, how do we justify the salaries of the employees?” asked Alderman Ed Russo.

“What employees specifically are you talking about?” asked Mayor Ann Thane.

“Well you have a department head at x amount of dollars and an assistant at x amount of dollars,” said Russo.

“I think that they have ample responsibility otherwise, beyond just the seasonal crew,” said Thane.

“Well you’ve taken a whole department away from recreation and given it to Department of Public Works which is going to have a foreman,” said Russo.

Alderwoman Valerie Beekman said that removing the responsibility of taking care of the vegetation work from the Recreation Department would allow the department to concentrate more on the city’s youth programs and “open up the door for other things for [Recreation Director Rob Spagnola] to do in the city.”

“I’m not knocking Rob or his secretary, I think they do a fantastic job…I just have a real problem with that kind of salary just to take care of the fields,” said Russo.

“I don’t see how taking two seasonal employees away from [Spagnola] indicates that you should lower his salary,” said Thane.

Russo said he wasn’t looking to lower Spagnola’s salary, but rather justify the salary.

DPW Foreman Anthony Leggerio spoke at the meeting and said that vegetation used to be responsibility of the DPW and was transferred to the Recreation Department at some point during former Mayor Joe Emanuele’s term.

Thane said that the Recreation Department has recently took on new responsibilities including running the homecoming and Spring Fling events, the youth program at Bacon School and the Creative Connections Arts Center.

Council members agreed to hold another discussion with Spagnola in the near future to determine the details and costs associated with the transfer.

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Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

14 Responses to “Bottom Line Concepts” deal approved, vegetation work switch discussed

  1. Meanwhile, we can still expect a $150,000 hit to the General Fund to sustain the Transportation Department. The Council stated in June that they would take a half a year to figure out what to do about this. What analysis has been done? What solutions are they proposing? When are they going to stop harassing the Recreation Department and start protecting tax payers? The practice of stepping over $100 bills to collect pennies has to stop.

    In fact, I had requested in September that the Council address issues of real import. Those prioritized tasks included:
    – Establish sources of funding for the Land bank, additional seasonal property maintenance staffing, and park improvements
    – In anticipation of bonding, revisit the capital projects list and prioritize; develop five-year plan
    – Review Transportation Department performance to date
    – Review the Corrective Action Plan submitted to the OSC at the beginning of the year and determine what must be done to meet our responsibilities
    – Set parameters for negotiations with labor units
    – Research legislation to incentivize property rehabilitation and development
    – Identify priorities for next year’s budget; i.e, public safety departmental staffing/expenditures, OT or Land bank support

    Instead, this Council prefers to dabble in a review of the employee handbook and policies (executive function) and to bat the Recreation Director around again. We are missing the opportunity to make substantive and positive change because of this refusal to address the priorities listed above. This is a mistake we cannot afford.

    We need responsible representatives that understand their roles in municipal goverment to work collaboratively with administration and staff. We can only hope that they begin to move in this direction in the second year of their term.

    • Cooperation works both ways Lady Mayor. Constituents are sick and tired of your antics and refusals to work with your Councils and not against them.

      • AvatarRob Millan says:

        You’re right, it works two ways. So the question becomes why on earth don’t the four opposing people on the Common Council steamroll the mayor? They can easily, right? So why not? What’s their agenda? Rather than propose anything meaningful or propose legislation, they seem to take the more reactive approach of just killing any idea she has.
        I’m certain the mayor would be more than willing to work with the four aldermen… if they actually had anything to offer.

  2. AvatarLuis says:

    Mayor, if I may but based on your very first comment, are you recommending to cut the Transportation Dept. to justify the Recreation Dept. salaries? Why throw them under the bus now?

    Then how do you justify demanding!! the council answer to your wishes of import? I’d just point out, I’ve heard this same comment/complaint above from you, on every prior common council before these currents.

    When will you work with the council, the voting residents voted for rather than asking for another common council to your liking because this one doesn’t work like puppets either?

    Step up and work with them.

    • AvatarTim Becker says:

      I’m pretty sure the two issues aren’t related Luis. I think the mayor is contrasting the two issues in terms of how much impact they have on our overall budget vs how much time is being spent on them, at least that’s the way I took it.

  3. AvatarBill says:

    I would suggest that this council is incapable of substantive action beyond ‘dabbling’ in minor matters and needs to be replaced with people prepared to act on moving the city forward

  4. Avatardiane says:

    This council has acted the way our constituents want us to act………..stop the spending and find out how much money we have and who do we owe. Because of a FEMA grant that was awarded this week for the Dove Creek project that we had already Bonded for several years ago, we are now required to pay that money back to the bonding agency ! (approx 1.2 million dollars) Until we know how much else we are going to owe, we cannot afford to do anything else other than operate our daily schedule and maintain our status quo. Once we have absolute viable numbers, this council will be more than happy to look to capital projects and move forward. But, because we do not know what we have, we are holding. Now if someone wants to donate several million dollars to the city, we will be more than happy to spend some of it for you wisely.

  5. Diane, The money was bonded for in anticipation of this FEMA reimbursement.

  6. Avatardiane says:

    Only one property has been done on Dove Creek using the funds borrowed. That project was at one residence and totaled around 35,000.00. The total money discussed and subsequently borrowed was 1.2 million if I am not mistaken. (somewhere in that area) So now if FEMA is going to pay for it, we can return the money that was borrowed, as no other work was done. It would seem we owe 1.2 million, minus the 35,000.00 that was used for one project. I will be glad when this mess is resolved and we can move forward.

    • AvatarTim Becker says:

      Diane, given your track record this past year, I wouldn’t advise that anyone take any facts that you present here at face value. But between what the mayor just said and what you just said, where is the “mess”?

      It looks like to me the city borrowed 1.2 million in anticipation of getting a FEMA grant. Now that the FEMA grant is here, we can use that to pay off the loan, and we still have just under a million left to do more work. We’re 1.2 million less in debt now. Where’s the problem?

      I know you think you’re damaging the mayor by doing this, but you are doing more than that. You are damaging your own reputation and that of the city. You need to stop.

      • Avatardiane says:

        Tim, the mess, is the financial quagmire the city has been in for the past however many years. We did not make it, but we are not contributing to it increasing by not spending. The bond was obtained in 2012 but was not spent except for a 35,000.00 project, one property at Dove Creek. The rest of the money is still sitting there. Now that FEMA has come thru, three years after the fact, the bond money has to be returned. This is how things operate. I am glad that FEMA is doing to the project since I never felt is should have been bonded for in the first place. It is 95% private property, residential and the rest is St Mary’s. There have been reports that St, Mary’s was getting a grant to due Dove Creek also, thru one of Cuomo’s programs.

        Tim no need to come after my credibility on this subject. The only thing I might be off on, is the amount of the bond for Dove Creek. I have stated the info as reported to me by the city engineer. Because the mayor does not like the way we do things, she thinks she needs to send us what she wants done. I will go back to my original statement…….the public wants no more spending until our books are settled, (the mess) and we all campaigned that we would settle it, and we are in that process. Until we know where we are, we will continue to hold the line except for an emergency expense. Trust me, it is not easy being able to plan things when you have no idea how much money you have, or how much you owe, which we now know is at least 1.2 million minus the 35,000.00 back to the bonding agency.

      • AvatarTim Becker says:

        The council has done absolutely nothing to in regards to the city’s accounting problems except ask “is it done yet” once a month.

        I’m not coming after your credibility, you undermine your own credibility with posts like this, where you’ve presented a certain situation as a problem, then once presented with the facts, you’ve had to admit now there is no problem. You do this again and again. You have shown no ability to properly understand and process factual information. And that is a huge problem for an elected official.

        You keep repeating the mantra “no idea how much money you have, or how much you owe” but you know that is a huge exaggeration. As of FY 2012 our total debt was $27,251,049, General Fund balance: $393,649. The most recent FY accounts should be done in a month or so, according to the controller. The “mess” you describe has been way overblown from the beginning, and it has been hyped up for purely political purposes with no regard for the truth or the damage it does to our community.

  7. We will return all monies not used for emergency repairs from Hurricane Irene, as FEMA has finally come through. The former Council was hesitant to proceed with repairs to the creek bed along the wall as it was an extensive, costly repair to private property. Now that the feds have made the necessary allocations, we can proceed. Everyone in this situation acted responsibly and with prudence. Borrowing in anticipation of revenue is common practice and often necessary.

  8. AvatarDiane Smith says:

    I believe that the constituents elected you to work toward improving the city. However, all I see is council members working on their own personal agendas to the detriment of the city. The finger pointing, creative interpretation of facts (that’s the most polite way to put it) and the complete lack of any meaningful reforms or new programs means that you have failed in your duties. You are the council of “no”. If you don’t like the mayor’s ideas, come up with your own. Frankly, I doubt that certain members of this council have the core competency necessary to be public officials.