Tag Archives: County Administrator Phil Church

Full legislature to take a look at DSS bids

by Carol Thompson

To better control the cost of an asbestos abatement project that has soared, the entire Oswego County Legislature will review and vote on all bid proposals, bypassing the protocol of the jurisdictional committee members to pass a recommendation to the legislature.

Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley reminded the Infrastructure and Facilities Committee that the procedure was agreed on months ago.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Purchasing Director Fred Maxon that the general construction and electrical contract bids were due soon. Discussion ensued in regard to calling a special committee meeting to review the bids. “It has to go through this committee first before it goes to the floor,” Legislator James Oldenburg, chairman of the committee, said.

Beardsley questioned why the bids would go before the committee, to the full legislature, and back to committee.

County Administrator Phil Church said once the bids are in, they can be brought to the committee for approval.

Beardsley asked what happens if the legislature doesn’t approve the full scope of the work.

Maxon said the bids have options and those options will be presented to the committee. Beardsley said when the funding for the project was approved, it was done so that the full legislature would approve the scope of the work. “Now the committee is going to approve some or all of that,” Beardsley said.

Church said the legislature can alter the options as they feel necessary. “So, the full legislature does get all the information,” Church said.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

Legislators approve DSS temporary relocation deal

by Carol Thompson

When the Oswego County Legislature met recently, the final order of business was to approve a contract for the temporary relocation of the Oswego County Department of Social Services (DSS).

The department will be temporarily located in the former Cayuga County Community College location in Fulton while contractors complete an asbestos abatement project with a cost that has escalated from double to triple digits.

The county received three bids for the moving project.

The highest bid was received from Delaney Moving of Syracuse, who submitted a proposal of $149,900. The second lowest bidder was Syracuse-based Fox Hollow Movers at $125,920.

The low bidder, Greater Syracuse Moving, was awarded the bid at a cost of $79,367.

Legislator Doug Malone cast the lone opposing vote with Legislator Art Ospelt absent and Legislator Amy Tresidder excused due to a death in the family.

County Administrator Phil Church said the bid is higher than the original budget estimate.

Other bids are due soon for construction and electrical and the legislature will make a decision what work beyond the asbestos abatement that they want to approve.

Legislator James Karasek said the public should be informed that a good portion of the increase is due to complying with HIPAA laws and the moving of confidential files.

“That drove the cost up a great deal on this,” he said, adding that the legislature wasn’t aware of it when the project planning was started.

Legislator Jake Mulcahey said he is concerned because the project is only in phase one and the costs are already $50,000 more than anticipated. “It’s very substantial,” he said.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

Legislators critical of college

by Carol Thompson

When the Oswego County Department of Social Services found a temporary home while asbestos abatement is underway, not all legislators approved of the rental fee that will need to be paid.

When the Oswego County Legislature met Thursday, a lease agreement with Cayuga County Community College sparked discussion.

The college agreed to temporarily house the employees while the work is under construction at a cost of $5 per square foot for 19,900 square feet.

Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler asked how the price was derived. County Administrator Phil Church said it was done through negotiations with the college.

Legislator James Karasek said he had concerns with the lease. He said when Cayuga County Community College recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the expansion that it was noted the Oswego County campus is now larger than the Cayuga County campus.

The result, Karasek said, is that more students will be enrolling in the Oswego County campus. County taxpayers are required under state law to pay for one-half of each students tuition.

“It’s eating up their tax bills,” Karasek said of the tuition. “My concern with this is that many times the college comes to us for support.”

Karasek said he is not opposed to higher education. “I’m very disappointed that the college that has empty, vacant space would come back to the county and charge them anything,” he said.

If anything, Karasek noted, the college should have rented the space for one dollar.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

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County budget draft shows 7.3 percent increase

by Carol Thompson

Oswego County legislators got their first look at the proposed 2013 draft budget at the legislature’s Finance and Personnel Committee meeting held Tuesday.

The spending plan calls for an increase of 7.3 percent in the tax levy.

At least one million will need to be cut to meet the state’s mandated property tax cap, County Administrator Phil Church said.

There are cuts that can be made, which are known as “feel good” reductions. As an example, legislators are listed as having a salary increase of $370 each.  The draft budget was handed out to legislators and the public, with committee Chairman Art Ospelt noting that discussion would take place at upcoming committee meetings.

County Treasurer John Kruk said he was concerned with a $2 million increase in anticipated sales-tax revenue.

“I will ask you to look at the amount for sales tax,” Kruk said. “I have some concerns there.”

Ospelt said the line could be looked at a subsequent meeting and Kruk said he will address his concerns with the appropriate committee.

Church said there are positives and negatives to the proposed budget.

“Unfortunately, the negatives outweigh the positives,” he said.

The positives include an anticipated increase in sales tax revenue and no raises for management or bargaining units, with the exception of a $1,000 lump sum for CSEA union members and the mandated salary increase for the district attorney.

Also on the positive side is that there is reduced reliance on fund balance and reserves. Also, seven positions that have been vacant were removed.

The significant negative factors, Church said, include an increase of $1.3 million in state retirement costs, Safety Net costs increased by $1.15 million, Medicaid increased by $451,961 and the assigned counsel program increased by $343,586.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

NYSAC: Counties to be socked with increasing pension costs

by Carol Thompson

While the property tax cap appears good in theory, county governments are struggling to keep ahead of the seemingly never-ending costs New York State is handing down to local taxpayers.

The New York State Association of Counties announced last Friday that, once again, the local taxpayer is getting stung — this time with pension costs.

Last week’s announcement by the state comptroller that counties’ pension contributions (and the contributions of all employers in the state’s pension system) will increase from 18.9 to 20.9 percent for non-uniform and from 25.8 to 28.9 percent for police and fire is troubling news for county governments, NYSAC reported.

“Faced with a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar fiscal gap and a state imposed cap on property taxes, county governments across the state will have great difficulty making this payment,” the NYSAC said. “Our counties are already having difficulty putting together balanced budgets for 2013.

“This 10.5-percent increase will consume the entire allowable increase under the state-imposed two-percent property tax cap for 2013,” it continued. “All other costs necessary to run county government will very likely be above the cap.”

Since 2000, county pension contributions have grown from $47 million to more than $900 million in 2013, according to NYSAC. “The trend is simply unsustainable and has caused serious fiscal problems in every New York county,” the release states.

Between pension contributions and local Medicaid costs, county taxpayers will send $8.5 billion to the state capital in 2013.

For Oswego County taxpayers, they can expect to send an anticipated increase of $1.3 million for 2013, according to County Administrator Phil Church. Those numbers will be re-worked this week based on last week’s announcement, Church noted.

To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of the Valley News at our office or at one of several locations throughout the City. For Subscriptions call 598-6397.

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Employee: Computer held ATV club books

by Carol Thompson

A computer in the Oswego County Clerk’s office held the books of the Oswego County ATV Club, although county officials claim they could not locate the program on the software.

The allegation was brought to the attention of County Administrator Phil Church June 13. Shortly thereafter, the computer in question was removed from the clerk’s office and taken to the county’s Office of Central Services so that the hard drive could be examined.

Central Services Director Rick Hogan said Wednesday that while he did not complete a forensic examination of the hard drive, he did conclude that the books were not kept in the computer.

“We didn’t find anything,” Hogan said. “I turned all that information over to the administrator.”

Hogan said it didn’t look like the hard drive had been cleaned. “We didn’t do any forensics on it but we didn’t see anything in the recycle bin,” he said.

Hogan said if the books were in the computer, they may have been on a thumb drive.

Claudia Gamble, who is employed by the clerk’s office and serves as the treasurer of the ATV Club, confirmed that the books were in her computer.

When asked who gave her permission to do the books from the office, she responded, “George,” referring to County Clerk George Williams.

Deputy Clerk of Operations Matthew Bacon said Williams wasn’t in the office, hence, he was unable to confer with him on the matter.

To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of the Valley News at our office or at one of several locations throughout the City. For Subscriptions call 598-6397.

Oswego County Legislature Majority Leader Jack Proud presents his arguments as to why Info Quick Solutions, Inc. should receive the contract to provide data imaging services to the office of the county clerk during Thursday’s meeting. Legislators debated the contract award for 45 minutes before voting for the company.

Oswego County clerk contract award: Was the process tainted?

Oswego County Legislature Majority Leader Jack Proud presents his arguments as to why Info Quick Solutions, Inc. should receive the contract to provide data imaging services to the office of the county clerk during Thursday’s meeting. Legislators debated the contract award for 45 minutes before voting for the company.

by Carol Thompson

Some Oswego County legislators on both sides of the aisle are alleging the process used to award a contract for data imaging services for the office of the County Clerk was tainted and the argument did not end with Thursday’s meeting of the legislature.

As legislators debated the issue of whether to award the contract to Info Quick Solutions, Inc. of Liverpool, Majority Leader Jack Proud noted that the company had the best references from those who use their data imaging system.

Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler, however, said that when he made a request to County Administrator Phil Church to see the references, he was denied. The county provided comments from the users of each vendor, however, there is no indication who provided the comments to determine the authenticity.

IQS was the most costly vendor and had the lowest rating from a panel appointed to review the five request for proposals received by the county.

Despite the cost and panel review, the legislator approved awarding the contract to IQS by a 15-8 vote with two legislators absent.

During the debate, the question of whether the process was tainted was addressed by Kunzwiler and legislators Amy Tresidder and Jake Mulcahey, all Democrats, and Legislator Shawn Doyle, a Republican.

The blind review panel was appointed by Church, who autonomously handled the entire proposal process.  Among the members were Kathryn Wolfe, who is the law clerk for Supreme Court Judge Norman Seiter, one of two judges Williams said is receiving the service for free.  Wolfe’s husband, Andrew Wolfe, is the law clerk for Judge James McCarthy, the second judge Williams cited as receiving the service at no cost.

The panel was comprised of one legislator from each caucus. Legislator Dan Farfaglia, the Democrat representative, was removed from the panel last month.

Doyle said he believes the process was tainted from the beginning.

“It troubles me that they didn’t release the references,” he said. “I’d like to see who gave these references. We only had the word of the administrator and he has misled us on multiple occasions in regard to this contract.”

Kunzwiler said the lack of releasing the names of those contacted to give references, lends to suspicion of the legitimacy of the comments.

It wasn’t only the lack of information in regard to the references that led to the controversy, the question of how County Clerk George Williams was able to recommend Info Quick Solutions, Inc. of Liverpool prior to the names of the bidders being revealed during a recent meeting of the legislature’s Community and Consumer Affairs Committee was raised by Mulcahey.

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FOIL policy yet to be ironed out

by Carol Thompson

How Oswego County legislators will be treated when they need public information continues to be ironed out as members of the Strategic Planning and Government Committee once again postponed the passage of a policy.

At issue is whether legislators should be required to file a Freedom of Information request form and pay for copies of records as the public must.

A draft policy was considered during Monday’s meeting, however, the committee had not concluded how many copies of records would be available before a charge kicks in.

The draft document left blank the number of copies that can be obtained for free and a new clause was added to address the election season.

County Administrator Phil Church said he had spoken with County Attorney Richard Mitchell that morning in regard to payment during the election season.

The legislators would pay for FOIL requests during the season so that there is no advantage over an opponent.

“I have no problem, I think that’s a good change,” Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler said.

There has been much discussion this year as to whether legislators should pay for records that are needed in their official capacity and whether they should be required to make a request under FOIL and wait for the records as the public must.

 To read the rest of the story, subscribe to The Valley News by calling 315-598-6397