Guest Editorial: 2017 year is complete
By TIMOTHY RIZZO
It was interesting to discuss with an elected official of a local community the future of the town and at the tail end of the conversation I was asked if I was “Republican” and then the person directly stated “You act like a Democrat.” But at the end of the conversation — full agreement.
In all honesty, political parties do not dictate proper business decisions, management, environmental concerns and public safety. With that said, the following are my opinions:
1. Town sign codes have been a concern for two years and an updated digital sign code still lingers. Federal and state highway regulations should be followed for digital signs. For example, the digital sign on Route 30A, near the credit union, with its changing colors and multiple transitions, glares.
2. Town web pages under continual modifications while a hired professional web designer would be of interest for modification and maintenance.
3. Local code enforcement of blight is almost impossible to enforce within the town — when identified.
4. Two petitions were presented to the board from the public for November’s election upon a “Unified Time Management System” and “Nepotism Policies.” Both petitions met the gubernatorial requirement (10 percent) for consideration. Both petitions were accepted with no action from the Board — not even a vote. This is one reason why there was such a high turnout during November’s election. Residents anticipated on voting on those issues which reflected good management, but were denied such a privilege.
5. Taxes increased due to poor management and continual approvals of a past administration. I don’t believe the books were drastically in error and I don’t believe the accountant was the issue. I believe it was well known, but some issues did exist and the compounding large purchases put the town over the edge, while past management utilized the funds to compensate, due to a nonexistent “Multiyear Comprehensive Plan” to reflect on or challenge the integrity of the spending/request. The town operates without a capital plan and a minimum fund balance resolution.
6. Solar City has not started the development of the Meco Solar Array and the contract has locked the town in that the land is “untouchable” until the contract is terminated. This was a concern of mine to the Board, but with all good intentions, it was believed that Solar City was going to commence. Time will tell!
7. The town board negated raises for town hall employees, but in January’s organizational meeting, Resolution 2018-24, authored the purchase of equipment at auctions as needed up to $10,000, will be “honored.” How could such an approval stand knowing that raises were denied to town hall employees, while offering raise to the highway department though the union contract. Or a depleted fund balance that is an issue and will most likely be raised by the comptroller during the audit. Personally, I believe this is disrespectful to the employees. For example, a business owner saying I could not provide raises to my employees due to harsh times in the company, then goes out to buy a new truck to drive around in.
8. The union contract was approved at the closing of a meeting. I personally refuted to agree with the contract due to numerous issues on accountability. I was researching other union contracts and regulations and provided the Board a draft review, which still needed modifications, meshing the information between the old contract and better contracts. It was ignored. In all honestly, the union workers would have had higher wages, which would have benefit at retirement with Social Security, while driving accountability. Additionally, it would have addressed the Comptroller Audit Report of 2014, which still today is neglected and the Board is “fully aware” of the issue, hence, I would not agree to the contract. This contract should be placed on the town’s web page for transparency to the public.
9. Aspen Hills Water District is not resolved and I would greatly ask for the city of Johnstown to negate the cost. In review, I would question the term “usage” and “maintenance,” and the ability to charge residents for water that was technically never provided to the customer while billing residential meter readings. Likewise, if there was a fire or a line break, the water calculated though the master meter would have been charged to the resident — possible based on the scenario that is being highlighted.
Secondly, a maintenance fee is typically incorporated in the usage rate. Maintenance would refer to a line break, leak, or flushing of systems and the required fee supports the repair. The residents are only responsible for the lateral from the point of connection to the house. Residents do not have the authority to turn valves or repair water mains. Said authority is the City Water Department. The water department is a public utility where one of the primary concerns is to protect such resources, as well as monitor. Placing the cost on an individual that does not have the authority to repair or control would negate the responsibility — hence — the maintenance fee.
No matter what the issue is upon the leak the town residents never had the control to fix, repair, or monitor the main including valves; nor did the town of Johnstown Highway Department. This needs to be raised and I believe it is well supported in Mass District Law. The town should investigate this further and quite possible draft a cease and desist letter, even if it is a district. The district serves the residents of the community. I believe the town residents do not owe for the leak, it was the responsibility of the City Water Department to maintain as a public utility. Residents were charged a maintenance fee and an additional charge for lost resources when the maintenance fee covered the service to monitor, service, and maintain the main. The city accepted the funds through the billing and failed to provide according to the service agreement. The issue should be forwarded to the NYS Comptroller upon the double charge. Overall, all water districts should be evaluated against the “Smart Waters” contract.
One positive item I can identify to the public is that I was able to work with the state of New York and obtain a $150,000 grant for the Town Hall to upgrade and reduce operational cost. The next stage is drafting the bid documents. It is a long process to complete. From this grant, it was learned via a document researched by the town clerk, that the town of Johnstown, Mayfield and Broadalbin were established on March 12, 1793 from the town of Caughnawaga. Exactly 225 years from the upcoming date. Happy Birthday to the townships!
Currently, with the town’s operations and managerial system in place, I believe taxes will be raised in the upcoming years, even 2018.
Concluding; one-way for the town of Johnstown to move forward would be to abolish the traditional government and convert to a management system where actually management and employees are held accountable working to improve the town daily, with direction.
Rizzo is a member of the town of Johnstown board.