Wednesday, January 19, 2011

no million dollar garage

As I pointed out in the first entries on this blog, there are open questions about the financial integrity of town government having to do with contractor invoices and assessments. These two issue ought to make us wonder if the taxpayers should be giving even more money to this government. No way they should have more money to throw around when they can't explain what they did with the money we already gave them.

The 2009 re-assessment through GAR was a huge tax increased disguised as a re-evaluation. The town got 9% more in taxes the subsequent year. That 9% increase followed a 3% increase the previous year. Meanwhile, many of the excessive number of positions held by town officers pay over 70 dollars an hour.

The government of the town of Stuyvesant proposes to spend $890,000 to expand and renovate the current garage and build two new salt sheds. 

It is the biggest capital project in the history of this town.  Here is some of the audio with me bringing up the idea of a referendum at the public meeting on the project.

The town would like to use money from the settlement between GE and New York State for this project but that would violate the expressed intent of the 1995 settlement

If we get a referendum on this together, the citizens of the town can nix the bond issue they need to build this thing. I plan on making that referendum happen.

This project is very bad idea. Why?

1. It’s dumb.

Stuyvesant is a town of 2,000 people with 25 miles of road to maintain. In this town the state and county maintain 29 miles of road. That is three sets of highway departments coming and out of town maintaining road, picking up the plow and driving over someone else’s unplowed road, then putting the plow back down when they get back on their own road. Same with cutting the grass. Same when our trucks drive through Ghent or Kinderhook or Stockport or when their trucks drive through Stuyveasnt. This is really stupid.

Instead of locking us into this bizarre world of duplicated services forever, why not study consolidation and outsourcing? Instead of expanding the garage to have more trucks, the highway department should be selling off its vehicles and outsourcing or consolidating with other entities.

Some day someone or something is going to force this to change. When sanity and economies of scale come into government and road maintenance we will be left with a useless ugly salt shed we never needed and an ugly garage that we should have sold off to a private entity.

And when common sense finally breaks into New York State government we’ll still be paying the debt on these white elephants salt shed we don’t need to stand there and look ugly reminding us how stupid we were (or the town government was).

We have some good potential capital projects in town: bike paths, fixing broken bridges, expanding waterfront access, etc. This dumb salt shed is the stupidest possible capital project the town could have come up with.

2. If we don’t need one highway facility, and we don’t, we certainly don’t need two.

It’s bad enough that the town of Stuyvesant has a highway department at all when this should be a county or state or town consortium function, but we really don’t need two highway garage sites.

We have one big one on Sharptown road and a small one on County Route 26A. The town proposes to build a big salt shed on Sharptown road to hold a lot of salt and leave enough salt for one storm at 26A.

Why do they need one storm’s worth of salt on 26A? Because, they say, the trucks and cars of the highway personnel cannot get in and out of Sharptown road in a storm. I would like some proof of that.

The real reason that they don’t want to put all the salt at Sharptown road may be that the supervisor of the town lives right near the Sharptown facility and doesn’t want the extra truck traffic. A significant percentage of the cost of this project is there to keep trucks away from the supervisor’s house.

Then, if we can truck the salt from Sharptown to 26A before each storm, why couldn’t we just truck the salt from the brand new salt shed on 9H before each storm and not have a big salt shed at all? That would save $440,000.

They want to make the garage at 26A bigger to have more trucks. Like I said, we should be finding ways to have fewer trucks. The garage we have is fine, if we need a garage at all, and we don’t. The roof doesn’t leak.

One or the other site should be sold off and more functions should be outsourced. We don’t need two facilities.

3. If we do need a salt shed, and we don’t, why do need a custom built one?

The salt shed on 9H is a prehab and cost 280,000. Our town proposes to build a custom one for 440,000. Either way, the salt shed will be ugly, useless and a waste of money. But what’s up with this custom construction deal?

The town guys will argue that a custom shed will last longer. I don’t know how they know that. And who cares how long it will last? We don’t even need it now.

The real reason they need a custom salt shed is the real reason this project even came into existence: to pay contractors. The whole thing is a basically a slush fund. The guys pushing this don’t know anyone who builds prefabs and the ability to play footsie with the invoices is more limited with a prefab.

4. Do town employees and elected officials really need all these palaces for themselves?

Why is it that the biggest capital project in the history of the town is to make a place that only officials and employees of the town will get to use? How about the second biggest project, the town hall: who mostly uses that? What about the citizens? Do we not get a capital project one day? How about a park? Or a trail? Or a bridge? We’ve got a broken bridge in town. How about painting the bridge over Stuyvesant Fall? How about some way for citizens to get their boats to the Hudson river? How about investing in the agro-tourism infrastructure of the town? What will happen when the lease on the town park in Stuyvesant Falls down by the waterfall expires: will we have the capital to buy the land or will the folks in the Falls lose that great spot by the water where there is that big no swimming sign?

What a waste. What a boondoogle. I say, send this sucker back to the drawing board. No million dollar garage.

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