Thursday, November 27, 2008
Busy agenda for Finance and Government Operations Commission
As Jen Alexander noted in a blogpost last month, this under-publicized city committee is a hotbed of action for city business.
This month's meeting did not disappoint. It seems that this nuts-and-bolts committee concentrates on forward motion, and disposes of the usual posturing, pontificating and political maneuvering.
With a very full agenda, that Chairman Ron Klattenberg said "are all essential items that we need to decide upon for action at the December and January Council meetings."
Klattenberg urged brevity.
While the committee hopscotched through the agenda to accomodate the pre-Thanksgiving schedules of attendees, some items drew cursory attention, and others engendered hot debate.
Middletown High School Bid Waiver
Much of the heat was generated in statements given by city purchasing agent Phyllis Prokop who complained bitterly about being asked to approve emergency waivers for purchases at the new high school.
When asked by Chairman Klattenberg if this request for waiver was unusual, or part of a trend, Prokop said she was "seeing a definite trend of 'it's easier to ask forgiveness than for permission," and I will not put my name on anything that has not gone through the proper process. It's becoming pervasive throughout the system."
Committee member, and Councilman Joe Bibisi encouraged his colleagues to approve payment of some of the bills, which had been outstanding for months. In the case of Amodio movers, who provided moving services in July, an outstanding $57,000 invoice had not been paid, and Amodio was facing bankruptcy proceedings.
Because of the outstanding bills, the waivers were grudgingly passed, with much encouragement to improve the process.
Councilman David Bauer, who was sitting next to me, and at the meeting as a resident, leaned over, and in disgust said, "There's no accountability in the system. Does anyone know which employees are committing the city to goods and services provided in good faith? There's a lot of cowboy action out there, and no one takes responsibility."
City Vehicle and On Call Stipends
Vigorous debate flared again in the discussion of compensation for "subject to call" stipends and city vehicle use.
Mayor Sebastian Guiliano explained that he had issued an order to dispose of the city's ten worst vehicles. He explained that the purchase of any new city vehicle set up a "domino effect" in which employees entitled to vehicles all "traded up" in a cascading effect in which employees positioned for a better vehicle.
"You'd expect that one of those vehicles would eventually fall off the cliff," Giuliano explained. "Instead, someone who never had a car before suddenly has one, and the fleet census increases."
"You're the one who has the power to make the policies," Chairman Klattenberg noted.
Giuliano explained that his order to rid the city of ten cars caused enormous controversy, and for the time being, his order has been rescinded.
Senior Citizen Tax Relief Program and Senior Citizen Community Service Program
Even these seemingly non-controversial programs created debate over how volunteer employees would be insured.
These discussions were referred to committee.
LOCIP and the Westfield Fire Roof Replacement and Wesleyan Funding of Green Street
LOCIP is the Local Capital Improvement Program, funded by the state. With $123,000 left in the fund until March, and the very real prospect that funding will be cut next year, the committee debated the best way to allocate the funds.
A parking, and lighting improvement program for the Green Street Arts Center was passed, while funding for the Westfield Fire Roof Replacement was deferred because construction was not planned until May of 2009.
In the final bit of business, the committee deferred discussion of a proposal for Liberty Park (the Bysiewicz property) for the Economic Development Committee which followed in the same room.