Chatham asks accountants to account for their overtime

CHATHAM–Several Town Board members expressed their concerns with a bill from the town’s accounting firm at the regular board meeting last Thursday. The board agreed to table paying the bill for over $20,000 until they have some more clarification on what they are paying for.

Councilman Henry Swartz starting the discussion with questions about the bill, which is for work done above the amount the board originally budgeted for the company to do. At the October 19 meeting, Mr. Swartz said some the bill from the accounting firm Pattison, Koskey, Howe & Bucci, CPAs, is for budget issues that occurred in 2015, though the company was hired in 2016. He also said that the bill was originally $40,000 but that town Supervisor Maria Lull negotiated with the firm and the amount was reduced to about $26,000. But he said he was still unclear what the board was paying for and said there was “a whole lot of stuff hidden.”

“We were never told about this overrun,” he said.

Councilman John Wapner agreed with Mr. Swartz, saying he did not want to pay the bill until the board had clearer information about what the town is being billed for. He also said he felt the accountants should have come to the board to let members know that the work was going cost so much more. He said they were not being professional. “It really makes me uncomfortable going forward,” Mr. Wapner said.

Supervisor Lull pointed out that the accountants had to “rebuild” the budget and that though they were hired in January of 2016 they had to go back and look at accounting issues from previous budget years. She stressed that when the firm was hired at a set monthly rate the accountants did not know they would find a deficit in the budget and would have to work more hours to correct it.

Councilman Bob Balcom said the board should have known the accounting firm was going to work overtime on the town accounts and that the board should have asked the firm what that cost would be.

“We, as a board, should be just as liable,” he said. “The warning signs were there for us too.” But Councilwoman Landra Haber said of the bill from the accounting firm, “Why didn’t they tell us it was going to cost us this amount of money?”

Mr. Wapner said that the board would ultimately pay what was due to the firm but he wanted better documentation.

Ms. Lull said that going forward the billing would be clear and she said that this bill from the firm was transparent.

Mr. Wapner did not agree and warned her, “Once you issue the check you’re saying the issue is done.”

Ms. Lull agreed to not pay the bill this month and said she would talk to the firm again. No one for the accounting firm was at the meeting.

Also at the meeting:

• There has been no word from the state Department of Transportation about plans to put a traffic light over the Albany Turnpike Bridge in East Chatham, according to Highway Superintendent Joe Rickert. The board received funding through the office of state Senator Marchione (R– 41st) to improve the intersection in 2016.

The board has been talking to CSX, the rail company that replaced the bridge, about helping to fund the traffic light. Supervisor Lull said that town’s attorney is trying to get a meeting with the governor’s office to see if the state can move the project along.

Town resident Adele Kleiman-Levine, who recently wrote a letter to the DOT about the danger of the intersection over the one-way bridge with bad sightlines, was at the meeting. Ms. Lull praised Ms. Kleiman-Levine’s letter.

“People are really getting angry,” Ms. Kleiman-Levine told the board of the state’s delaying the project

• Representatives from both the Chatham Village and the Tri-Village fire companies attended the meeting to ask for increases in the funds from the town. Chatham is asking for a 5% increase and Tri-Village would like a 2% increase. Both companies pointed out that there was no increase in last year’s budget. Tri-Village said their company had not had an increase in three years.

Chatham Village Mayor Tom Curran, who was representing the Chatham Fire Department with Chief Paul Rideout, said the village protection district has expanded. Mr. Rideout said the village company had also purchased two new vehicles in five years to better serve the area. “We’re just looking to get a little help,” said Mayor Curran. The board did not making any budget decision at the meeting.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, November 16 at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall on Route 295.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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