Monday, January 30, 2012

Smoking Gun?

In the past few days I have heard from people with or without a business interest in the Bay.  These individuals had donated money to help offset the repair costs to the Upper James St Dock.  They are upset to find out that the village board had been unwittingly  sitting on a large amount of un-earmarked money.  This was in response NYS Comptrollers audit findings of the Board Oversight and Internal Controls Over the Clerk-Treasurer’s Records and Reports.

The following sound byte is from the 1.26.10 village board meeting several weeks after finding out that a 300 foot section of the Upper James St Dock had to be replaced.  The board discusses the various accounts they could pull a $100,000 from, only a portion of the estimated $350,000 price tag, bonding the $250,000 balance.  The board at that time was Mayor Robb, trustee's:  S. Jarvis, H. Roy, R. Drake, and newly appointed trustee D. Jury.  How long does it take to accumulate a significant undesignated cash surplus on deposit?  Did the village have the beginnings of this surplus back in 2010, or was it sooner?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fishing Derby and Breakfast in the Bay

The Great Chefs of the Masonic Lodge in Alexandria Bay will put their talents together to offer another outstanding breakfast this Saturday morning.

The Masons each year help the Alexandria Bay Fire Department during the annual Fishing Derby. They will be serving a breakfast from 5:00 AM until 10:00 AM at the Alexandria Bay Fire Hall.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


According to the August 24th 2011 village board minutes under new business:  Mayor Robb asked for a motion to pay the Recognition of Direct Draft on Dock Bond Payment for $70,000 on September 15th 2011.  The direct draft will be $14,000 plus interest.  The motion was made by Trustee Drake and seconded by Trustee Williams.

In contrast, item #5 under new business in the Agenda for that same meeting  called for a Recognition of Direct Draft of Dock Bond Payment of $50,000 on September 15th 2011.

At the September 13th 2011 village board meeting item #1 under old business called for a pay off of the Water B.A.N. Principal $1,565,000 and Interest of $78,032.64.  Item #2 called for the payment on the Dock Bond Principal Payment  of $70,000 and interest of $4,000.  Mayor Robb asked for a motion on both.  Trustee Roy made the motion to pay off the Water B.A.N. plus the interest, it was seconded by Trustee Drake.  Trustee Drake made a motion to make the payment on the Dock Bond and interest, it was seconded by Trustee Williams.

I thought it was odd that the village could pull that kind of money.... seemingly out of nowhere!  How did the pay off of $1,565,000 plus interest of $78,032.64 miraculously appear as old business at the 9.13.11 meeting?  Should it not have been new business, since it was never discussed like the Dock Bond payment was at the 8.24.11 meeting?  Almost like someone was trying to slide it through... unnoticed!  At the time, trustee's seemed surprised at the 1.5 million plus interest pay off.  Trustee Roy did question it, and it was quickly "explained" by Mayor Robb and Clerk-Treasurer Cullen.  

In retrospect, at the time of the 8.24 and 9.13 meetings,  it is very clear that the trustee's had no knowledge of the excess money totaling 2.3 million.  I bet you can guess who did know about the excess funds.  The lesson to be learned?  If someone pulls a large amount of money out of nowhere..... it obviously had to come from somewhere!

The following audio clip is from the September 13th 2011  Alexandria Bay Village Board Meeting.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Audit of the Clerk Treasurer's Records and Reports

NYS Comptrollers Audit of the Board Oversight and Internal Controls Over the Clerk-Treasurer’s Records and Reports Reveals the Village Of Alexandria Bay tax levy of $944,000 for the 2011-12 fiscal year was excessive and unnecessary.

The buzz words in this Audit Report from the State Comptrollers Office is Segregation of Duties of the Village Clerk Treasurer and Deputy Clerk Treasurer.  The former mayor combined the duties when he took office 4 years ago.  This change defeated the purpose of segregation of duties which is an integral part of internal control.

The auditors describe Proper Internal Controls as ensuring that duties are adequately segregated so that an individual does not control all phases of a transaction. When one person performs all the duties related to cash collections or disbursements, record keeping, and reconciliation of accounts, there is an increased risk that cash could be misappropriated without detection.

The auditors made these comments:
Because the Board failed to properly monitor Village finances and oversee the work of the Clerk-
Treasurer, the Village has not kept proper accounting records for at least five years. This basic deficiency resulted in an ineffective budgeting process, a lack of critical financial information for the Board, and an excess of accumulated cash on deposit which led to the levy of unnecessary taxes. Additionally, the Village has not complied with statutory reporting requirements.

Cash Surplus and Tax Levy – As of May 31, 2011, the Village had 19 separate bank accounts, 15 of which held moneys set aside for reserves or other purposes.4 To assess the financial condition of the
Village’s main operating funds in the absence of adequate accounting records, we examined the Village’s bank statements to determine how much money the Village had on deposit in other checking and savings accounts,5 which were not designated for reserves or other specified purposes. The amount of cash on deposit in these four accounts was enough to fund almost the entire following year’s budget, as follows:

  1. Total Unreserved Cash on Deposit $2,336,740
  2. FY 2012 Total Budgeted Appropriations in the General, Water, and Sewer Funds $2,524,801
  3. Cash as Percent of Following Year's Budget 92.5%
Auditors commented on this surplus:
Because the Board did not properly oversee the Village’s record keeping, Village officials were apparently unaware of this significant undesignated cash surplus on deposit. As a result, the Village’s tax levy of $944,000 for the 2011-12 fiscal year was excessive and unnecessary.

Audit summary can be found by clicking HERE 
Complete Audit [PDF] can be found HERE

Bloggers Note:
It has become clear to me that the previous board[s] was dysfunctional in the sharing of financial information.  Trustee's were only given spoonfuls of this vital information, the bulk of it being withheld for reasons that appear to be childish. It also becomes very clear that the abrupt termination of then Deputy Clerk Treasurer K. Butcher was unwarranted and will most likely cost the village tax payers with a law suit. More importantly, the current board and newly elected Mayor D. Jury are taking corrective measures as suggested by the comptrollers office. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

River Hospital Requests 6 Year Variance Extension

Alexandria Bay Zoning Board of Appeals  

This past Thursday, River Hospital C.E.O. B. Moore III and other members of the foundation requested a variance extension for the modular units that house the River Clinic.  The temporary units were installed in 2007 and a variance was granted then, which expires in 2014.  Mr. Moore requested a 6 year variance extension from this date that would add an additional 3 years expiring in 2017.

The temporary modular units were originally leased but recently have been bought by the Hospital.  Mr. Moore's request for the extension is a result of 2 years of million dollar losses, changes in health care government funding, which also included the closing of the nursing home at River Hospital.  The hospital has recovered from those almost catastrophic events and Mr. Moore see's 2012 as a good year for the hospital.

The members of the Z.B.A. made it clear that they do not want to do anything that would hurt the Hospital.  However, several members echoed concerns from a majority of constituents, that the modular units are an eyesore.  Mr. Moore stressed that the Hospital does not currently have the funding to remove the modular units and construct a clinic annexed to the hospital.  That is option 1, he also revealed a second option for the location of the clinic.  Mr. Moore described a renovation of the second floor as option 2 for the clinic.  He went on to say that both option plans are extremely expensive.

The 18 minute audio clip below is from this meeting:

Bloggers Note:
I am one of the many people that see the RH Clinic as an eyesore.  I am also concerned that these modular units have recently been purchased instead of leased.  Purchasing makes me suspect that the clinic may end up becoming a permanent structure.  No matter how you view the appearance of the clinic, it is a viable and functional building that serves this community.

There are other vacant buildings in the vicinity that are bigger eyesores.  The Homestead, The Spot, the old sporting goods store, and the Thomson Museum to name a few. Unlike the RH Clinic, these buildings have no function other than occupying space and being ugly.  Maybe something can be done to those buildings?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

snow Snow SNOW

The white Christmas that everyone was wishing for must have been placed on back order by Mother Nature.  The Snow finally arrived, but a few weeks to late for all of us that still love the white stuff for the Holidays.  I took some video from key locations around Alex Bay and set it to one of my favorite Christmas songs.  SNOW is from the movie White Christmas and is sung by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.  Enjoy!

Alexandria Town Board Meeting 1.11.12

Members present are Town Supervisor D. Hunneyman, Councilpersons D. Williams, A. Beaudin, and B. Sweet. J. Durand was absent.

Some observations from yours truly... Gentleman,  All your comments should be audible.  Whispering amongst yourselves and mumbling responses during a public meeting?   Speak up and be heard.  Public comments should also be heard in their entirety.  Persons making such comments should clearly identify themselves or be introduced by a board member.  I wished I had kept the recorder on for the transition of the regular board meeting  into Executive Session.  The purpose of the session was Personnel and litigation.  I had intentions of elaborating on this, but have had second thoughts.  Instead, call one of the board members and ask them why Highway Supt. Bain and Town Clerk Peck were told to they could not attend the exec. session when they have always stayed in the past.  Then ask why Bain stayed?  On to the audio of the meeting.....

The Agenda:

Public comments start @ 2min 48sec.  This concern was interesting.  Not sure what the outcome was... The lady with her concern was quickly ushered into a private meeting with Town Assessor B. Millett.

Motion to audit the books  April 2012 5min 50sec

Sunshine Law and the internet Town website 8min 17sec

Fourth Coast presentation/update 16min 19sec

Subdivision Laws 42min 5sec

Presentation by Alan Taylor - City Block Grant 47min.

Highway Report 1hr 1m 3secs

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Freezing Rain in Alex Bay

The roads are slushy from the salt.  Sidewalks, decks, side roads, and parking lots are covered with a layer of ice, making it very treacherous.  At 8:30 am the temperature is still in the low 20's.  Freezing rain persists and it will probably only get worse.  Staying home today, wondering if the power will go out....

Monday, January 9, 2012

Evaluation Is Good For The Goose And The Gander

How about a little Self-Evaluation? 

I read this article Governor Cuomo: ‘Teacher Evaluation Is a Major Crisis For The State’ and it annoyed me that Albany feels that teachers and schools need to be evaluated to improve our education system.  If you have read this article, then you should read it again, but this time substitute the words politician for teacher and government for education.  A little self-evaluation is good for the goose and and the gander!

If you do not want to read that article then maybe you can watch this video instead

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cold? Go To The Desert....

Last summer I recorded a video of the Riverside Acoustics Band, featuring Vinnie Markowsky, Steve Cavallario, Len Senecal, and Glen Pickert all performing live at Cavallario's Top Of The Bay.  It was one of those hot and muggy nights that we all complained about.  How about now that it is ZERO????

Monday, January 2, 2012

Proposal to Dissolve The Village of Alexandria Bay

Prepared by R. Thomson
To be clear, everything in red is factual.   At the 12.13.11 village board meeting Ronald Thomson was #8 on the agenda for new business.  Mr. Thomson distributed his handout for the "Possible Time Table For Village Dissolution Study" to the board.  A copy of that is included in this blog post.  The audio is 15 minutes and 14 seconds long. 

From this point on everything in black is my opinion.  The audio may be long but it is in your best interest to listen and watch it closely.  I have placed some of my thoughts [opinions] through out.

They say Timing and Delivery is everything.  The proposal was presented at the first meeting of newly elected Mayor Jury and basically all new trustees.  It was also their last for 2011.  The next board meeting is scheduled for 1.10.12.  When you listen to the audio, you will hear that the grant application submittal deadline is assumed to be sometime in February.  That is a very narrow window for a brand new board to shoot for.  It is unreasonable for anyone to present such a controversial topic such as this when the village board  barely has their feet firmly on the ground.  I understand that some have a timeline in their agenda and with all the bureaucratic hoops that need to be jumped through, they fear that their deadline might not be reached.  Their is a big push for the dissolution of the village to go to a vote at the 2013 general election .

Since the proposal is to dissolve the village into the Town of Alexandria, I expected to see Mr. Thomson at the Town Board meeting that was held the next evening on 12.14.11.  He did not attend and no mention of his proposal was on that agenda.  Maybe it is because the new supervisor and one new board member do not take over until 1.1.12.

One final thought..... This proposal is controversial, but I am not opposed to it either. I have always expected that someday we would be facing the possibility of dissolving the village.  But, in my mind it was always a large and diverse group of concerned citizens that would have made the proposal. Not just one man's proposal.