New assessor deal forces North Collins Town Board’s hand
Friday August 23, 2013 | By:LARRY WROBLEWSKI | News
NORTH COLLINS — The recent decision by the town of Evans to utilize the Cheektowaga assessor’s office found the North Collins Town Board declaring a shared-services contract with Evans, null and void, and developing its own program, during its Aug. 14 meeting.
For several years, North Collins has shared Evans Assessor Jeannie Ebersole and paid that individual directly, while also giving money to the town of Evans.
The North Collins Town Board voted to keep Ebersole as the town’s assessor for the remainder of her current contract and award her a six-year contract for services thereafter.
The town is looking for another partner or partners to share the assessor. A logical municipality with the potential to join in would be the town of Collins, which also uses Ebersole for assessment, but was not in a contract with Evans.
In a related matter, Councilman George LoBianco urged the board to open lines of communication with the North Collins School District, to find out if sharing tax collection services would be beneficial for all parties.
The school district currently retains former District Business Administrator Barbara Sporyz. LoBianco said that he did not know if the town could offer a better deal, but said, “Maybe through cooperation, we can save the taxpayers some money.”
In another matter, members of the Eden-North Collins Food Pantry requested that the town become the lead agency, in applying for grants to construct a standalone pantry structure on land next to the senior building that the town has approved and donated for that purpose. Town Clerk Margaret Orrange was asked to be allowed to work on writing grants toward the project. The request reflected the stated view of the pantry group that the new structure would become town property and be leased back by participants.
Town Attorney Richard Schaus noted a change in the funding plans. “It was announced that the food pantry would obtain funding, erect a structure and give it to the town,” he said.
Pantry Director Don Schasel said that, as the building will be town-owned, the town must apply for the funding. He added that, to date, the pantry has collected $60,000 toward the project, which is currently pegged at $250,000, for a finished product.
Under the most recent plan, the town would apply for a $90,000 Community Development Block Grant toward the pantry project. Orrange said that she believes the town has sufficient points to make a successful bid, having not applied for any projects last year. Additional points could be added, if the towns of Eden and Collins, also served by the pantry, would also list the project in their grant applications.
Schaus said, “That current funding would amount to $150,000. Where is the balance going to come from?” Schasel responded that the monetary amount was the purpose of his group’s request and, if the first funds could be secured, he was confident that additional grants would come.
LoBianco, who has voiced concerns, ever since it was announced that the pantry would end up costing the taxpayers of North Collins, asked for commitments from the other towns that benefit from the pantry. “I would want to see a written letter from the supervisors of Eden and Collins, that they will commit to a $2,500 stipend each year, to help with costs,” he said.
The pantry is currently located at Holy Spirit Church; the pantry pays $4,000, per year, toward utilities and maintenance, a process organizers say they plan to continue, in the new building. They also said they plan to tap into the free natural gas currently used at the senior building. Highway Superintendent David Winter said that he does not think the town’s allotment from the well in Fricano Park will be sufficient for both buildings.
The board will invite the public to speak about the matter, during the block grant hearing at the next meeting.
In other board news:
– The board approved a new procurement policy that follows recent changes in state law. The changes will see purchases of supplies or equipment more than $20,000 or public works contracts more than $35,000, subject to formal bid procedure. The limits had previously been $10,000 and $20,000.
For items less than $20,000 but greater than $8,000, written requests for proposals are required from three vendors. The previous threshold amounts were $10,000 and $3,000.
Purchases less than $8,000 but more than $3,000 require an oral request and at lease two quotes from vendors. The limit had been $3,000, but greater than $1,001. For items less than $3,000 but greater than $500, discretion is given to the purchaser, but steps to solicit prices must be documented in writing.
In public works projects, written requests and proposals are required from at least three contractors for amounts $35,000 – $10,000. Less than $10,000 requires written proposal requests and at least two proposals and for projects less than $5,000, purchaser discretion in employed, but subject to documentation of price solicitation.
– The board approved a letter of support backing town highway superintendents as they are negotiating new road plowing contracts with the county.
– The highway superintendent may arrange for a survey of the lower portion of Rocky Mountain Road. That section was deemed by the court to belong to the town, while the upper section was ruled as abandoned. The road is the subject of a civil suit against the town by the adjoining property owners.
– Councilman Jeffrey Krauss announced that the next electronic recycling collection will be held Oct. 10 and 11 at the town hall.
– Town Historian Georgianne Bowman reported that a talk about the Underground Railroad activities in Collins and North Collins will be given on Aug. 25 at the Quaker Meeting House on Route 62 and a presentation regarding the job descriptions of Civil War officers will be the topic on Sept. 22 at the historical society building in the village. Both programs will begin at 1:30 p.m.
– Library Board Chair Sue Alessi announced that “Celebrate North Collins Day” will be held Sept. 28.
– Orrange said that hunting licenses are now available at the town hall through Oct. 1.
– The board approved transferring both recently-retired ambulances to the highway department and declaring a van it currently uses as surplus, allowing it to go to auction.
The town board will next meet at 7 p.m. on Sept. 11.
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