October 20, 2008

County Public Works Facility

We've touched on this topic before, but we once again need to express our opposition to the county moving forward with County Manager Greg Lewis' plan to build a $40 million public works shrine. The heart of our concern is plain and simple: the cost.

When Lewis first brought forward the idea of a new public works facility, he estimated the cost at about $15 million. As we now know, the cost will be nearly triple that. Amazingly, no one from the county legislature has questioned, at least publicly, this massive inaccuracy on Lewis' part. If I were to go to my boss with an estimate for work, and that estimate came in $25 million off, I can assure you that I would have some serious questions to answer. Not Lewis, he just goes about his business with no ramifications whatsoever.

Now, the Leg is considering a $6.7 million bonding package that includes $1 million of the $2 million design costs of the public works facility. We don't have issue with the county borrowing money since their debt load is so low. (Watch Wheatfield, with $22 mil in debt, that financial bubble will be exploding in the not too distant future). But moving forward with this project when it hasn't even been said how it will be paid for is ridiculous.

In light of the massive fiscal crisis we are facing on a state and national level, this project needs to be put on hold. Yes, the current facility is insufficient for current and future public works needs. But why not look at refurbishing the current location? Legislator Danny Sklarski stated, in light of the current fiscal climate, "I think we need to sit back and wait for the dust to settle”. We couldn't agree more.


Barney said...

Wow this is a first! Hobbs is supporting the minority’s position, maybe you have caught the Colin Powell flu...

George Lodick said...

Bonding can and should be just one tool in the municipal finance arsenal. It's a question of prudence and affordability. If as you indicate, the current facility is inadequate, then something must be done. But, the legislature should require that ALL options be investigated and realistic cost/benefit analyses presented for their review. They need to be accountable to the taxpayer and not just rubber stamp their employees preferences.

As for Wheatfield and it's bursting bubble, what is there to burst? The town debt stands at $14 Million (not $22M) and debt service payments total about $1.5 million per year. Bonds are retired (i.e. PAID OFF) regularly.
Democratic opposition to the Demler administration has often claimed that someday all this borrowing will catch up to the town and taxpayers will have to pay a big bill. THAT JUST NONSENSE! Just like you pay your mortgage every month until its paid off, the town pays off its bonds until they're paid off. NOTHING HIDDEN - NO SURPRISES.

Unlike some municipalities in our area, Wheatfield has a AA+ Moody's rating, it's taxbase grew by about $25 Million last year (Niagara Falls shrank $7 Million), and has no general town tax.

Certainly, the tight economic situation combind with the state's generally poor economic climate have made budget decisions in Wheatfield more challenging but there is no bubble to explode. In fact, Wheatfield has one of the most open budget processes. Just stop by the next board meeting or watch it on LCTV.

Paladin said...

Not sure where I stand on this one, Hobbes. I've heard tell that the current DPW garage is a Depression-era building, and was built to house Model T's. That means it might really be inadequate to the task.

That being said, I share your alarm about yet another Greg Lewis failure. That inept man has managed to screw the pooch repeatedly. This is just the latest example.

Here's a compromise proposal: We pass Greggy's bond, and then demand his resignation in exchange.