March 5, 2013

In My Opinion: Jay says sewer work wasn't being done


---- — We, the Jay Town Council, are responding to an opinion column written by Black Brook Town Councilor Howard Aubin.

The following points are facts and can be verified by pictures, video footage, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reports and engineering reports from A.E.S.:

1. The sewer plant, pumping stations and individual property owner’s sewer tanks were in total disarray and were not on any preventive-maintenance schedule when Black Brook was the lead agency.

2. The Town of Jay became lead agency on Jan. 1, 2012, after a legally agreed contract was signed by both towns.

3. All sewer facilities are now on a preventive-maintenance schedule, as are property owners’ individual tanks, and all information is on a computer data base kept by Jay Department of Public Works.

4. Jay taxpayers were billed by Black Brook for years for four to six hours a day for work that we alleged was not performed.

A video we have that we showed to Black Brook official Howard Aubin in September of 2011, verified by a local resident near the entrance to the plant, can verify the truth.

If the sewer plant worker worked four to six hours a day instead of what is alleged, for just minutes a day, then one would have to believe the facilities would have been in much better shape.

5. Councilman Aubin references in his letter that for six months Black Brook ordered its sewer-plant worker to do the minimum to keep the plant running. If that’s true, then the Black Brook Town Council was in violation of its fiduciary duty to ensure taxpayers were not overpaying for these services if they were not being performed.

6. For years, the Town of Jay was billed for four to six hours a day for work performed when we alleged that the sewer plant operator was actually working as a private contractor out of town and not working these hours.

7. The Town of Black Brook employee was using sewer plant facilities to house a personal vehicle.

8. Black Brook Supervisor Rick Nolan has tried to use the Town of Jay as a scapegoat for their most recent audit by the Comptroller’s Office. Their audit was for 2009-12 and it was very obvious that their financial distress had begun well before we stopped payment for services not rendered. Placing the blame on the Town of Jay and a computer software issue is a copout.

9. During numerous discussions with Black Brook officials in 2010 over disputed sewer billings, we offered to take an offer by Clinton County Legislator Bob Butler, who represents the Towns of Black Brook and Saranac, to serve as an arbitrator at no charge. The Town of Black Brook refused. This would have saved them $25,000 in wasted taxpayer dollars for attorney fees.

10. Supervisor Douglas issued a statement to the press only after reading the Black Brooks response letter to the audit, placing partial blame for their financial issues on us for withholding payment.

11. Jay officials received numerous complaints of sewer backing up in basements of personal residences and businesses because of lack of a maintenance program when Black Brook was lead agency.

12. Jay has worked diligently with the help of Stuart Baird, an employee from the Village of Lake Placid, to bring all our sewer facilities into DEC compliance.

13. Jay DPW employee Chet Pulsifer just became state certified as the new sewer plant operator.

We feel we have done so many things to assist Black Brook in their time of need, to, in turn, be treated unethically and unfairly.

Our issues are not with the good people of Black Brook but with some town officials.

We took an oath of office to protect our citizens to the best of our ability. We withheld payment, for services not rendered, for a short period of time and we paid what we felt was acceptable.

Some Black Brook officials call it bullying, but in Jay we call it accountability to taxpayers.

Randall Douglas, Town of Jay supervisor, wrote this letter on behalf of Deputy Supervisor Archie Depo and Town Council members Amy Shalton, Tom McDonald and Gerry Hall.