I am sure by now you have all read or heard about the NYS audit done on the Town of Owego, and the Supervisor’s fiction-laced attempt to defend himself from the damning report. In an effort to deflect responsibility, he stated that I, Mark Clark, and two other board members “chose not to be part of the process.”
To set the record straight, I would like to provide the following editorial that I wrote and submitted in January 2018 (below).
As a town resident, taxpayer, and highway superintendent, I feel it’s my responsibility to weigh in on some issues that we face as town residents.
The first and foremost issue that will ultimately affect the taxpayers of our town is the skyrocketing cost of the proposed shared services building. The building is slated to go behind the town hall. The building will house parks and highway departments.
The price is 10+ million and climbing. Engineering alone is 1+ million, and climbing. To have water and sewer provided, they will have to bore under 434, 17 East and West, and the river to hook into services available at the Hickories Park. This hookup, at this point, is only for the proposed building and not for the possibility of future development in that area.
The town received a grant a few years ago for 3+ million to be used for construction of the complex, leaving the rest of the project requiring the town to obtain a bond for completion. The bond has to be paid on, and the only place it can come from is cuts in department budgets and/or tax increases. Since the highway budget is the biggest, inevitably it will take a hit.
The proposed building project is shrouded in secrecy, from the cost to the design. Two years ago department heads gave their input to the engineers. It was a basic no frills recommendation. A year later, the Supervisor and Deputy Supervisor have made numerous changes to the design without any input from department heads.
This cost, as it stands, does not include highway storage areas used for salt, aggregate, pipe, etc. The town board (minus two dissenting votes), agreed to sell 30 acres where these were stored. In closing, as it stands, the proposed building plans are not conducive to the operations of these departments. It needs to be simplified, practical, and affordable.
At the time, our board members were Don Castelluci (Supervisor), Dean Morgan, Craig Jochum, Jonathan Marks, and Barb Roberts, who is now a county legislator taking her husband’s seat as he was voted to become Town of Owego Highway Superintendent succeeding my retirement.
Jochum and Marks repeatedly voted “no” on certain expenditures due to the lack of transparency on the Supervisor and deputy Supervisor’s part. Things such as project estimates, building expenditures and spreadsheets still remain elusive.
I could write a book on the differences that the Supervisor and I had while in my previous position. Now, five years and millions of dollars later, the truth unfolds. Questions raised throughout the project (still not completed and not totally paid for) still go unanswered.
The cabal of players and their mishandling of the project have been exposed by New York State. The report is crystal clear, and trying to chip away the credibility of the state auditors simply will not work. It is obvious that the Supervisor and Deputy commandeered this project from the very beginning.
SPOT-ON Mr. Clark, ThankYou.