A Senior Building, Utility Potholes, and the Possibility of a Forensic Audit
New Rochelle City Council addressed utility potholes, possibly changing one senior building to a taxable status, and the recent indictments. These items on the July agenda will be taken up at future meetings.
The 35 Maple Avenue Senior Citizen housing building, over 30 years old, needs renovation according to the Mountco Company. They plan to put new bathrooms and kitchens in all l09 units. In the process this senior building will be changed to a taxable building with HUD Section 8 subsidies for tenants where eligible tenants will pay 30% of their income for rent. John Madeo, Vice President of Mountco said there is a contract for his company to acquire the property. He gave assurances that none of the present tenants will be relocated. Mayor Noam Bramson made note that several payments will be made to the city, such as the $60,000 for improvements to the Maple Avenue Parking lot. One tenant, George Imburgia, said he would like to know if this will result in higher rents and if so, he does not support this change. Another resident said that the expansion of the community room
(which this company plans to do) was not necessary. Only 25-30 people use this room when there is a specific function. He wants to know if the upkeep of the building will be as stellar as it is now. In what ways will this change to profit from nonprofit effect the residents?
Councilman Jared Rice initiated a discussion on the potholes created by public utilities. He felt the current City policy which generally obligates utilities for up to a period of six months to repair potholes they have created was not sufficient. The biggest problem was felt to be when the City does not find the "trenches." The City can have a contractor fix the holes and then bill the utility but this should be placed first in the contracts with the utilities according to Alexander Tergis, Public Works Commissioner. New York City and other communities have three to five year windows of responsibility for utilities, but New Rochelle has only a six months mandate. Council member Marianne Sussman felt many potholes are not addressed for months at a time. Councilman Lou Trangucci added that even when a subcontractor does the work, the street may still need blacktopping. The biggest problem was felt to be identifying the potholes and informing the utility.
The controversy and concern about the indictments of Richard Fevang were brought up by Councilman Richard St. Paul who had questions about the City's follow-up procedures. He questioned how they spot check invoices. Finance Commissioner Howard Rattner said vendors were called to confirm bids. While there are four cost "tiers" of invoices, there is no break down by category when spot checking. City Manager, Chuck Strome, emphasized that criminal charges are "not investigated," and the City was told to hold up on this by the District Attorney. St. Paul continued that the City could be using the same vendors who were connected to the Fevang indictments and he wanted to know if an internal investigation would take place. Katherine Gill, Legal Counsel, added that at that time restitution will be "in order." But St. Paul continued, "Why is the City continuing to do business with them? When Strome answered we don't know the involvement of these vendors, St. Paul said that the Department of Public Works "did not follow policies." He emphasized, "Human error costs lives and money." When the discussion on Strome's position as Assistant Manager when Fevang was first investigated (although nothing was found) and whether Strome should have done anything at the time, Mayor Noam Bramson called for an executive session. After a lengthy executive session Mayor Bramson pressed St. Paul by asking whether he knew of other misconduct by employees,accusing him of using McCarthy tactics. St. Paul answered that Bramson had mischaracterized him. St. Paul did ask for a forensic audit and a review of the hiring process. A whistle blower protection law was also suggested,
In the July 28, 2011 issue of the Westchester Guardian