New Rochelle School District Snow Removal, Do We Really Need to Spend $100.000 on Contractor?

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These are my comments at the Board Meeting on February 25th, 2014.

Dear Board,

I wanted to ask you about the snow removal and how it works. I know we have custodians in each school that are responsible for snow removal on sidewalks and such. And then we have Buildings and Ground crews that are coming with pick up trucks with plows in front of them.

What happens on days when schools are closed?

On Wednesday evening, Feb 5th, I saw district vehicles together with Mario Bulfamente trucks plowing and piling up at Ward. Wednesday was a school closing day. Did we give the day off to the B&G employees, just to hire them back on overtime?

I know, we have contracts with two outside contractors Zonzini and Bulfamente for ”Snow Removal Equipment Rental with Operators” for “not to exceed $100,000.” These contractors are supposed to be used “during severe snowstorms when normal standard School district snow removal procedures may be insufficient.”

What are normal standard School district snow removal procedures?

I am asking you, what are the deciding factors as to when our guys with plows in front of their trucks are not sufficient to plow, even if they have, due to school closings, nothing else to do?

How are Zonzini and Bulfamente paid? Do they have to submit invoices per occurrence? How is an occurrence determined? By time spent? By inches of snow? By building? Are their services billed as emergencies, in spite of the advance notice of school closing?

How come our B&G guys are working TOGETHER with the outside contractor?

Who checks they actually worked as long as they said they did? Who signs off on these invoices?

The City of New Rochelle has changed the way they deal with snow removal. They moved away from time and material contracts. They are now having a set formula for actual snow tonnage removed. The districts areas are very easy to survey and set. With actual figures per formula, possibilities to milk the system would be reduced.

Government money is often seen as easy money, because oversight is often lax. Insiders actually call government contracts “Tit Jobs”, because you just have to suck on them. Putting checks and balances in place is necessary to curb corruption.

You, as our elected officials, are the ones that should be putting checks and balances in place. However, the suggestion to observe contract negotiations was voted down. Checking up on our employees was considered “micro-managing”.

We have now GPS on garbage trucks, who reads that data?

We have $305,000 of supplies coming in, who controls inventory?

Robert Cox has uncovered many incidences of where either employees or contractors took advantage of the lack of over sight. These examples, as well as the garbage truck incident of last summer, were dismissed as “isolated incidents”

The district is spending millions of tax payer dollars and even so called “isolated incidences” are corruption and theft of public money that needs to be dealt with and not dismissed.

Maybe it is time to look at them rather as the “tip of the ice berg”

Let’s change that. Let’s put checks and balances into the system. Let’s make sure purchase orders are reasonable and corresponding invoices are of matching amounts. Do not leave approval of all transaction in just one hand, that just lends itself to abuse.

It is in our best interest that the money we spent is going into the education of our kids and NOT anywhere else.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Brian Sussman on Sat, 03/01/2014 - 02:41

Privatization of government services is usually a bad idea, as businesses require the additional costs of profit, and contracting businesses invites corruption.

This is true in snow removal, parking meter and ticket collections, construction etc.

Privatization of government services is one of the main reasons for the increased costs of federal, state and municipal government since the early 1980's.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Sat, 03/01/2014 - 17:33

Brian,

You are raising 2 issues -- that a business bidding on a contract builds in profit for itself in any bid, that contracting out to private businesses invites corruption.

Given your extensive business expertise, I am surprised you do not realize that there are times when it is CHEAPER to hire an outside contractor because they have specialized equipment or specialized personnel or can otherwise be more efficient. There are also times when it is more expensive. It is NOT the case that just because a private contractor seeks to make a profit that they are not also cheaper or can do a better job for various reasons.

I chalk this up to your knee-jerk liberalism that default to the idea that bigger government is always better.

But you are wrong in what you said because your are making such a broad, absolutist statement.

On the second point, while it is certainly true that public entities contracting our for services can lead to corruption, it is also true that corruption can occur without contracting out for services.

New Rochelle demonstrates this has it has both -- and both at the City, School District and Housing Authority level.

There is corruption involving outside contractors AND there is corruption involving direct employees.

The issue is not whether to bid out the work or to use direct employees but whether there is proper management and oversight which ever is used.

And THAT is the problem in New Rochelle at every level -- a lack of oversight where the mice play as the cat sleeps (except in New Rochelle there has been no cat for a long, long time.

Now there is! Meow!

Anthony Galletta on Fri, 02/28/2014 - 15:15
Title: Zonzini?

It is my understanding that Mr. Zonzini moved from New Rochelle to South Carolina.

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Fri, 02/28/2014 - 16:51

Yes, the contract from 2012-2013 listed both Zonzini and Bulfamente, but the extension for 2013-2014 is only Bulfamente for the full amount, beforehand it was 50,000 each.

Anthony Galletta on Sat, 03/01/2014 - 00:38
Title: Interesting

Intersting, I presume Zonzini & Bulfamante were on the 2012-2013 contract because neither was large enough to handle the contract alone. I believe Bulfamante also has a contract with the City of New Rochelle. Seems like certain contractors have the inside track.

Andrew Newman on Tue, 03/04/2014 - 04:09

Anthony,

Bulfamante did not have the capacity to do the school district alone. However, they managed to find the capacity to service the City of New Rochelle. That's how the game is played, split the contracts up in order to create additional deception.

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