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AECOM Bombshell: Forged Contract Could Cost County Millions, Imperil Stream Remediation

Written By Editor on 3/18/14 | 3/18/14


For fifteen months the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors has been operating under the impression that the county's $23 million stream bank remediation project being administered by the engineering firm AECOM was on track, both financially and construction wise, based on regular monthly briefings provided by the company's on-project representative Patty Flores.

Until last week, that was.

County officials learned in a closed door meeting that not only has AECOM requested anywhere from $1.2-$3 million in additional payments on top of the county board's already-approved $3.2 million agreement with the global design and construction firm, or else they will walk off the project, but that the official contract they came to terms with and signed in early 2013 no way reflects the board's original motion.

The revised version, which was never filed with the county board and may not have been approved by the county attorney, was altered without legal authorization to base the contractual agreement on works performed rather than a fixed percentage of costs. Changes were allegedly made by co-project manager and county Director of Planning and Development Alicia Terry and then initialed by former Board Chairman Harold Vroman.

AECOM's bombshell admission, which paints an unfavorable picture of two county leaders working outside the parameters of the board's approved decision of December 11th, 2012, moved by Gilboa Supervisor Tony VanGlad, has sent local officials scrambling to fill the money gap left by the unauthorized contract. The original $23 million price tag was carefully structured to ensure the county would be reimbursed for all costs by federal and state offsets on a 75/25% basis, a framework that is now imperil.

In addition, Schoharie County Treasurer Bill Cherry told the Schoharie News that the county could face even more financial heartache if the stream bank project's bondholder reneges and demands full payment. Cherry explained that because the original bond was constructed under false pretenses, the county could be saddled with millions in debt, which would then probably be pushed on property owners byway of significant tax increases.

With the project's construction phase set to begin within the next few weeks, supervisors will have their hands full at the upcoming county board meeting on Friday as they will have to decide both how to respond to the allegedly questionable actions of Ms. Terry and Supervisor Vroman that led to this growing scandal, and how to ensure its completion without adding potentially millions in debt. 
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