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Lots of Finger Pointing, But No Action on Stream Bank Project

Written By Editor on 3/24/14 | 3/24/14


Hours of discussion yielded no action, but afforded Supervisors and AECOM the ample opportunity to throw plenty of blame around in the wake of last week's report detailing the county's stream bank remediation project is facing a significant budget shortfall amid allegations of unapproved contract alterations by county officials. 

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Upon learning the project was approximately $2.6 million in the hole Friday afternoon, Chairman of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors Tony VanGlad sounded a conciliatory tone that, "somehow the board has to find the ways and means to get this project going." He would later go on to add, "hopefully by the end of this month, we'll have an answer."

Chairman VanGlad's comments came after an hour of contentious back and forth between supervisors, AECOM representative Patty Flores, and County Treasurer Bill Cherry over the project's unexpected budget shortfall facing the county and how exactly events unfolded as they did to get them to this point. 

Supervisor Milone kicked off debate by questioning the contract's alleged alterations made past the term of then-Chairman Harold Vroman, a concern that was forcefully addressed by County Attorney Mike West who stated that, "it was signed well before the end of his term." Unmoved, Mr. Milone and others questioned why the contract was altered to begin with from a fixed percentage to a work based fee. 

Ms. Flores, speaking on AECOM's behalf, blamed both a lack of communication between interested parties and the board's lack of knowledge in the original rfp as to how the project reached this point in the first place. She would later state that her firm never proposed lump sum figures for projects of this nature, upon which she conceded there were additional costs added in the aftermath of last spring's flooding.

Visually frustrated over Ms. Flores statements, County Treasurer Bill Cherry rose to defend the county board's actions by stating supervisors had voted to enter into the contract with AECOM at 15% of costs, or $3.2 million, and that both the county board and himself have, "been under this impression that it was 100% covered." The project's original cost was estimated at $23 million and was expected to be completely reimbursable by the federal and state governments. 

Supervisor Skowfoe then expressed his disappointment over AECOM's lack of communication and at one point addressed Ms. Flores directly and stated, "shame on you for not being straight forward." Seconds later, Supervisor Jordan would go on to allege the county's project contacts have known of the shortfall longer then the board has.

Stating AECOM was assured all of the funding, Ms. Flores placed the project's future in the county board's hands by commenting that her firm could only be as effective as the county enabled them to be. She would conclude her statement by adding that regardless of how they had gotten there, "at the end of the day, we need to be paid."

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The Board of Supervisors would not publicly address the issue again after recessing for lunch. They did enter into executive session with co-project managers Alicia Terry and Dan Crandall, in addition to County Treasurer Bill Cherry, to presumably discuss more sensitive aspects of the issue. No action was taken, but Ms. Terry was reportedly seen smiling as she left the session. 
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