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The Best Gifts from Schoharie County

Showing posts with label AECOM. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AECOM. Show all posts

County Moves Forward on Final Stream Bank Site

Written By Cicero on 3/18/15 | 3/18/15

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors voted to move forward on the AECOM stream bank project Monday night, but not until after meeting for over two hours in executive session to discuss the troubled stream restoration efforts.

Inviting only representatives of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Schoharie County Treasurer Bill Cherry, and Department of Public Works head Dan Crandall, the session was initiated by Middleburgh Supervisor Jim Buzon.

Supervisors left executive session at approximately 7:30 p.m., with Mr. Buzon immediately making a motion to move forward with the clearing of trees on the Dave Brown Mountain creek site, which passed by a seven-four margin. 

The Dave Brown Mountain site has been delayed for months after the original contractor backed out of the project, but a replacement firm was identified and approved in February. Dave Brown is the shortest of the four creek sites. 

Schoharie County is currently facing a budget shortfall of over two million dollars because of the project, costs that are being passed along to the county taxpayers.

County Board Withholds AECOM Pay

Written By Editor on 7/18/14 | 7/18/14

Passions flared at the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors meeting Friday morning, as legislators argued for the better part of an hour over the contentious stream bank project being administered by AECOM that is facing a significant budget shortfall. 

Supervisors had expected AECOM representative Patty Flores to be present following a June motion by the full board requesting her or another company official to be present for explanation of how AECOM arrived at the oft quoted $2.6 million figure that legislators have been discussing in earnest since late March.

However, with Ms. Flores reportedly on vacation, no representative of AECOM appeared before the county board for an update on the stream bank's progress or financial woes. Members of the board were not enthused.

Visibly agitated, Carlisle Supervisor Larry Bradt recommended, "not paying them until they come." Blenheim Supervisor Shawn Smith stated that he would second Mr. Bradt's statement if it was made into a motion, which Mr. Bradt responded by doing in kind.

Conesville Supervisor Bill Federice, who has led efforts to have the State Comptroller's Office audit the stream bank project's administration, commented pointedly that AECOM is a billion dollar company, and questioned why they didn't send someone else to brief the board in Ms. Flores' place.

Urging caution, Middleburgh Supervisor Jim Buzon warned legislators that withholding the company's pay would only cost the county more down the road, and that more delays would only further endanger an already, "project in jeopardy."

With only three supervisors in opposition - Mr. Buzon of Middleburgh, Mr. Smith of Broome, and Mr. Vroman of Summit - the motion was approved overwhelmingly, and later set the stage for another bout of contentious back and forth later in the afternoon, which will be covered in a separate news piece.  

County Board Approves Clerk of the Works

Written By Editor on 7/8/14 | 7/8/14

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors, in a special legislative session Monday, voted eleven to three to select Lamont Engineers as the county's Clerk of the Works on the $23 million stream bank project, which AECOM has commenced work on this past week according to County Attorney Mike West. 

Lamont Engineers was selected over another bid on recommendation of DPW Chief Dan Crandall and Treasurer Bill Cherry, who both lauded Lamont's experience in several recovery related projects conducted by Schoharie County post-Irene and Lee. The firm was contracted for eight months at $75,000.00.

In other action, the county board voted unexpectedly to reverse its June decision to strip department heads of compensation and flextime, following complaints that the current system was being abused. Monday's motion was offered by Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone, but was not well received by several members. 

Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe spoke in opposition, arguing that department heads had ignored inquiries from the county board for over a year and that no decision should be made without the full board present. He moved to table the issue, but was narrowly defeated by a single vote. 

Board Chairman Tony VanGlad sounded a conciliatory tone by stating last month's vote had, "built ill will between the Board of Supervisors and department heads," while County Treasurer Bill Cherry lauded his colleagues for committing, "more time and more effort than their required." 

Milone's motion, which called for the old compensation and flextime system to be reinstated while new policies to define use and abuse are crafted, was carried nine to four - with Supervisors Barbic of Seward, Jordan of Jefferson, Manko of Sharon, and Skowfoe of Futon in opposition. 

AECOM Stream Work to Begin Early July

Written By Editor on 6/5/14 | 6/5/14

Although the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors voted to move forward on the AECom stream bank remediation project at the May county board meeting, Middleburgh Town Supervisor Jim Buzon told residents of Middleburgh that work is not expected to begin on the streams until early July.

Mr. Buzon, who made the comments toward the end of Thursday night's annual joint town and village board meeting, indicated that the project's start date had been pushed back because the contracted work crews were reassigned to different jobs while the county board deferred action for two months. 

The project has been the source of considerable contention within the county since it was revealed that AECom had gone approximately $2.6 million over budgeted costs in late March, leading the county board to request the NY State Comptroller's Office review the original contract's alleged unauthorized alterations. 

Four local streams are slated to be rehabilitated once work begins, including sites at Dave Brown Mountain; Line Creek; Little Schoharie, and Platterkill. Mr. Buzon said the project most likely wont be completed until late October. 

In Split Decision Supervisors Vote to Move Forward on Stream Bank Project

Written By Editor on 5/19/14 | 5/19/14

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors voted to move forward on the AECom stream bank project Friday afternoon after two hours of contentious and emotional debate resulted in a split decision on the issue, where a majority of supervisors were opposed but those in favor carried the weighted votes necessary for passage.

Debate focused on a previously tabled motion offered by Middleburgh Town Supervisor Jim Buzon that authorized the county to spend an additional $1.276 million in supplemental funding on the project, which is estimated to be presently $2.6 million over budgeted costs and has been marred by allegations of misconduct. 

Schoharie Town Supervisor Gene Milone argued that it was unreasonable to ask taxpayers to shoulder the financial burden of a project that was originally suppose to have no county share. Furthermore, Jefferson Town Supervisor Sean Jordan questioned the wisdom of committing to additional costs without knowing a finite final price tag for the project. 

However, warning his fellow legislators on the risks of not moving forward on the stream revitalization project, Mr. Buzon urged supervisors that, "we have to bite the bullet and take on the expense," while Cobleskill Town Supervisor Leo McAllister commented that board members had to sharpen their pencils and do what needed to be done. 

Board members were faced with what Esperance Town Supervisor Earl VanWormer called a double edged sword, as the County Attorney's office estimated the county's risk of exposure if they dropped the contract to be approximately $8 million, while County Treasurer Bill Cherry warned that if the county took on the expense and bonded the project that it was, "likely that you will exceed the tax cap."

In the end, nine of sixteen supervisors would end up opposing the motion, while the weighted votes of the remaining seven ensured its final passage. Commenting that the county board decided to move forward without a finite number, Mr. Jordan quipped that, "we look like fools," just moments after the motion's passage.

Remarking that he couldn't, "believe that the Board voted to spend millions of dollars that the county doesn't have," Blenheim Town Supervisor Shawn Smith told the Schoharie News that AECom unjustifiably increased their price and took advantage of the county. Mr. Smith would later add that he believes, "our residents will be very disappointed in the board's failure to hold them accountable."

Poll: Plurality Believe Officials Responsible for AECOM Debacle Should be Fired

Written By Editor on 4/22/14 | 4/22/14

Coming off the heels of Friday's vote by the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors requesting the New York State Comptroller's Office investigate the AECOM debacle, Schoharie News readers are deeply divided over what the county's appropriate response to the scandal should be. 

With over one hundred and fifty votes cast, 46% of readers believe that county officials responsible for the circumstances resulting in the stream bank project's $2.6 million budget shortfall should be fired, while 42% contend the county's should respond by covering the project's full costs to ensure final work is completed.

Leave the contract, halt all stream work
  9 (5%)
Try to meet AECOM halfway
  7 (4%)
Pay the full amount to make sure that the work is done      
  65 (42%)
Fire county officials responsible
  71 (46%)
Other (please comment)
  1 (0%)

If anything can be observed from these results, it is that the county is deeply divided over the stream bank remediation project and the fallout associated with revelations that AECOM had conducted work past the purview of their original contract, which had been altered without consent of the Board of Supervisors. 

Supervisors Request State Comptroller's Office Review AECOM Contract

Written By Editor on 4/18/14 | 4/18/14

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Friday afternoon to send a letter requesting the Investigations Unit of the Legal Services Division of the Office of New York State Comptroller look into several matters regarding the conduct and execution of the stream bank remediation project.

Conesville Town Supervisor Bill Federice, who drafted the letter with assistance and support from the freshmen class of legislators, introduced the request for the entire board's approval following the county board's lunch recess. 

Speaking in support of the request, which comes in light of the growing controversy surrounding the $2.6 million budget shortfall in the stream bank project being administered by AECOM, Broome Town Supervisor Bill Smith said that he believed, "taxpayers in the county deserve answers."

Board Chairman Tony VanGlad, who reported that he has been in discussions with state officials over opening avenues of additional funding to cover the project's unexpected costs, cautioned against sending the letter too soon as he has received nothing definite yet, although he added that he should know by next week.

In late March it was revealed in separate articles published by the Times Journal and the Schoharie News that the stream bank project was in economic peril, due in part to county lawmakers and AECOM officials working under two different budget assumptions that resulted from the contract being altered retroactively. 

After contemplating Chairman VanGlad's concerns, Supervisors agreed to hold off on formally sending the letter into the State Comptroller's Office until May 1, when funding issues should theoretically be resolved, or at least stand closer to being addressed.

County Board to Meet on Good Friday (April 18, 2014)

Written By Editor on 4/16/14 | 4/16/14

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors will hold their regularly scheduled April board meeting on this upcoming Good Friday, April 18 starting at 9:00 am and lasting as long as necessary. No official agenda has been published on the county website as of publication, but the stream bank remediation project is expected to once again dominant discussion. 

Neither Middleburgh Supervisor Jim Buzon nor Summit Supervisor Harold Vroman will be present for Friday's meeting, which Mr. Buzon unsuccessfully tried to have pushed back at last month's legislative session. With both men accounting for roughly a combined 16% of the weighted vote, their absence could have an impact on pending legislation. 

Stay tuned to the Schoharie News for updates from the third floor of the county building on Friday and over the weekend. 

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. 


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."


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. 

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. 

County Board Hears Dam Update, Flood Recovery Report, Recognizes Bob Mann in Year-End Meeting

Written By Editor on 12/23/13 | 12/23/13

"Two years ahead of contract schedule," is what John Vickers of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection told the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors about New York City's efforts to build up the Gilboa Dam at Friday morning's December and year-end board meeting in Schoharie.
Vickers, who was assisted by regional engineer Mark Suttmeier in Friday's power-point presentation, stated that two of five phases were completed in dam reconstruction work thus far and that 165,000 tons of weight will be added to the dam at the project's conclusion, coming from the replacement of loose stone structure with concrete steps and 38 torsional anchors.
Town of Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone questioned why "there was not a dredging project attached to this as well," pointing out that there was a build up of sedimentation behind the dam and that they were losing storage of water supply. Mr. Vickers conceded there has not been a study on sediment build up since the nineties, and that they were planning to do one in the near future, but that "as long as sediment builds up in the dead storage area it has no impact on water storage."
In other county business, the Board of Supervisors heard from an AECOM representative that while there are "four highly qualified contractors to work on the four creeks," included in local efforts to address stream restoration, that seventeen landowners have still not signed on. Board Chairman Phil Skowfoe commented that the landowners were potentially "jeopardizing the project."
Possible ways for the project to move forward if the landowners continue to hold out is for either AECOM to redraw their plans or for the county to consider using eminent domain. In a startling admission, the AECOM representative revealed that they have "overshot their numbers," and are $400,000 over design costs as of now, although the money is available through Natural Resources Conservation Service grants the project has been awarded.
Schoharie County Treasurer and Recovery Coordinator William Cherry followed up AECOM's report with news that FEMA has officially denied the county's request to relocate the jail and Public Safety Facility to higher ground. FEMA maintains that the construction costs of rebuilding and code-mandated mitigation efforts should not be added with a total rebuilding price tag of $13.2 million and that they would only use the construction cost when calculating their "50% rule."
However, as Mr. Cherry pointed out, FEMA has added construction and mitigation costs together to exceed the 50% threshold in other projects across the country, but have insisted that those cases do not set a precedent, which the county disagrees with. The Treasurer also stated that State DEC officials may write a letter to FEMA saying that they do not encourage rebuilding in the flood plain.
The Board of Supervisors voted 12-0 on Mr. Cherry's recommendation to further appeal FEMA's position that they repair the existing building by presenting their arguments directly to officials in Washington D.C., with full support of New York Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Chris Gibson, as permitted in the appeal process.
On the lighter side of things, Town of Esperance Supervisor Earl Van Wormer praised five departing members of the county board: Anne Batz of Broome, Donald Brandow of Conesville, Robert Mann of Blenheim, Thomas Murray of Cobleskill and Dan Singletary of Jefferson for their service, saying that "It's a good thing to have people you disagree with."
He followed up his praise by offering a motion of special recognition to Blenheim Town Supervisor Robert Mann, who he was elected to the Board of Supervisors with twenty years ago, that was agreed upon unanimously and with applause from all members of the county board. Mr. Mann wasn't present at Friday's meeting.
Members of the county board then approved a series of resolutions, committee motions and entered into a brief period of executive discussion, concluding the 2013 legislative session.

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