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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Genesee Twp. supervisors named in civil suit call for civility

Genesee Twp. supervisors named in civil suit call for civility

By Sharon Corderman

Approximately 50 people were in attendance at the April 5 meeting of the Genesee Township Supervisors and a number of them spoke up to agree with Supervisor Scot Miller when he said at the outset of the meeting that recent controversy in the township needs to stop.

“We have an excellent township and we should be proud,” said Miller. “I’ve had conversations with public officials who have all said we have a good thing going on up here. We have a water project coming up of nearly $1 million because of that. Like they say, we might be broke but we ain’t poor.”

Part of the controversy he referenced is a civil action taken by Rance Baxter, Dennis Matteson and Dann Thompson against Miller, Supervisor Scott Luce and Genesee Township. The suit claims an alleged Sunshine Act violation and calls for Miller and Luce to resign their seats on the board of supervisors. Miller said they had nothing to report on the suit, noting that a letter from the township’s solicitor had arrived just that day but they hadn’t reviewed it yet. 

Plaintiff Thompson, who is also chairman of the board, said he couldn’t comment on the suit as it’s in litigation. When asked by a resident if he would consider dropping the suit, Thompson said no. 

Baxter and Matteson, in the audience, were asked the same question and also said no.

A resident then mentioned the recent resignation of the secretary/treasurer, who cited a hostile work environment in her resignation letter, and asked the supervisors if they realized what they lost.

“We should be ashamed over what’s going on here,” said the resident. “It’s time it stops.”

The board will be interviewing in the upcoming weeks to fill the vacant position.

The aforementioned suit alleges “serious financial improprieties at the township,” identifying these improprieties as the illegal collection of funds for garbage collection, claiming more is collected than is needed for the service. Supervisors had agreed at the Feb. 2 meeting to delay sending the 2016 garbage bills (an annual fee of $50 per household) to allow time for them to review the program and its accounts. 

Matteson and Baxter requested a meeting with supervisors to show them the documents they have obtained through Right-to-Know requests. They said the documents show inappropriate transfers of funds from the solid waste account to the general account.

Miller said, after looking into everything, it’s time to send out the bills. “We can’t continue to operate the service without money coming in to fund the service,” he said. Thompson said the employees collecting garbage were asked to count the stops made and number of bags collected in February and the numbers show that an average of about 30 percent of the households used
the service during that month. 

He said consideration should be given to restructuring the program, perhaps reducing or eliminating the annual fee, noting that the amount collected from the fee and the sticker charge for each bag of garbage is more than needed to fund the service. He said that, according to his estimates, the service costs approximately $18,000 a year and the annual fee would collect, if each bill was paid, about $20,000. Also, according to records for a seven-year period, sticker fees average $7,800 a year.

Sandy Baker, who has served the township for years as an auditor, said the sticker receipts barely cover the tipping fees at the dumping station. In addition to tipping fees there are labor costs and equipment and fuel expenses for the truck and trailer.

Matteson said $300,000 was taken into the garbage fund since 2005 and he wants to know where it went. A resident said the account has been audited by the township auditors, as well as an independent audit firm, and it’s apparent no one has taken any money.

When asked if their examination of the fund showed any missing money, Matteson and Thompson said it didn’t.

These issues regarding the solid waste fund are given as the reason why the plaintiffs in the suit are asking for the resignations of Miller and Luce. Because they were appointed in December when two of the previous supervisors tendered their resignations, the suit asks that the court system remove them and appoint supervisors who are independent of those “predecessors” and “can deal with any financial improprieties that may exist.”

Supervisors Miller and Luce voted to send the annual garbage bill and include a questionnaire to the householder about whether they want the garbage service to continue and how they would like to see it funded. 

Thompson opposed.

Colby Cooney was reinstated as temporary roadmaster, a position he held until Thompson became supervisor in January and was appointed roadmaster. However, Thompson suffered an work injury shortly after and has been unable to work. 

He recently had shoulder surgery and said he expects it will be two or three months until he can return to work. The position is a temporary appointment while the regular roadmaster has been recuperating from a work-related injury. 

Cooney also serves as fleet manager and his wages were restored to what he had earned previously when filling both jobs. Miller and Luce voted for these actions, with Thompson opposed.

Cooney reported that nearly all the equipment repairs have been made and the crew is busy with spring work. He noted that the bid has been awarded for the bridge in Ellisburg and a pre-project meeting is upcoming. Also, several Dirt and Gravel Road projects are slated and approved for 2016.

Supervisors voted unanimously to give the library $3,700 for electrial wiring upgrades, along with the insulation and ceiling repairs that will be necessary. The township owns the library building.

Supervisors also voted unanimously to give the Genesee Baseball Association $2,445 for a fence at the ball fields to run parallel to an electric fence along the neighboring property owner’s pasture. The wooden fence will be six feet high and 200 feet long. The township also owns the ball fields. Donna Slawson, who presented the request, said the baseball association hasn’t needed to ask the township for any money since 2010, when a sewer was installed to allow for flush toilets. She said all the labor to install the fence will be done by volunteers.

Slawson also reported on some of the successes of the baseball program, noting that it has seen steady growth while other area programs have had to quit. She said this year there are 51 kids registered to play and they will be fielding five teams. The assessment charged to the association to be part of Little League is $1,500 per year. The cost per player is just $25, with the association
providing everything except the players’ gloves and shoes. She noted there has been a ton of improvements made to the ball fields over the past few years and they have 15 volunteers actively serving in the program.

In other business:

• Miller reported that the township’s new website can be found at www.geneseetwp.org. It is still under construction and they are working to get information about everything happening in the township on the site, including such things as baseball news.

• Luce reported that the latest word he received regarding the closure and deck replacement of the state-owned bridge on Cryder Creek Road is that there will be no onsite detour. This will require travelers to use longer detours on alternate routes and residents are concerned about the impact this will have on local businesses. Luce, who is the Genesee ambulance chief, said he is concerned about how this will affect emergency response times as several active responders live across the state line on that road.

The next meeting is set for May 3 at 7 p.m. at the township building. The April meeting was held at the firehall due to expected turnout and if a change of venue is made for the May meeting that information would likely be posted on the new website (geneseetwp.org).


8 comments :

Anonymous said...

We were in charge of this, but we quit. Now we want to question what we did and tell you how to run things. Makes perfect sense.

Unknown said...

Baxter & Matteson seems to be the "Pot stirers!" of the town. When there's not really any problem.. Seems like they make it a problem... Just saying....

Anonymous said...

Supervisors working on the road crew is the most self serving job in this country. Most are lazy and are guaranteed they're jobs until elections roll around again.Our twp and a couple of other twp's have done away with this practice and more work gets done and a lot less arguments.

Anonymous said...

If just the stickers for garbage indeed cover the price of curbside garbage service why are we paying an additional $50 a year. The three amigos who started the law suit need to get a grip . the majority of township people don't like adult bullies and that it sometimes works against you. I don't think you all are the most popular three people in the township right now. I wonder who is paying for the law suit? Thats what I thought!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like THOMPSON should resign.....just sayin

Anonymous said...

I think if the stickers cover the cost then the $50 could be dropped.
It is nice to be able to read the township news when unable to attend meetings. thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for change, as long as nothing changes.

Anonymous said...

I have been blesses to have a camp in this township for more than thirty years. I have been paying for this service since required and have never used it. I totally disagree with being railroaded in paying this fee and would like it to end. I have never had a problem in paying my fare share of taxes and helping the community in every way. I always spend my money in town to help the local economy but this garbage is just that garbage. Pay as you need is the only fair way.