Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Council meeting - November 10

It was a pretty short meeting tonight. We entered executive session before 9pm.

The item that generated the most discussion was the BOEs request for $170,000 related to the bus contract. Ruocco, Sima and Slocum asked some questions about the process. While I was dissatisfied with the information initially provided to the Council by the BOE, I called CCM and got more information. Based on the additional information, I decided that following the process made sense. While I didn't care for the increased cost, I was satisfied that the proper process was used. The motion passed 7-2 (Ruocco & Sima opposed).

The other item that had some discussion was the call for a public hearing related to building permit fees. Jimmy was opposed to even having a public hearing. I respect his position. But I am curious to hear more about these proposed changes to building permit fees.

Tim White


Anonymous said...

"While I didn't care for the increased cost, I was satisfied that the proper process was used. "

Im glad we/you could waste $170,000 so you can be satisfied. The voters in your district must be so proud. Whats your next trick?

Anonymous said...

I would much rather have saved the $170,000, but we have a town charter that must be followed.

Bids are to be made. The blame falls mainly on the people who delayed the bid process. Byt the time it got to the council it was already late.

The bus company knew that and saw it as an opportunity to make more money on us. We must remeber that the next time we are going out to bid.

Anonymous said...

The bus company was the second contractee to tell us the expiration date was approaching. The offer made was more than fair and we knew rejection would be costly. If the Republicans want to keep the majority they will start listening to the voters. How many times have voters told them what will happen if they follow the wrong path and it comes true? Once is too many.
Listen to the people that put you where you sit and you may stay a long time.
Ignore us and you can sit at the Waverly for happy hour.

Contoured Views said...

Monday morning quarterbacking is always fun.

The bus company told who the deadline was approaching?

What was the TM role in this?

Who is responsible for making sure bidding is done in a timely manner?

This current TC has had a horrific record with that. From the Trash contract, to the Bus contract, to the Norton Boiler.

There has to be some protocol.

By the way, the people of this town overwhelmingly voted in the republicans because they were tired of how this current TC was running this town.

Anonymous said...

"Ignore us and you can sit at the Waverly for happy hour."

Oh, we're so offended !! ;-)

Anonymous said...

"The bus company was the second contractee to tell us the expiration date was approaching."

What institute are you living in? It's not the contractor's job to tell us when contracts are ending, it's the job of our staff to keep track of all those things, that's why they get paid big bucks. They are suppose to be proactive and searching out better opportunities long in advance of a termination date. It's time to hold staff accountable and if they don't suffer penalties for screwups they will just continue screwing up.

Have we ever had a screwup where the town made out?

Anonymous said...

Every expenditure in the BOE budget should be looked at closely for this year. If there is a a line item with a surplus it should be used for next years budget. Another thing that should be changed is if the BOE has a surplus it should be used for the following years budget. Now nothing can be returned to the Town. Are we one in the same? The Town always seems to have a surplus(which is good) but the BOE never does. How can the BOE budget be on the money every year? Think about it.

Anonymous said...

How can the BOE budget be on the money every year? Think about it.

November 11, 2009 10:07 AM

If you give the Boe 60 million, they're going to spend 60 million. The hold back on some of their spending and then towards Spring they start telling the individual school principals to go ahead and spend the rest.
Does that make sense?? No...they just spend it b/c it's there. They shift money all around their accounts at the end of the year and you never really know what they spent on what.
I agree with Sima that they should have just come back later in the year if they needed the extra $171K. Giving it to them now just means they'll spend another $171K on something else.

Anonymous said...

Out of curiousity, what would have happened on April 1st when the BOE could not pay the bus company? Would/could they refuse to pickup the kids? Could they cancel the contract forcing every parent to drive their own kid to school? Would a missed payment have a negative effect on our ratings? There is alot more than having a few bucks leftover at the end of the year. Every department cleans out their account. That is the only way they get extra tools

Anonymous said...

No, the answer is that those who opposed the school bus bid waiver cost this town the extra money!!!

Anonymous said...

They(TC) went by the Town charter. Should the Charter should be changed???

Anonymous said...


Why have a charter if we don't follow it?

The BOE and TM should have moved faster.

Anonymous said...

You are correct - The republicans voted against the waivers and are responsible for the added costs

We should look at changing the charter to allow 1, 1 year bid waiver for current contractors with a maximum bid increase of, say, 2.5%-3%

Anonymous said...

Why do that tim will use it to waste money

Anonymous said...

Why an increase? Remember when the price of gas went way down did they give us back any money? The bus company took advantage of us period. The BOE should look at this and see if there is other money that we will not use ie. fuel cost, teachers salary etc. In a $60-70M budget $170,00 is a small amount to find. Please look at this ASAP.

Anonymous said...

For at least the past two years, the BOE has had surplus in the teachers salaries account in excess of $1,000,000 a year. The Supt. then uses this money on other items as he sees fit. I'd be willing to bet there is at least another $1mm surplus in this years budget. Now he has $1.17mm to play with.

Contoured Views said...

The vote was 4-3. DeCaprio was not at the meeting, Sima recused himself and the Democrat, Dill voted against the waiver after asking Florio if it was possible that the town could save money by going to bid.
Dill made the deciding vote based on info given to him by Florio that it was possible to get a lower price if it went to bid.
Tim did his due dilligence and received info from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities that showed several towns that only had a 3% increase. Back in March, gas was just over $2.00 a gallon after being over $4.oo per gallon 8months earlier. Naturally, one would think we should get a competetive bid.

I would seriously look into why it was increased so much. DATTCO probably realized it was getting late and there weren't many competitors out there who would want to go through the trouble of getting new tanks and learning the system. I feel they are the ones who screwed us over. We should remember this and start the process earlier to ensure a fair bidding process is done.
Mr. Massey tried to throw the blame on the council whem it appears that the BOE spent more time negotiating a bid waiver deal with Dattco then putting a bid backage together in a timely manner.
Again, we can all look like geniuses when we play Monday morning quaterback. The real issue is that they did what they felt was best for this town based on the info provided and the words from Florio.

Changing the charter won't necessarily help. We may go back to the "old boy" network of rewarding contracts to friends of the TC, especially if it is an election year.

Anonymous said...

"I would seriously look into why it was increased so much."

Easy, the bid waiver was going to help the bus company. Dattco was offering a discount to the town in exchange for the waiver. If they did not get the waiver, Dattco would have to rush to put a bid together knowing that the budget was being compiled. By refusing the waiver, Dattco could submit a bid that they felt any other bus company would submit to be competitive. Dattco felt this was a higher amount.

There has to be an increase. Fuel, insurance, payroll, benefits, maintenance costs all go up. IF we were to change the charter to allow waivers, we can set the limit of how much of an increase we can see. For the bus contract, IF it was a 1 million dollar per year contract, we could limit the increase to $30,000. That would not buy them a new bus, or cover the towns fuel bill for a year, but would pay for a new employee. Instead, we are giving Dattco 6X that amount.

Contoured Views said...

Ahhh...now we're getting somewhere.

And why would they have to "rush" to get a bid order done?

Perhaps there was too much time spent negotiating with them instead of putting together bid packages. What was the BOE doing? What was the Chair of the Budget committe doing?

DATTCO isn't stupid, they knew that it was late in the game and there wouldn't be many competetive bids. I say good for them, they won this round, but we need to remember that when this contract comes up.

Breachway said...

It is hard to believe that we have never called the BOE on the carpet regarding their brilliant expense forecasting. No surplus every year and i guess their has been no negative balances either? If many people know - i was told by 2 family members who are school employees - that the admin puts the word out to spend funds or risk losing them the following year, why can't the TC look into this? Tim is an auditor i think. Is it that hard to request a timeline of expenditures and see how much flows out at the end of the year? Just because it is common practice as a previous poster suggests, it doesn't mean it is the right way to run a company....oh, i forgot the BOE is not part of corporate America. Florio is lucky it isn't. Missing contract deadlines and pissing away money doesn't go over well in a board meeting.

Contoured Views said...

You are exactly right about them being told to spend the money.

I was told that the schools are told in March or April how much they should spend to use up every bit of the budget so there isn't a surplus.
Someone should look at the buying trends for our schools and see what months have the highest amount of expenditures. I bet it is towards the end of the school year.

Maybe our new friend on the board, Tony Perugini, if he is reading this, good look into that.

Anonymous said...

It's not just the BOE that tells it's employees that. Every dept. follows that practice. Usually every dept tells its employees to curb spending around mid April so there is a considerable amount mid June. Then they spend it on whatever they want.

Dattco told the BOE that the contract was due for bidding. They won with honesty. Dattco ha people aware of the expiration date.

Tony Perugini said...

Countoured, I was at the meeting Tuesday night and have a few observations to share below. It's premature for me to comment on how the education budget is handled. I understand the pessimism in this thread but until I can actually see and discuss facts it's premature for me to speculate on how accurate the budget may or may not be. But I will add that NO BUDGET is 100% on the money year in and year out. Even Warren Buffet can't get his budgets right. But if we cracked the secret to 100% budget accuracy in Cheshire then we should share it with the rest of the country IMO.

First, I wish I had the ability to walk into my CEO's office, or the board room (or a bank for that matter) and ask for more money for my budget without having to show proof of need or any artifacts/evidence to support my request. It just doesn't happen in the corporate world where financial controls are in place and financial policies are being enforced. This is just not normal by any means. When one of my managers walks into my office looking for handout there's no discussion unless they bring their facts with them. I mean facts not emotionally-based/charged arguments.

Second, it concerns me that the bulk of the town council did not press Dr. Florio for artifacts pertaining to the current state of the education budget. No balance sheet, operating budget, cash flow statement....basically no common financial statement was requested of the superintendent. No documentation of financial need or hardship was requested or produced to validate that indeed the education budget, at this point in time, could not absorb the $171K. Now, I'm not knocking Dr. Florio....ANY leader that approaches the town council for funding should be scrutinized and produce artifacts supporting their requests. Sorry, what I saw is just plain scary. Then again, the best Mr. Altieri could muster up during the discussion was hindsight. Hindsight is 20/20. It's obvious to me that the Town of Cheshire made the right choices during the election because the current outgoing crop of councilmen just doesn't understand fiscal responsibility.

Third, isn't anyone else concerned that our ~$56MM education budget cannot absorb a $171K hit this early on in the budget year? In other words, the current BOE felt that the budget was so constrained at this point that it just isn't feasible to wait until later in the school year to see if we still needed the extra $171K. That tells me we have a serious problem with either the education budget itself, with the way we manage the budget and/or with the way we communicate the budget. I find it hard to believe that there's absolutely no buffer, no wiggle room in the education budget in November... That's scary.

Lastly, if anyone in attendance Tuesday night believes that the bus contract issue was resolved then you are wrong. The issue was not resolved. The only thing that happened Tuesday night was that money was moved from pile A to pile B. The town council solved the symptom of $171K. The root cause of the problem that led to the additional/extra bus contract costs was not defined not discussed and was not resolved. There were no lessons learned Tuesday night and despite Mr. Altieri's gibberish about looking at the data, it was a diversion. The bid/budget process is flawed or needs to be made more efficient and timely but the outgoing majority doesn't seem to care about it. But I do care about it and I know my colleagues care about it and it will be resolved.

Tony Perugini

Contoured Views said...

That is why I voted for you and urged others to. I never met you, but I could tell from the first time I read some of your comments here that you were just as concerned about the waste of money that many of us here are.

I appreciate you taking the time to look into this.

I can't agree with you more about why a budget of $56 million can't absorb $171,000 early on. They could have waited to see where things were later on in the school year before they approached the TC.

You and I know that the grandstanding for the $171K was all on the urging of the outgoing crop of democrats. They wanted to try and stick it to the republicans one last time. It didn't work.

They forget that the deciding vote to not allow the bid waiver was made by a democrat (Dill) and if DeCaprio was there, they would have pulled her strings to vote in favor of the waiver.

I am glad the BOE has a person like you to watch out for this and ask the hard but sensible questions.


Bill said...

We should know why Dattco raised the price by the 170k. What could happen within that firm that would have increased the cost of the contract going from no-bid to bid. We should demand an explanation from Dattco at a BOE meeting.

cedar lane said...

To keep a closer eye on BOE spending, the new council might establish a standing Education Committee of the council, and not just have a liaison to the BOE. Many town and city councils have their own education committees in addition to the local boards of ed.

Anonymous said...

3:41 The idea of an "education committee" on the town council may seem like a good one, but I doubt it will fly. As I've followed the budget for years now, we continually hear that the TC's only influence on the BoE's budget is the total amount that they get - they have no say on how it's spent.
It's up to the BoE members to be aware of how all the BoE money is spent. But here again, they'll say that that's what they cover while going line by line through the budget. Sure, they ask some questions, but I can't remember many instances where a BoE member actually changed amounts spent in the different accounts. The Super runs the show more or less.

I'd like to know about the snow plowing contract. I'm hearing the same person gets that contract all the time. Why isn't that going out to bid??

Maybe Tony P. can ask that question when he gets on the Board. We should find out before the snow starts falling.

Good luck Tony!! You're gonna need it...lol


Anonymous said...

The BOE asked for the money early because of how the bus contract was handled by the council. IF the BOE were to sit back and try to absorb the $171,000. then the council would complain that the BOE inflated prices to get more money while trying for a 0% increase. At the same time, if there really isnt any room to find $171,000. then why is it their fault that the council allowed them less than they needed to provide a service.

I dont understand what the problem is. The republicans made the price go up and then bitch and moan because they have to pay for it. Listen to your voters as they MAY have a clue as to whats going on.

A business like Dattco was probably insulted that you refused their waiver. AJ waste was. Both companies offered generous breaks for a waiver. You cannot have open bidding and waiver breaks at the same time. Waivers allow continued service at a discount for a shorter time period compared to open bids. Waivers can be compared to credit card companies offering savings if you sign up right away. You get a great discount if you act immediately but lose it when you "wait and see"

Anonymous said...

"...AJ waste was. Both companies offered generous breaks for a waiver. You cannot have open bidding and waiver breaks at the same time. Waivers allow continued service at a discount for a shorter time period compared to open bids. Waivers can be compared to credit card companies offering savings if you sign up right away. You get a great discount if you act immediately but lose it when you "wait and see"..."

My what a set of logic. I am hoping it is a reflection of the Gang of 5 and I am hoping it will be gone with them as they fade shortly into the fading late fall sunset.

Clearly when one picks apart what took place concerning the town budget and the failure to conduct timely bidding for services which are required to be bid competitively one comes away believing that the Gang of 5 was not watching out for the local electorate. TThey were so bad that the majority of town voters, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, voted them ALL out of office.

Anyone trying to explain the shear beauty of awarding large no bid contracts by comparing that practice to the garbage offered daily by a bunch of sleazy credit card companies maneuvering to set up customers for 20+% interest rates is kind of missing what just went down at our local election. The incumbents were FIRED for their lack of concern over basic budget items.

Tim White said...

Tim is an auditor

A couple years ago I looked at the last minute shifts. If I recall correctly I reviewed four years in the first half of this decade.

I found that about $400,000 to $500,000 was annually shifted to operations and maintenance.

I didn't have the blog at the time, so believe I never mentioned it.

I tried to investigate further. But our schools are old. Spending money on maintenance is important.

The process should be more transparent. But fundamentally, I don't have a problem with the year-end balance being spent on maintenance.

Thanks for bringing it up though. I should look at that again, as the last I reviewed it was several years ago.

Anonymous said...

You missed many points here. This was screwed up and not by the TC.

Contoured Views said...

You stated:
"I dont understand what the problem is. The republicans made the price go up and then bitch and moan because they have to pay for it."

I say again,the final and deciding vote was made by a Democrat, while another democrat was unable to attend the meeting.

Fools like you continue to have that wonderful hindsight. It's too bad you didn't have foresight or you would have all seen how sick and tired this town was of the democratic spending.

You also insinuate that DATTCO & AJ's put in higher bids because they were "insulted".
Are you kidding me?
That is the most ridiculous statement I heard.
When you state that you get a "great discount" if you move fast on waiving bid, do you realize you are also compromising the entire system?
Shouldn't you get the best rate, typically, when 3 companies are bidding for a service?

Anonymous said...

Explaining bid waivers is as hard as explaining performance contracting. A bid waiver is a chance to renew an existing contract at the same or almost the same terms as the previous contract. Anyone involved in business can understand it. A business nearing the end of a contract will offer to continue services for the same price or at a price with a marginal increase. Increases may be needed as in these cases the contracts were oringinally priced over 5 years earlier. In this economy, both sides win as the town expenses are in line with the last 5 years and the business continues to have a financial income. Paying the same price for the same service is much better than facing $171,000 in increases.

3 companies bidding on a contract does not always result in the best price. Tim supplied a spreadsheet when 3 people bid on the trash contract. All 3 were much higher than the offered waiver. All 3 were higher than the waiver after the details of the waiver were made public. The town of Cheshire also has a problem: it is very hard for us to get 3 companies to submit our bids.

Waivers are not a new concept. Cheshire has used them for decades. Public works and BOE have about a dozen issued each year. If we were to set limits an guidelines, waivers would be an excellent cost controling tool.

(I am Republican)

Anonymous said...

"3 companies bidding on a contract does not always result in the best price."
You are correct, but in my business practices, I have seen many times that you do get the best brice that way. It depends on how hungry a business is.

In busing, as in trash hauling, there isn't that much competition. There were some issues with trash hauling companies because they knew there wasn't that much competition so they was price fixing. This is an issue that has to be watched carefully.

Tell me, what is the point of signing a 3 year contract only to add another year on at the end?

Why would a bid waiver offer be almost 10% lower?

These are questions that need to be addressed.

Bid Waiver Truth said...

The bid waiver for the bus contract would've allowed the town to seek bids AND if a lower competing bid was not found...DATTCO would honor an agreed upon 4% contract increase. In other words, the bid waiver did not prevent us from seeking competing bids on the bus contract. It doesn't explain WHY DATTCO would jump from 4-12% but there's a misperception that the bid waiver would've prevented us from sending the contract out to bid which is just not true.

Anonymous said...

If we give Dattco the waiver, we are agreeing to let them continue working for a year. We are not going to award the waiver and award a bid for the same job at the same time. Waivers are in-lieu of bidding.

I guess the easiest way to explain why the bid was 8% higher than the waiver is that the waiver was a "kickback" to the entire town. Dattco was saying to the town, "if you do not put this to bid, we will only charge X amount. If we bid, it will be Y more than X".

These companies know times are tough. They understand it is tough for the residents, taxpayers, businesses, and even the town itself. They were offering the town a concession to allow them to continue working without compitition. Even after the world knew what the waiver request rate was, nobody came close to it. There was probably little to no profit in the waiver but would keep the busses running and the workers employeed.

Bids get issued knowing what the industrial regional rate is and everyone adds in what they want for profit.

"Tell me, what is the point of signing a 3 year contract only to add another year on at the end?"

I do not understand what you are asking? Regardless, we would sign someone after 3 years, so why can it not be the current bid winner? Under the circumstances, a waiver would have saved us alot of money and allowed us (the town) to be better prepared to bid the contract fof the 2010/11 budget. There is no reason we couldnt accept the waiver then and bid the next season today. Last budget season, our town leaders on all levels dropped the ball and tried to write department budgets without knowing what costs would be.

I would be curious to ask the 2 companies that asked for waivers what they would have done had we waived the bid for 1 year and told them they had to bid the next? Would the next bid be closer to the waiver since they had gotten what they wanted?

Anonymous said...

I think it is possible that people might want to maximize their profit by talking with each other before they bid on a contract. Is it really that difficult to come up with 3 bids, one so high, one too low with a poor reputation and one just right? I may be a bit cynical, but I think this might happen more than we would like.

Anonymous said...

Very possible, but the company bidding real low would not be around long and the company bidding rediculously high would also shut down.

I have nothing against bidding, what I have a problem with is seeing worthwile savings opportunities and throwing the to the wayside. The town can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by allowing waivers. Simply stating in the bid package that a 1 year waiver may be applied for at the end of the contract with upto 3% increase can help us save money. The council can still vote to accept or decline the waiver, but the savings will be in companies looking to regain a bid without compitition.

Tony Perugini said...

"I am glad the BOE has a person like you to watch out for this and ask the hard but sensible questions."

Good luck Tony!! You're gonna need it...lol

Thanks, I think. :-) Well, we have a LOT of work ahead of us both on the BOE and Town Council. For me, personally, a great deal of work is understanding/finding facts and confirming or dispelling myths. I have a lot of fact finding ahead of me. In four years, or less, we want to look back and measure how well we did or didn't perform. The only way I know how to do that is set a stake in the ground based on where we are now and where we need to be. That starts with defining the priorities, the issues and itemizing the spend. Planning the next few years and setting objectives to hit those milestones.

Is it going to be easy, even with a majority? No, of course not but nobody that got elected is doing this because we have an easy job ahead of us. We're going to hit some bumps along the way but we'll come out of it as a stronger town than we are today.

- Tony

Anonymous said...

Hey 6:37 a.m i sit at the waverly with your mother every night oh we are so offended