The donation of an "old school" ice rink, the status of flooded County Building #2, construction at the airport, Albany's inflexibility regarding bid procedures, and indigent defense were all topics of discussion at Monday afternoon's Public Service Committee meeting.
Oh yes, and no filbert trees were available for sale this year from the Soil & Water Conservation District. But more on that later.
Highway Superintendent Tim Hens recommended that the committee accept the donation of an old-fashioned ice rink -- a veritable "duck pond" with "dasher boards" -- from Oakfield-Alabama Central School District (OACSD) for use at DeWitt Recreation Area off Cedar Street in the City of Batavia.
There is an area long designated for an ice rink in the master plan for DeWitt -- which is overseen by county Parks, Recreation and Forestry -- and if approved by the county Legislature, this is where the rink would be installed.
After a brief discussion, the committee unanimously approved recommending that the "as is" donation be accepted. It was originally paid for by OACSD with a $1,000 state grant.
"This is great for the county and the city," Hens said.
The Oakfield-Alabama district used the ice rink for two years, then it became problematic to maintain. A corps of volunteers will be needed to set it up, flood it with water, and keep it maintained during the winter.
"There's no Zamboni that comes with it," Hens quipped.
County Manager Jay Gsell agreed.
"It's skating in the park," Gsell said. "It's not Rockefeller Center. There won't be a Christmas tree."
Committee Member John Deleo asked about power and lighting for the ice rink.
Hens said all the possibilities are being looked at, but they are leaning toward LED with a solar-powered "hot box."
Water and sewer lines at DeWitt will be extended for a new restroom facility under construction, and lighting will be added at that time, Hens said.
Deleo asked about parking to access the rink and Hens said if the rink is installed, the south parking lot would be opened in winter. Currently, only the north parking lot is kept open year-round.
The committee also voted to recommend approval of two candidates for the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Advisory Committee: Tom Clark and Jerome Gentry.
And Hens asked the committee to recommend awarding a bid to buy one cargo van with a sliding door for $25,000 or less for motor-pooling, and members agreed to this.
As for the recently flooded County Building #2 on West Main Street Road in the Town of Batavia, it has been fully remediated, Hens reported.
The contractor thoroughly dried the place out after a busted pipe caused extensive water damage during the winter. Mold and mildew were eradicated, even the floorboards in the information/technology area were raised and the space vacuumed.
Drying the facility cost $30,000. Repairs/plumbing/painting/tile work on top of that are estimated at $88,000, according to Hens. When allowable depreciation is factored into the mix, the total cost drops from $118,000 to $113,000 -- below the insurer's cap of $115,000 for this incident. The county's deductible is $10,000.
The contractor detailed 44 pages of work needed as a result of the mishap, which by all accounts would've been a lot worse if an employee hadn't stopped in on his day off, over the weekend, and found the broken pipe.
Hens said a private contractor will be employed to do the repairs, such as replacing tile, drywall, appyling a vinyl basecoat and other painting. This will enable county workers to stay on task with outdoor jobs that need to be done during the warmer months.
The new offices at the county airport will be completed by March 24, with the exception of "punch list items" like giving epoxy time to dry, then the big move -- read "big hassle" -- will ensue. The committee may hold its May meeting there, and get a tour. (The April 18 meeting of the Public Service Committee is already promised to the Sheriff's Office on Park Road.)
Lastly in terms of Hens' report, was the inscrutable logic of the state Comptroller's Office as regards the award of bids for highway contruction materials.
For example, take the weighty materials used for road bulding during the summer like asphalt -- whose price has dropped 15 to 20 percent due to the lower cost of crude oil and the price of gasoline -- or quarry stone. The price of these heavy cargo items is modified to account for hauling. So, take the low bidder then factor in another 50-cents-per-mile as the cost to get the materials to the job site.
They call it awarding a "catalog of options for vendors."
"This is the way counties in the Rochester region do business," Hens said. "Otherwise, I couldn't do my job."
But it's not the way the Comptroller's Office in Albany recommends doing business.
In fact, the mathematics appeared to stupefy the representative from the Comptroller's Office, despite an hour-long phone conversation with Hens articulating current procedures and the logic for them.
"That's frightening that someone can't understand that," Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg said.
Gsell said it's actually not that they don't get it, it's that they lack flexibility and can't think outside the confines of their specific framework, making the gesture of a big square box with his hands. He cited New York's lack of national buying cooperatives and its dearth of "piggy-backing" to boost purchasing power as examples of New York government failures.
To avoid being scapegoated with an audit for not following the Comptroller's Office's recommendations to cease using a "catalog of options" approach, resolutions are being proposed for the Genesee County Legislature to sign. They are intended to underscore and articulate the local preference for doing business the way it has long been done by counties in the region.
And speaking of Albany, Public Defender Jerry Ader told the committee on Monday that he's asking for more money to defend the poor, something which is constitutionally the state's responsibility, but which has been palmed off onto counties for the past 45 years.
A grant for $344,200 is available, at no cost to the county, to help pay for indigents' legal bills, and he asked the committee to recommend accepting the grant. They unanimously agreed.
Ader also asked committee members to pass a resolution calling on the state to increase funding for indigent defense for all New York counties, not just the five counties (unspecified) which are now being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for their allegedly poor defense of the poor.
The five counties are to be demo sites for a proposal to gradually allow the state, through the Office of Indigent Legal Services, to: oversee reimbursement of costs; ensure standards are met; and that caseloads are properly managed. Each county would simply administer the program.
"How do you justify not doing this for all counties?" Clattenburg asked.
Exactly, Ader said, "you can't unring the bell," noting that it's Governor Cuomo's task to find a way to fund the upgrade of indigent defense across the board. Until then, Genesee County, too, is at risk for getting sued by the ACLU, Gsell said.
Even so, local representatives seem a bit blase about the issue. Ader noted that neither Senator Mike Ranzenhofer nor Assemblyman Steve Hawley have boarded the bandwagon, which to date consists of a less-than-whopping two lawmakers. State lawmakers will select bills to vote on within the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, the annual Tree & Shrub Sale of the county Soil & Water Conservation District just wrapped up. At least officially, the deadline was March 11.
Member Robert Bausch told district Director Pamela Whitmore he usually buys something every year. We do not recall whether he specifically mentioned having bought a hazelnut tree, but Whitmore replied flatly: "We don't have any filbert trees this year."
Whitmore also reported that the district is not seeking an increase in appropriations, nor are there staff changes afoot, although there is one position open.
At present, Water & Soil is focusing on stream water quality and water bank fortification, said District Manager Greg Tessmann.
He said they are in a partnership with SUNY Brockport to monitor water quality in streams and that the results of testing samples will be available this fall.
Committee Member Shelley Stein said she has been told about the exceptional staff at Soil & Water -- how they are "aggressive, motivated, interested and committed."
Lastly, county Weights & Measures Director Don Luxon told the committee he is considering retirement, but said he would provide a few months notice once the decision is made.