Questions arose over contracts and committees at the Cicero Town Board’s regular meeting Wednesday, March 14.
First, Supervisor Jim Corl asked for a resolution to “enter into an agreement for a period of one year with David Kirk to perform professional information technology services to the town of Cicero and authorizing the Supervisor to execute a contract for services. The town has received a proposed scope of services from Mr. Kirk which includes, among other services, providing the town with a stable and budgeted computing platform. The cost of the contract is an amount not to exceed $5,500 annually.”
Kirk chairs the town’s Information Technology Committee, an all-volunteer group, and Corl said his services have far exceeded those expected of a volunteer.
“He’s been very helpful to the board, and I would like to see that he be provided a stipend,” Corl said. “He’s spent countless hours so far — hundreds of hours this year — so I wanted to bring that up to the board for discussion.”
Councilor Lynn Jennings, a former member of the IT committee, objected heartily to the proposal.
“I feel it’s a conflict of interest to put money to Dave Kirk, who is chairing a committee,” he said. “I don’t believe an RFP [request for proposals] has gone out on this. Is there maybe someone out there better qualified or somebody that will do it for less? I’ve worked with Dave, but I just think to come up with another $5,500 to pay an individual that volunteered to chair a committee is wasteful spending. At the least, we need to send out an RFP and see if there is any response to that.”
Jennings pointed to the financial constraints the town faced elsewhere, including the fact that other departments had to move full-time employees to part-time positions while other positions were cut.
“Are we going to pay every committee chair?” he asked. “I am against it.”
Corl said the town does not currently employ anyone who can complete the work that Kirk is doing.
Ultimately, the board decided not to vote on the issue at Wednesday’s meeting. They will review Kirk’s resume and qualifications and discuss it again at the March 28 meeting.
The board again faced controversy, this time from members of the audience, when they announced the approval of a contract with the town of Salina for shared services for assessor Brad Brennan. The pronouncement came after a 50-minute executive session in which the board and town attorney Robert Germain discussed the contract of a particular employee — presumably Brennan.
As approved by the town of Cicero, the two-year contract, which still requires approval from Salina’s board, calls for a salary of $46,630 to be paid by the town of Cicero with no raises for the next two years. Cicero will also pay half of Brennan’s benefits of about $18,000. Corl said it would cost the town about $100,000 to pay a full-time assessor a salary and benefits.
Some residents were less than thrilled with the announcement.
“One of the comments I got from many residents when I was out campaigning was that they didn’t like the way they were treated with regards to Brad,” said Joe Ruscitto, a Democrat who ran for town board in November and lost. “You never gave anyone else a chance. You never looked for anyone else.”
“So we feel confident that, in 17 hours a week, this entire town can be assessed in three or four years?” asked Kristen Foland. “I am skeptical. I can’t believe that saving $30,000 for a part-time employee is the right decision. This is not against Mr. Brennan, but I think it was a bad decision, and I think we really need to think about our future.”
In other business:
The board discussed making changes at an intersection where 51-year-old Leanne Schaefer died earlier this month while her husband, Mark, wiped away tears in the audience.
“It’s very unfortunate that we have to discuss this,” Corl said. “Over the last couple of weeks, I was approached by a citizen of the town of Cicero with a safety concern in the Taft Road area, especially Taft Road and Totman Road. There was a tragic accident there recently, and Ms. Leanne Schaefer did pass away due to her injuries. She leaves behind her family and her husband, who is here with us this evening. Since that happened, Cindy Smith has circulated petitions relative to safety concerns in that particular area.”
Corl said he had also talked to the county department of transportation, which was willing to make whatever improvements were necessary to improve the safety of the intersection.
The board will hold a public hearing to consider reducing the speed limit along East Taft Road from Thompson Road to Northern Boulevard. They also passed a resolution asking the county to consider adding a stoplight or making some other kind of safety improvement at the Totman Road intersection.
The board approved the submission of an application for a 2012 Community Development grant. Jody Rogers, director of the Cicero Youth Bureau, Parks and Recreation Department, said the town wants to use any money it may get from the fund to make repairs to the Cicero Senior Center on Lathrop Drive, which was built in 1958 and added onto in 2004.
“Our project eligibility will benefit the elderly and handicapped,” Rogers said. “What I want to try and do and continue to do is reduce our costs of energy and maintenance at the facility and increase our energy efficiency.”
Rogers said NYSERDA did an energy audit at the end of 2010 and about 70 percent of the recommended changes have been made. If the grant is approved, the town will be able to remove and install 26 squares of asphalt shingles on the roof, repair the facility’s parking lot on the south side of the building, install under drains and repave it, install insulation in the attic and sprayfoam around the ductwork and piping (as part of the NYSERDA recommendations) and replace the existing hot water tank with a tankless, on-demand hot water system. The new tank is more efficient and has a longer life than the old one.
Rogers said the overall cost of the project would be $40,000. The town’s share of the money is $10,500.
“From that, the Cicero Senior Center itself is fundraising and has already approved their contribution of $3,000,” Rogers said. “Through my in-kind contribution of my staff doing some of the insulation work and whatnot is another $1,500, and through taxes, we would raise $6,000. So what we’re requesting from Community Development is $29,500.”
Rogers said this project will take the place of Phase III of the Riverfront Park project, as Phases I and II are not yet complete.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.