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Greenport Village Notes: Mayor deflects audit criticism

Disagreeing with a headline in last week’s Suffolk Times, Greenport Mayor David Nyce said Tuesday night that his administration deserved an A, not an F, for its handling of fiscal procedures and controls.

When he questioned auditors from the New York State comptroller’s office at the completion of their work, they told him the village fared “better than most” municipalities on such an audit, the mayor said during a Village Board meeting.

Neither the auditors nor village officials implied that any money was missing, Mr. Nyce said. The audit did show that inadequate cash controls were in place during the period audited, June 1, 2008, to Nov. 9, 2009. Former recreation director Linda Ortiz, who took the brunt of the auditors’ criticism, is “above and beyond reproach,” Mr. Nyce said. “Her honesty and integrity were never in question.”

When the comptroller’s report showed discrepancies between cash receipts and bank deposits, those resulted from faulty record keeping, the mayor said. He identified village administrator David Abatelli as the person who investigated the discrepancies.

Mr. Abatelli, who did not want to comment prior to last week’s story, said after it appeared that the auditors had looked only at bottom line figures on the receipts from operations at the Mitchell Park ice rink, and failed to account for notations on the receipts of money returned to patrons who, after paying, opted not to skate and requested refunds.

Mr. Nyce said by the time auditors returned their findings, his administration had already taken steps to remedy about 95 percent of the procedural shortcomings identified in the report. Another step in that direction occurred Tuesday night when the board held a public hearing on a revised procurement policy.

The proposed revision still doesn’t require that the village issue requests for proposals for engineering and legal services. Board watchdog John Saladino asked how that serves taxpayers. The mayor said state law doesn’t require RFPs for such services and board members make decisions in awarding those jobs based on prior experience with various firms.

The board agreed Tuesday night to pay Genesys Engineering $7,500 for services in connection with assessing bids for work on the village’s electric plant. The company had lowered its original $10,000 bid to $8,000 and then came down another $500 after the mayor requested the change at the previous week’s work session.

“We have always gotten good value for our dollar from Genesys Engineering,” Mr. Nyce said following the vote.

MONEY FOR MOORINGS

The board rejected all bids from private operators to manage its Stirling Harbor mooring field and appropriated up to $20,000 for repairs and equipment replacements. In response to a request from Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, the mayor agreed to request a report from Mr. Abatelli and harbormaster Kenneth McDonald after the first 10 moorings have been inspected. At issue is the board’s ability to project how many of its more than 40 existing moorings will need major repairs or replacement so that future village budgets can include funds to ensure that all equipment is up to par.

FUTURE ELIH PLANS

While approving a wetlands permit to enable Eastern Long Island Hospital to replace two underground heating oil tanks with two above-ground tanks — one with a 20,000 gallon capacity and the other with a 2,000 gallon capacity — Ms. Phillips asked that a hospital representative present to the board both plans for screening the above-ground tanks and future developments on the site.

The hospital’s building envelope has gradually enlarged as it has expanded, and Ms. Phillips said she’s concerned about how future development could affect parking and impact neighbors and perhaps wetlands. In recent months, the hospital has revised its parking plan to provide more space in its lot.

Board members agreed to ask a hospital representative to attend a meeting to talk about future development.

TREE PLANTINGS

Village tree committee chairman John Quinlan told the board the group will request another $12,000 state matching grant to continue replacing trees around the Village that have had to be removed. Since 2007, 55 ailing or dangerous trees have been cut down and 220 new ones planted. The committee plans to plant 22 more this spring.

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