Murray holds off on decision banning firearms from town property

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 13 April 2016 at 12:00 am

Town supervisor responds to resident’s questions about water districts

MURRAY – About two dozen residents attended the regular meeting of the Murray Town Board Tuesday evening.

Town attorney Jeff Martin updated residents on the status of the proposed Workplace Violence Prevention Policy local law, which includes a firearm ban for town buildings, property and vehicles. Martin said the town does need such a policy, but how the proposed law addresses weapons should be discussed at a yet to be scheduled Town Board workshop.

“We can make recommended modifications after we have had a chance to do further reviews,” Martin said.

The town had hoped that its insurance carrier – New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal (NYMIR) – would respond to their questions regarding the ramifications of dropping the weapons ban part of the law, but Martin said he has “heard nothing official from NYMIR.” The proposed local law was drafted in light of a recommendation from NYMIR.

Resident Kerri Neale, who lead a rally last month against the weapons ban, attended Tuesday’s meeting and reminded board members that they need to keep the US Constitution in mind as they formulate local statutes.

“Everybody wants to look out for public safety,” he said, but he noted incidents with weapons have never been an issue on town property. “I don’t see any fear of the future, unless I was unable to defend myself.”

Resident Joe Sidonio also attended Tuesday’s meeting and presented town board members with a chart and detailed financial information, which show a spike in the use of fund balance for water districts in the town in 2016. Information he presented shows the amount of fund balance used from 2011-2015 in the $1,000 – $12,000 range. In 2016, nearly $66,000 is used from the fund balance.

“It’s alarming to me,” Sidonio told board members. “Look at the sales of water verses the cost of water, we aren’t making any money. I don’t understand why the numbers don’t add up.”

During his monthly “Supervisor Comments” earlier in the meeting, Town Supervisor John Morriss addressed a number of concerns and issues raised by Sidonio this year.

Supervisor Morriss stated that Highway Superintendent Ed Morgan did not retire from his post, but is “collecting retirement.” Sidonio questioned Morgan’s employment status in February.

In regards to a 2014 NYS Comptroller’s audit, which was critical of the town’s bookkeeping practices and the use of water district debt proceeds for operating and capital purposes, Morriss said the state auditor was new to the job and that he did not like the way the software utilized by the town’s bookkeeper generated financial reports.

Morriss said figures requested by the state were submitted in the preferred format and that the town has either already made changes requested by the state or is in the process of making those changes which will help to eliminate the potential for problems with bookkeeping methods.

He noted the issues found by the audit were procedural. “There was no money missing,” Morriss said. “We could account for all the money.”

Regarding overtaxing in the town’s water districts, Morriss said Rural Development as not found anything out of line and that it is normal to over-levy 10 percent of the bond principal and interest. He explained that in addition to the water it purchases, the town also incurs additional maintenance costs such as monthly meter charges, bookkeeping fees, monthly health test costs and the cost of unmetered water from leaks, fire department training and hydrant flushing. The town has offset operational costs with use of the fund balance to keep the cost down, he said.

He added that he has given figures provided by Sidonio last month to the auditor and is waiting for a response.

Sidonio thanked Supervisor Morriss for his response. Sidonio said he has no issues with the services provided by the town.

“The Comptroller’s report speaks for itself,” Sidonio said, and noted the town was not guilty of fraudulent activity. “It was loose bookkeeping and accounting practices and you said you have addressed that.”

Sidonio said he and the town are in agreement that there is a 15.5 percent increase in the tax rate and that Councilman Paul Hendel has stated the town may have to cut services or raise taxes in 2017 due to the use of the town’s fund balance.

Sidonio said he is still concerned about the “viability and financial stability of the water districts.”