Amherst Town Board Report
by Paul Wolf - posted 10:30 pm, January 8, 2014
On Monday January 6th, I attended my first Town of Amherst Board meeting.
Weinstein Tells Manna To Shut Up
At the beginning of the Board meeting Supervisor Barry Weinstein reminded those present that the rules for the meeting require all to conduct themselves with decorum. About half way through the meeting Weinstein became the biggest offender of the decorum rules by telling fellow Board member Mark Manna to “shut up”.
Back in the 1980’s a town park located on Hopkins Road was named Margaret Louise Park after the deceased grandmother and mother of then Town Board member Bill Kindel. Kindel is currently the Amherst Conservative Party Chair and in the last election the Conservative Party endorsed all Democratic candidates running in Amherst. Not a single Republican candidate was endorsed by the Conservative Party. Having the Conservative line in November helped win the election for a new Democratic Town Judge and a new Democratic Board member.
In what appears to be nothing more than petty revenge, Weinstein has led the charge to rename Margaret Louise Park to Hopkins Road Park. In a slap to Conservative Chair Kindel, the Town Board in December renamed the park. With a new Board now with three Republicans and two Democrats, Mark Manna filed a resolution to change the name of the park back to Margaret Louise Park. Weinstein made a motion to table Manna’s motion. Weinstein stated that under the rules no debate or discussion is allowed regarding a motion to table. Weinstein refused to allow newly elected Democratic Board member Romona Popowich speak on the item. Manna argued that it was wrong to silence board members from discussing an item, at which point Weinstein violated all rules of decorum by telling Manna to “shut up”. Weinstein did eventually allow Popowich to speak, after which the three Republican members voted to table Manna’s motion.
After the meeting I reviewed the Amherst Town Board rules and they do say that when a motion to table is made there will not be any discussion regarding the motion.
Protect Amherst Life Members Speak
Several residents of Linwood Avenue many of whom belong to a new organization called Protect Amherst Life, spoke at the meeting in opposition to a proposal to construct 55 apartments on a 4.28-acre parcel that fronts on both Linwood Avenue and South Forest Road. The project includes four two-story buildings with 44 apartments and two single-story structures with a total of 11 one- and two-bedroom units. Constructing the 55 apartments requires a zoning change, which has not been approved at this point.
Outside Auditor Hired Without Soliciting Competition
In a resolution titled “Reappointment of Outside Auditor”, the Board approved spending $57,500 per year over the next five years ( a total of $287,500) for audits to be completed by Drescher & Malecki. New Board Member Ramona Popowich questioned whether auditing services were sought through a Request For Proposals. Weinstein and the Town Comptroller stated that Drescher & Malecki have been providing audit services to the town since at least 2008 and that very few firms do government auditing. No one could recall the last time that proposals from auditing firms were sought.
In my opinion you do not “reappoint” an outside auditor. The purpose of retaining outside auditors is to have an independent review of town finances. Drescher & Malecki has performed auditing work for the town for at least five years. Before entering into another five year contract I believe under New York State law, the town is required to solicit competitive proposals from auditing firms.
Creative Leadership Training
We need more creative thinking in government. The Board approved spending a few hundred dollars for two employees to attend a creative leadership training seminar in Buffalo. Many people will complain about spending tax dollars on such items but I believe it is important to provide training and in particular training that encourages creative thinking.
3 to 2 The Score Of The Night
Most of the items on the agenda are routine items of business for which there was unanimous agreement. Several items of contention took place as far as appointments to various boards and resolutions filed by Popowich and Manna. Whenever there was a disagreement the end result was a 3 to 2 vote, with the 3 Republican members voting together and the 2 Democratic members voting together.