by Terry Duffy
The Town of Lewiston has a new position to fill following last week's unexpected announcement by Finance Officer Paul Kloosterman that he intended to leave that position, effective Jan. 31.
Kloosterman, who receives an annual salary of $60,000 minus any benefits from the town, was brought in soon after Supervisor Dennis Brochey was sworn in last January. He assumed duties that were covered earlier by former Finance Director Mike Johnson and part-time accountant Katelyn Allan - at a cost of roughly $110,000 for both to the town, according to Brochey.
Kloosterman reportedly will join RealtyUSA come next month. He was out of town on vacation and unavailable for comment.
Brochey said the application process is being handled within his office and that no outside postings for the position are scheduled. He said the search for a replacement was already underway, with interviews in process. "I got four to five that look very promising," he said, noting that among the candidates are a "few CPAs and one possible (new grad) from Niagara University." None of the candidates thus far possess any municipal experience in financials, a background Brochey said he'd prefer in a hire, but said he would remain open when considering who to select.
The Town Board reportedly is not involved in the replacement search for Kloosterman's position. As to a salary figure being considered for the new candidate, Brochey said he'll have to "weigh the costs" when making that decision.
Brochey had words of praise for Kloosterman's service to the town, pointing to his work in bringing town spending more in line with its revenue and a general tightening up of town operations.
"We've come to realize $120,000 in savings thus far" with his help, Brochey said, pointing to Kloosterman's recent work in negotiating with the New York Power Authority on town hydropower benefits. Mentioned was the town's and NYPA's discussions on a package where power monies could be used to benefit town and village residents through savings on their water bills. Specifically, Brochey said he and NYPA are looking at formulas where a power money "administrative package" could be developed, allowing for Lewiston to return roughly $85,000 to town and village water users. If the town could reach agreement with NYPA and its attorneys on this issue, Brochey said the town "in turn would issue checks back to the residents."
Brochey said he and Kloosterman have been working to straighten out the past problem of NYPA reimbursements of power monies to the town - a situation which arose earlier from the ending of power discounts afforded to residents due to changes in the electrical commodities market, followed by the town's opting under the previous administration of pursuing "other uses" of the discount package monies without NYPA approval.
"The issue with NYPA remains what you're doing with the money," Brochey said, pointing out that NYPA's focus remains on commodities - with conventional uses of power money funding geared to the town's electrical needs - its buildings, police, fire companies, senior center, etc. In this case, Brochey said he'd like to use the power benefits money toward water billing. "We're trying to cover the town's water bill needs (including its residents here)," Brochey said.
"I want a good relationship with NYPA," he said.
Brochey echoed the same feeling on another subject - Artpark.
From last Monday's Town Board presentation by Artpark & Company Chairman John Camp and President George Osborne, Brochey said he's been in discussions with Camp on "fine-tuning" the Artpark proposal. Mentioned was a town offer to fund Artpark a portion of the $750,000 sought for its skybox proposal via Greenway money, with funding provided to Artpark over a five-year period. In turn, Artpark would reimburse the town, village and Niagara County Sheriff's Office for police services via profits derived from the Tuesday and Wednesday concerts and other events held in the amphitheater.
Of that offer, Brochey said he was "still awaiting a response" from Artpark.
As he intensifies his search for a replacement for Kloosterman, Brochey closed by warning the town has to continue to be much more diligent on how it handles itself - its budgeting and spending - in the future. He said that despite the cost savings mentioned earlier, the town still remains roughly $150,000 shy of "breaking even" on its current budgeting and warned its available money use (cash balances) is drying up. "The town has approximately $2 million to work with. It's not an endless kitty," he said.
Brochey said he'd like to have Kloosterman stay on for an extended period beyond his two-week notice, but has yet to discuss the matter with him. Brochey, who admits to "having issues" with members of the Town Board GOP majority when it comes to reaching consensus, said he nonetheless continues to reach out for their cooperation. In the meantime, he continues to work directly with such town officials as Building Inspector Tim Masters, Town Clerk Donna Garfinkel, Town Assessor Linda Johnson, Kloosterman and others in an effort to better manage the town's affairs, including financial.
Only time will tell.