By Michael DePietro
Last week, the North Tonawanda Common Council awarded a bid to Drescher and Malecki LLP Certified Public Accounts to provide audit services to the city over a three-year engagement.
The accountant’s office sent out a request for proposal (RFP) on Feb. 19 to three independent certified public accountants for services related to the annual audit for the city. The audit will include the single audit, New York State Department of Transportation audit, Real Estate Assessment Center audit, and preparation of the general-purpose financial statements that are sent to various government and financial agencies including the New York state comptroller.
Per the agenda, Drescher and Malecki’s bid was $83,160, the total cost to cover a three-year engagement, commencing from the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2020, through FYE Dec. 31, 2022. The next-lowest bid for the three-year engagement was from Bonadio Group at $113,850. Freed Maxick declined the RFP due to scheduling.
During the Common Council’s March 23 work session, Accountant Jeffrey Zellner extended his confidence toward choosing Drescher & Malecki.
“When it comes to municipalities and knowing what they do ... that's (Drescher and Malecki’s) bread and butter,” he said. “I'll tell you what, government accounting is so much different than anything else; that's why I kind of want someone who specializes in it.”
Until last week, Amato Fox and Company had performed auditing service for the city for over 40 years. In recent years, questions had been raised as to the company’s efficacy by former City Accountant Amanda Reimer. During an RFP period in October 2018, Reimer criticized Amato Fox after previous audits showed incorrect information and “performance errors." During that time, Reimer recommended the city accept an RFP from Bonadio Group, but the council ultimately selected Amato Fox (4-1).
In a similar move aimed at improving the city’s finances, the Common Council also voted to award an RFP to Premier Consulting Associates to provide employee benefits consulting services relating to health, vision, dental, COBRA administration, Medicare, and flexible spending accounts for the city. Zellner said the service will also explore ways to mitigate the city’s ever-rising retirement costs in the future.
Premier’s bid was $200,000, the total cost to cover a two-year engagement, commencing from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2023. Crown Benefits Group, whom the city had utilized until now, offered a bid of $330,000 for the same two-year period. A third bid from Marsh & McLennan Agency was for $328,000.
3rd Ward Alderman Eric Zadzilka, who had worked with Zellner and 2nd Ward Alderman Frank DiBernardo, explained, “Working on the RFP, the three of us reviewed the proposals; we asked questions; we've sat down and made a final analysis based on what they could do for the city; what proposals they thought they could do to save the city money; better ways of looking at our health care, which is obviously one of the legacy costs that municipalities and corporations have to deal with, (along with) rising health care (costs), and I think that … we hit this out of the park.”
Zellner clarified the change will not affect existing health care plans for current city employees.
Climate Smart Task Force
Elsewhere, the Common Council voted to implement a climate smart task force, an advisory board to the council, mayor and community, with the goal being to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build resiliency to the impacts of climate change, save taxpayer dollars, increase energy security and reliability, improve community public health and safety, support a green innovation economy, and demonstrate leadership.”
The task force is spearheaded by Alderman-at-Large Austin Tylec, who was also named task force coordinator. Tylec called the move a “huge step forward” and said the task force could work with regional Climate Smart coordinators to help obtain grant funding through the state Environmental Finance Center.
“There’s a point system based on items we’ve addressed already like benchmarking, conversion to LED lights; and it gives us an advantage over some of the grants through the consolidated funding application and it’s a real benefit,” Tylec said. “We can look at programs like compost waste and creating a system for residents to utilize.
“The big part of it is there’s a lot of money going to green initiatives. So I think we’re being progressive and staying ahead of it. … It's something, I think, other municipalities aren’t a part of in the surrounding area.”
The agenda lists Lumber City Development Corp. as a current stakeholder/volunteer for the commission. Tylec said recently retired Wastewater Superintendent William Davignon expressed interest in being a part of the commission. He has been lauded by city officials for his work in finding grant funding for the city’s wastewater treatment plant upgrades.
Mayor to Residents: City Hall Open by Appointment
Mayor Arthur G. Pappas took a moment during this week’s council work session to remind residents City Hall is open by appointment by calling 716-695-8540.
“I again want to remind the residents of the city that City Hall is open,” he said. “It's not closed; it's open by appointment; or, if you don't have an appointment and you need to get in, all you have to do is call the department number that's listed on the door and you will be guided inside by one of the department heads or a worker. So, the building is not closed. … I just wanted to reemphasize that because there still seems to be some misunderstanding with that.
Oliver Street Cleanup
City officials and the Oliver Street Merchants Association invite residents to help clean up the Oliver Street Corridor and meet fellow community members. The Oliver Street cleanup event begins at noon Sunday, April 18, and will start at the corner of Oliver and Sommer streets.