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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 16, 2010

Town won’t apply for $374K reimbursement

By Zach Simeone

RENSSELAERVILLE — The town board has decided not to follow the recommendation in the recent audit by Albany County Comptroller Michael Conners to appeal for the reimbursement of funds spent in the repair of the Pearson Road culvert.

“I think it’s a mistake,” Conners told The Enterprise Tuesday upon learning of the board’s decision. “They’re entitled to make that decision and to do as they choose, but the possibility of a large recovery does exist, and I’m sure that time will tell whether it’s a good decision or not.”

Conners went on to say he’s received no response from the Albany County District Attorney’s office to his request last month for an investigation into a duplicate voucher, also discovered by Conners’s Rensselaerville audit.

According to the audit by Conners’s office, the town spent $373,676 on the repair of the Pearson Road culvert after a storm in 2007 for which it could have been reimbursed. Conners recommended in his audit that the town make an appeal for reimbursement of that federal funding.

Mary Wollaber, a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State Emergency Management Office, had advised the town board not to pursue an appeal for reimbursement, concerned that, if the town submits a request for reconsideration, FEMA might audit all projects and paperwork for that emergency, though the town board had not shared this concern with Wollaber.

Supervisor Marie Dermody said of Wollaber at last week’s town board meeting, “Her concern is…because of the lack of prior approval; we didn’t follow FEMA guidelines all the way; they could very well affect all the projects, not just Pearson.”

“If you really want to look into it,” said Councilman Gary Chase, “we had money set aside, $173,000 out of the last FEMA project, set aside just to do that — that was the extra money from FEMA that we used for that.” Chase’s father was the highway superintendent at the time of the repair, while his mother was clerk to the highway department, and had handled FEMA paperwork.

Said Councilwoman Dale Dorner, “I don’t think we should appeal it; it’s like opening up a can of worms.”

Dermody explained last month, in the days following the audit presentation, “We had collected more in FEMA reimbursement than we had spent in doing these jobs, because the jobs were done in-house and more cheaply.” Referring to Wollaber, she went on, “So, as I understand it, if FEMA grants you a certain amount of money, and you can get the job done for less money, you get to keep the overage, and she was saying that we have $114,000 left from the reimbursement.”

All four board members present at last week’s meeting voted not to go forward with the appeal; Councilman John Kudlack was absent.

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