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Amsterdam, NY ,

Rebecca Webster/Recorder staff Amsterdam city Controller Ronald Wierzbicki looks through his notes Tuesday during his report to the Common Council.

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Proposal for finance post dies on vine

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - Updated: 6:51 PM

By REBECCA WEBSTER

Recorder News Staff

Amsterdam Common Council members were brought into deep discussion Tuesday night regarding a proposed deputy controller position for the city.

A resolution brought before the council Tuesday at its meeting -- run by Deputy Mayor and 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero -- called for a budget modification to create and fund the deputy controller position, totaling $70,000.

The resolution was originally sponsored by city Controller Ronald Wierzbicki, but when it was determined that he couldn't sponsor the resolution, the council chambers were silent as to who would pick up the sponsorship.

"It appears no one wants to sponsor it, so it's not on," said city Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis.

Voting on the other resolutions moved along.

But at the end of the meeting, the council brought up the deputy controller position funding for discussion, of which there were mixed opinions.

Second Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman said she believed the amount of money asked for in the resolution was "a lot of money for the taxpayers."

Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas said he felt it "was cheap."

But Leggiero's question was simply about where the figure came from.

"Consider, too, we've already got a controller. We've had KVS come in here. We've had Darryl (Purinton) come here," Leggiero said. "We're going to add another $70,000 plus? I don't think taxpayers can handle this."

Dybas's response was, "I don't think they can afford not to."

Dybas questioned fellow council members on whether they knew some of the fund balances within the city's financial system.

None could answer, but Wierzbicki explained that the books aren't closed yet for last year.

Dybas said he will abstain from any future resolutions on paying bills until he knows.

"I don't know the financial condition of the city of Amsterdam," he said. "We need to find out where we are and I've got news for you guys ... if we continue the way we're going we're just digging the hole deeper and deeper and deeper."

There was a former consensus in the council that they believed the position was needed, DeCusatis said.

"The next logical step is to fund that position," he said. "I think this body needs to take an action to fund it at some level."

But Beekman explained she wasn't saying not to fund it, she was expressing concern for the amount.

"If our controller needs help ... we need to balance our books," she said. "We can't go forward if we don't know where we're at."

Wierzbicki was questioned on whether a part-time deputy controller would be enough, but he explained to the council that it just would not; it needed to be full-time.

He explained that within an hour of speaking to Darryl Purinton, the consultant told him the city needed a "master mechanic" to help get the city on track.

Wierzbicki explained that they discussed a potential individual, but upon talking to that individual they explained they wouldn't come for less than $70,000.

"I tell you, I also think it's too high," Wierzbicki explained, adding that personnel and employee relations individuals brought up the idea of making the salary lucrative enough to get some solid responses.

Wierzbicki said he has also been putting feelers out about lower salaries, too.

"Is this city broke? You bet it is," he said. "The system has been broken for years. You're not going to fix it in eight, 10 months."

Dybas told the council that he agreed with Wierzbicki.

"It didn't happen overnight. It didn't happen when the KVS system went in," Dybas said. "It's been happening for years."

The $70,000 is cheap, Dybas continued, saying it would help "straighten out the mess."

"The taxpayers will thank you for putting it in place."

In the end, Leggiero called a special meeting to be held Tuesday after a special Department of Public Works meeting, to further the discussion on funding for the position.

     

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