OSSINING, NY-- The best way to not spend too much money is to just buy what you need. This concept is very basic, and known to anyone who has had to run a household, a business or a municipality. However, this concept seems to be lost on Ossining Town Councilman Peter Tripodi. Perhaps this is because Mr. Tripodi has little, if any, real world experience running anything except political campaigns. It's obvious he's is trying to make a splash in his current bid to gain the Ossining Supervisors seat by misstating facts. Or maybe he simply does not know the facts. Either way, once again, Peter Tripodi gets it wrong.
In his August 27th article, Mr. Tripodi, yet again, takes issue with the Town's use of a
professional engineer that the Town retains for its vital day to day operational needs and for use on its badly needed large infrastructure projects like the Stonegate and Stormytown sewer projects. These are both significant public works projects which Mr. Tripodi supported on several occasions, yet amazingly voted against funding, underscoring his lack of real world perspective.
Engineers are highly skilled and highly compensated professionals. Mr. Tripodi suggests that the Town hire an engineer as a permanent full time employee of the Town, rather than purchase the engineering services on an as needed basis. Mr. Tripodi, who seems to be fixated on the fact that the engineer we currently use has another full time job paying $125,000 per year, suggests that we should also hire a full time engineer and claims this would save money. However, Mr. Tripodi seems to forget that in addition to the salary we would have to pay a permanent full time employee, even when no projects were being worked on, the Town would also incur an additional cost of about 45% per year of that employee's salary in benefits. (So, a $125,000 per year salary would actually cost the taxpayers $181,250.00 annually). Moreover, once that employee retired, the Town would have to pay a pension to that employee for the rest of his life at additional long term cost to the Town taxpayers. The fact is the day to day engineering needs of the unincorporated area of the Town do not merit a full time in-house engineer.
The facts are that from 2007 to 2010, the Town paid Mr. Vanoli about $74,000 per year in retained engineering fees, with no benefits to work as our engineer. In 2011, to date, the fees he has earned through the Town have been significantly reduced (about $44,000 this year) because those large projects have been substantially finished.
Tripodi correctly states that the consultant, Jim Vanoli PE, has earned extra fees in the past few years. However, Tripodi incorrectly avers that this is due to some malfeasance by the Town Board. Unfortunately, Mr. Tripodi continues to demonstrate his complete lack of understanding of the functions of a Town consulting Engineer. Mr Vanoli is paid a relatively small retainer for general, day to day, engineering services the Town needs to maintain its infrastructure. Mr. Vanoli is also separately paid for additional design services required for large projects. Any increase in these fees corresponds directly to the extra work performed by Mr. Vanoli for the large sewer and other infrastructure projects the Town had to undertake in the past few years.
In comparing the cost of services for these projects billed by Mr. Vanoli against the fees paid for outside engineering services by the Villages of Ossining and Briarcliff for infrastructure projects, it's clear that Mr. Vanoli's charges are more than competitive. Lastly Mr. Vanoli is paid to provide engineering review services for site plan applications submitted to the Planning Board. Those fees, however, are reimbursed by the applicants at no net cost to the Town. The billing of Planning Board applicants for outside consultants is also the standard practice among Towns and villages, including Ossining and Briarcliff.
Mr. Tripodi shows his naiveté by assuming that highly trained and competent professionals will work for free or at a fee that is substantially lower than the industry standard. As if to assume that a dentist will perform a root canal for the cost of a dental cleaning, or for nothing. Moreover, he doesn't seem to realize the future costs to the taxpayers if sewers, roads and drainage systems fail to work or last their expected lifespan due to inadequate engineering.
Mr. Tripodi's suggestion to hire a full time engineer, as the Village of Ossining does, will not save the Town a penny. We would still need to hire additional professional engineering services just like the Villages of Ossining and Briarcliff do for these large infrastructure projects. Thus, there would be absolutely no savings and in fact, we would have to pay more for the same work. Put simply, we would still pay the full time employee the full salary and benefits at a higher cost, and then have to pay for additional consulting fees on top of that for the large capital projects.
Perhaps Mr. Tripodi, who has only been on the Board for less than two years, is not aware of these facts. Or perhaps he simply wishes to ignore them in order to deceive the voters. Either way, he is wrong. Despite being told and shown on many occasions how his understanding of the facts are wrong Mr. Tripodi continues to misinform the public on this topic. It certainly is legitimate for the Town continuously review how it pays for vital services, and the Town Board is open to such review. However, Mr. Tripodi's politically motivated skewering of facts acts as a real impediment to conducting a reasoned analysis of available options. By twisting the facts to score political points Mr. Tripodi is putting the health and safety of our citizens, who rely on safe roads and working sewers and drainages system, at risk.
Ossining Town Councilman
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