BETHLEHEM — Marc Dorsey will ask the Town Board if he can take $150,000 from capital reserve funds when it meets again on Wednesday, Sept. 23. The first-term superintendent of highways exceeded his budget by that amount and extended his apologies while providing board members with an explanation in his memorandum to them.
The overdraft stems from a $295,722 paving bill Dorsey’s department received in August for work done on the town’s compost facility on Feura Bush Road. The amount exceeded his budget for the project which was based on a three-year-old estimate.
Town purchasing policy requires unbudgeted projects that are to exceed $20,000 must first be approved by the board.
“I sincerely apologize if my understanding of the rules and requirements in this process was incorrect, and if I therefore inadvertently violated town purchasing policy or other rules or laws. I also sincerely apologize for this unexpected, significant expense at this time when the town’s budget is already severely stressed.”
Shortly after both the town supervisor and comptroller received the nearly $296,000 acquisition order, Supervisor David VanLuven ordered Dorsey to provide an explanation. The explanation provided in his Sept. 16 memorandum uploaded to the town’s website Friday evening lists several of his reasons, including the highway foreman’s “substantially” low estimate of three years ago, an underestimated need for detailed “hand work,” and his predecessors’ overall neglect of the project.
The highway czar also surmised that costs associated with a stormwater pollution plan may not have been included with the dated estimate.
According to town records, the highway department has a $7.1 million expenditure budget, but it already includes expected costs associated with highway repairs, snow removal, brush pickup and more.
Dorsey expressed a need to act under concern the project would fail to qualify for up to $238,000 in matching funds from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The town had previously received a one-year extension following the end of last year.
“Which was necessary due to inaction by my predecessors,” Dorsey stated.
Dorsey also explained that, because the town previously awarded New Castle Paving to be its in-place contractor, costs were already approved. The highway department employed the paving company because it possessed the tools the town did not have to complete the job. Dorsey also said, had he anticipated the job would exceed the project’s budget, he would have sought the board’s approval first.
This is not the first instance in which Dorsey has struggled with town finance regulations since taking leadership of the highway department in January. In July, he struck the town’s ire after it was revealed he sold equipment prior to the board’s approval. When the board approved him to sell off $1,800 of surplus equipment, the check was already in hand.
Editor’s note: The $150,000 overdraft was against what the highway department had budgeted for the compost facility project and not the department’s overall expenditure budget. We have clarified that fact in the second paragraph.