Olsen draws fire at Schenectady council meeting
Trucks, repairs to pump station spark debate
SCHENECTADY If there’s a financial crisis in Schenectady, it didn’t look like it at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Only Councilman Carl Erikson, the finance committee chairman, appeared to be looking for ways to cut costs after city officials warned Schenectady will likely end the year in a deficit.
The most the council did was to put off the purchase of some trucks — but that’s only until they can find out why many dealers didn’t bid.
Erikson argued with Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen, who wanted to buy expensive trucks despite the lack of competitive bids. Olsen insisted a truck that’s often in the shop must be replaced right away, and that others need attention too, while Erikson said he wouldn’t vote for it unless at least three dealers offered a bid for the new trucks.
“I think the specifications were written to a specific brand,” Erikson said. “The guy knows he doesn’t have to bid the most competitive price; he’s got it in the bag.”
Olsen insisted that wasn’t true, but Erikson said he wouldn’t believe it unless Ford and GM dealers called City Hall to say that they don’t want to sell the city trucks.
An International dealer was the only one to offer a bid.
Competitive bids might save the city $10,000 per truck, Erikson said.
Olsen agreed to call other dealers and ask them why they hadn’t bid on the trucks. The purchases were set aside for now.
Then Erikson and Olsen argued over the repair of a pump station, where old PCB-laden electrical transformers must be replaced if the station is to function. But it’s only been used twice in seven years, to prevent flooding near SCCC, and Erikson suggested the city would be better off not spending $365,000 on the project.
Olsen disagreed again.
“I think the damage from one event would easily exceed that cost,” he said.
He added that the price is “extremely good,” but that didn’t win him any allies.
Councilman Vince Riggi said, “No price is an ‘extremely good’ price now. We’ve been operating without this for a year.”
Council President Denise Brucker came to Olsen’s rescue, saying that the station might become more important now that dormitories are being built near the college. That could spur other development there too, she said, and it must be protected from floods.
Erikson agreed to pass the item out of committee for a vote at next week’s council meeting.
boarding stray dogs
Corporation Counsel John Polster also suggested a policy change that could save the city “a tremendous amount of money,” but Brucker opposed it.
Polster suggested lowering the number of days that the city pays to board stray dogs.
Currently, the city pays a kennel to hold dogs for eight days, at $30 a day, to give owners time to locate their pet. The dogs can’t be euthanized or adopted out until that waiting period is over. By law, the city is only required to hold dogs for three days, Polster said. That would save $150 per dog.
The city picks up hundreds of dogs a year, he said. Generally, the dogs aren’t picked up by their owner.
Usually, they’re also not licensed — the animal control officer can often find the family of a licensed dog, Polster said.
But Brucker said three days is far too little time to hold a stray dog. She said the dog could be legitimately lost — perhaps lost by a dog-sitter while the owner is away.
“You come back and your dog is dead,” she said.
Polster proposed different holding times for licensed dogs, but the idea was tabled.
The council did support another dog-related proposal: insurance. Polster wants owners of all dogs over 20 pounds to have general liability insurance, which can be obtained through renter’s and homeowner’s insurance.
That way, a passerby who is mauled by a loose dog has a chance of getting some money for hospital care and pain and suffering, he said.
The council supported his idea, which calls for a $750 penalty, if the owner is caught without insurance. If an uninsured dog bites someone, Polster wants a minimum of 30 days in jail.
“I think it should be mandatory jail time,” he said. “I think if people are going to have dogs, they should be responsible for them.”