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State Criticizes Officials for Mishandling Project Funds

8:51 PM, Mar 22, 2013   |    comments
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TOWN OF NEWSTEAD - A state audit calls for reform with government officials in the Town of Newstead and Village of Akron. The state comptroller's office says local officials improperly handled money for a multi-million dollar facility that's been made for government workers.

The project in question is the Joint Highway Facility, which is shared by Town of Newstead and Village of Akron public works crews. The facility has been used for about a year.

In 2002, the Newstead town board approved the project and said that it couldn't cost more than $4.25 million. The actual cost total came out to more than $4.7 million. A difference of about half a million, which was billed to taxpayers.

Investigators say that no government official told taxpayers what the real cost of the facility was. The state adds that a large part of the extra costs went to expenses that were not part of the project's original plan.

To drive up costs, the review says a storage building was made larger than it was supposed to be. A garage bay was added with no oversight. And siding and roofing was paid for, but never budgeted.

The state also criticizes Newstead and Akron officials for making project decisions without properly bidding them. The review shows that town supervisor David Cummings made project changes without board approval.

The state says that it approved a grant worth $386,000 for local officials to use toward the project.

2 On Your Side's Jeff Preval reached out to Cummings Thursday, but he said he was unavailable for comment. The review shows that local officials admit to most of the claims.

According to Cummings' LinkedIn page, he was a town council member when the project was approved. The audit shows that he and other officials thought the project wasn't going to be as expensive as it was and decided to spend more money without following proper bidding steps.

In the report, Cummings calls the audit a "refresher" and that "[...] a great deal of time was spent planning this project and providing informational meetings to the public, we will look to improve upon government transparency."

The audit shows that Cummings and other officials thought the project wasn't going to be as expensive as it was and decided to spend more money without following proper bidding steps.

This all happened, even though a committee was setup to oversee the project.

The review names several improvements that town and village officials say they will address, like being more open and following bidding rules.

The state doesn't mention that local officials have to give any money back.

 

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