In reference to the article, Chain of Command, in the April 19 BCR, the issues regarding the submission of bills to be paid speak more to accountability and a system of checks and balances.
As a council we are giving a stack of bills to review for payment on the Friday before each Monday meeting; hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of dollars in bills that we have a weekend to consider. On Saturday, April 14, I reviewed the bills to be approved for payment at Monday’s (April 16) meeting. There were two bills pertaining to the new water plant; one for $62,331 and the other totaling $718,602. This larger bill included a $43,347 change order. This is for something additional being done that was not included in the initial winning bid. This bill was approved by the mayor prior to Monday’s meeting, in his position as acting city manager. As commissioner of the water department, I was bypassed and knew nothing about it. Neither bill provided an explanation, nor was there an itemization to account for what the council was being asked to pay. No one on the council knew what these bills were for and neither did the water plant superintendent, who submitted the bills to be paid.
It’s important the council knows what we are being asked to pay, especially on large capital expenses. It’s equally important that residents know. Had the issue not been raised on Monday, these bills would have been paid with no questions asked. When the water superintendent couldn’t explain the bills, a motion was made to pull them from payment consideration so the council could obtain the information needed to determine what they are for. Fortunately, the council agreed.
Another issue was the purchase of two security cameras for the construction site. The bill wasn’t $1,000, as the BCR reported. The bill was $1,697. I questioned if it isn’t the construction company’s responsibility to secure the work area. Our water superintendent replied that it was, yet he took it upon himself to purchase and then have the cameras installed. To my knowledge no one on the council was aware that this was being done. The BCR was correct in that the council voted and approved the payment of this bill, but the vote was 4 to 1.
The water plant is costing the city tens of millions. Residents are paying for it with significant water rate and fee increases. The city needs to be cognizant of what is being done and what is being spent. There must be accountability and a system of checks and balances up and down the line, not just with the water department, but throughout all city departments.
My hope is residents feel the same way.
Joel Quiram, Princeton commissioner of public property/utilities