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Mar 11, 2010 10:53 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town department asks for money following capital budget mishap

Mar 11, 2010 10:53 AM

Southampton Town officials have discovered that a $450,000 bond resolution for information technology approved by the Southampton Town Board in 2004 was repealed later that year—though no one seems to remember it being canceled, or why—and as a result, the Information Technology Department is short on cash this year, according to its director, Paula Pobat.

Because of the shortfall, Ms. Pobat asked the Town Board last week to issue a $250,000 bond to help pay for upgraded phone systems, new software and better material for presentations for various town departments in need.

According to Town Comptroller Tamara Wright, the forensic audit of the town’s capital fund done by FTI Consulting of Manhattan turned up the original bond and its subsequent repeal. It was one of many errors that existed on a list of the town’s authorized but unissued bonds.

Ms. Wright, who was hired by the town in 2008, said she does not know why the information technology bond was repealed. Management Services Administrator Richard Blowes, who oversaw the department in 2004, also said he had no idea that the bond was cancelled, Ms. Wright said.

During the Town Board’s meeting last week, Councilman Chris Nuzzi asked Ms. Pobat which, if any, of the projects she could defer.

“It’s my feeling that they are all really important,” Ms. Pobat said.

The bond money would be added to $127,600 left over from last year, giving her department a total of $376,100 to work with to get new software for the youth bureau and highway departments, to pay for plans for the new town website and technology improvements to employees’ computers.

Ms. Pobat noted that every town employee has the option of getting a laptop in order to work from home.

The town has historically spent anywhere from $450,000 to $600,000 per year on the information technology department, Ms. Wright said. Ms. Pobat is asking for less than half of that amount and has told the Town Board that she will draft a benefit-cost analysis to show them how the investment will pay off.

At the end of the meeting, the Town Board appeared to be in favor of giving Ms. Pobat the extra money. They are expected to vote on the resolution authorizing the bonding at an upcoming Town Board meeting.

“This is a minimal investment in important infrastructure,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said. “It is incumbent upon us to keep the support going.”

Jessica DiNapoli

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If we lay off Pobat can we pay for the project without a bond issue????
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 11, 10 8:23 PM
Interesting, everyone time we discover a financial mistake in Southampton Town government it seems the same characters are always involved.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Mar 11, 10 9:51 PM
2 members liked this comment
Blowes never Knows!!!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Mar 13, 10 8:41 PM
Here's an idea. Stop spending money.

Budget for it next fiscal year. You can't expect me to believe that you can't get by without this stuff.

Upgraded phone systems? You don't answer the ones you've got. Is this necessary this fiscal year?

"Better material for presentations for various town departments in need" What exactly is this? Did anybody bother to ask? The vagueness makes me suspicious. What material, what departments?

Laptops to work from home. ...more
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on Mar 12, 10 6:54 AM
3 members liked this comment
Suspicious indeed! Better material for presentations of projects that never get done anyway, so why bother. A blank bond for unspecified materials, not the type of transparency we were hearing about!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Mar 13, 10 8:45 PM
This should not be rubber stamped by the Board. Who was asleep at the switch since 2004. Pobat? Get rid of her.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 13, 10 11:34 PM
Do you people read? The board approved this bond in 2004 and then it was repealed without anyone knowing how or why. The first step is to blame the department head? How about the Comptroller at the time who was supposed to be keeping track of the Town's money! Yes it is the same characters... the Comptroller and Supervisor from 2004 AS USUAL.
By eagleeye (66), Sag Harbor on Mar 14, 10 1:11 PM
This is so absurd. Where was Pobat since 2004??? Not one word from her about this. Get rid of her and anyone else who is responsible for this mess. Now, with a lower bond rating, this bond issue will cost the taxpayers more money. Ms. Supervisor, this is not a "minimal investment" it is the beginning of an increase in taxes.Wake up!
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 14, 10 6:54 PM
And WHO is responsible for the lower bond rating? That's right... the COMPTROLLER and SUPERVISOR that created this mess in the first place. Hmm... do I see a pattern?
By eagleeye (66), Sag Harbor on Mar 15, 10 6:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
There is very very little one has to do to an existing phone system. They could have a couple of areas POTS, PBX, or internet based phone. Also there are IVR's but they can be pricey.

So it begs the question: what exactly are you improving? If it was deferred before and no one noticed, perhaps it never was important.
By Hambone (505), New York on Mar 15, 10 4:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Another mistake that Blowes just seemed to overlook!
By LUVSH (28), Southampton on Mar 15, 10 6:41 PM
If the authorization to borrow was done in 2004 wasn't the equipment to be purchased around the same time? There is no way you can tell me there is a six year lag between the time the town approves money to be borrowed and when it uses the money to buy the goods. You would think maybe a two year lag at the most. So why didn't someone realize by 2006 the money was never borrowed to buy the equipment. Again, how can you say you are adopting a bond authorization in 2004 to borrow money to be used ...more
By hohum123 (91), springs on Mar 15, 10 10:16 PM
Southampton is just trying to be more financially outrageous than East Hampton.
By fix-it-now (216), sag harbor on Mar 15, 10 10:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
"It was one of many errors that existed on a list of the town's authorized but unissued bonds." Again and again, we see that the simplest, most fundamental financial rules just weren't followed. It was more than a year ago that we started hearing about the damage caused by the failure to issue various bonds, and the auditors are still discovering new shortfalls stemming from this inexcusable negligence.
Before anyone accuses me of beating a dead horse by condemning the long, sad record of ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1890), Quiogue on Mar 16, 10 9:20 PM
2 members liked this comment
Why can't town employees BUY THEIR OWN LAPTOPS? I' would think they can afford it. If they are given them, do the laptops get checked out to make sure they are only being used for town business and not for personal reasons like downloading music? And if they are not being used properly, are employees then made to pay for them?

One very interesting thing in this article. Although this bond has turned up missing, this department still had $127,600 left over from last year. Assuming ...more
By itsamazing (218), Southampton on Mar 16, 10 11:28 PM
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