Schenectady County is suing the town of Glenville, claiming the town owes more than $400,000 for dispatch services provided by the new countywide Unified Communications Center. The center opened in May 2014 in Rotterdam and eventually brought dispatching services for municipalities countywide under one roof.
Glenville was sent a bill on Feb. 16 in the amount of $406,658, which was the town’s share of the total cost to run the center in 2014, according to the lawsuit filed Aug. 12 by County Attorney Chris Gardner in state Supreme Court. The town had agreed to pay its share in a memorandum of understanding signed Dec. 27, 2012.
“[Commissioner of Finance Deborah] Mancini made very many attempts to collect it and deal with it, and it just didn’t seem to be going anywhere,” Gardner said.
Glenville Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he had not heard anything about the lawsuit when it was brought to his attention by a Gazette reporter Wednesday afternoon. Koetzle, who is named as a defendant, said the town always planned to pay but has been waiting on more information from the county about the bill. The town has paid the county for the first and second quarters of 2015, which amount to about $180,000 each, Koetzle said, “because those are not reconciliations.”
“We want to make sure that we’re protecting the Glenville taxpayers, and we’re not going to pay a bill until we understand exactly what we’re paying for,” he said.
Koetzle said the lawsuit was filed on the same day that he met with the UCC Oversight Committee, which includes County Manager Kathleen Rooney, Gardner and Mancini, none of whom brought up the court action. The Republican town supervisor called the lawsuit “frivolous” and “politically motivated” by a Democrat-led Schenectady County.
“It’s sad, and it’s pathetic,” he said.
Gardner said the suit wasn’t political, noting the county sued the city of Schenectady, led by Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy, a couple years ago over a tax-collection issue.
“Every other municipality has paid. Everybody’s up-to-date except the town of Glenville,” Gardner said. “What’s so special about Chris Koetzle? Does he not have to pay his bills?”
The lawsuit alleges a breach of contract by the town, and seeks a court order for the town to pay the bill, make all future payments in a timely manner, and pay statutory interest from April 1, 2015. It also seeks reimbursement for the court action’s cost and fees.
“[The] town of Glenville did not pay for its share for the 2014 expense of the UCC,” the lawsuit states, and on March 3, Glenville Comptroller Jason Cuthbert emailed county Commissioner of Finance Deborah Mancini requesting detailed expenses.
The lawsuit outlines a series of attempts by Mancini to collect the bill, and after each attempt, Cuthbert responded with more questions about the dispatch center’s expenses.
Koetzle said the town’s questions dated back to a UCC meeting on Aug. 12, 2014, when he asked Mancini for a detailed report of health insurance expenses for dispatch workers. He said he was concerned that county health insurance rates appeared higher than the town’s when the county is experience-rated, which allows the municipality access to lower insurance costs than the town’s community rating.
The town finally received that information from the county on July 27, and found that the county is paying about 14 percent more for dispatchers’ health insurance costs than the town would, Koetzle said. The town still needed time to review that information, but planned to pay the bill by the end of August, he said.
“The county has refused to give us the information for over a year,” he said. “Within two weeks of [us] receiving it, they file a lawsuit asking for payment.”
Asked why insurance rates were higher for the dispatchers under the county, Gardner cited a contract negotiation process that brought together pay and insurance rates of dispatchers from Schenectady, Glenville, Rotterdam and Niskayuna.
“Those are the numbers, and the town of Glenville has already saved hundreds of thousands of dollars, so they should be paying happily,” Gardner said.
The county estimates that the town saved $140,000 in the center’s first year of operation, which Koetzle said the town hasn’t agreed on yet because the center hasn’t been fully operational for a full year. Glenville was the first municipality to move its dispatchers there in May 2014, but Rotterdam’s move, which brought the center to full capacity, was delayed to December 2014 due to issues with converting dispatch data to the center’s software.
“The numbers don’t add up, and that’s why we’re asking questions,” Koetzle said.