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Monday, November 19, 2012

Zandri to town: Don’t be so quick to scrap

As published in the Record Journal Thursday November 15, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD - Town Councilor Jason Zandri, a Democrat, would like to see changes made in how town departments dispose of supplies. In a sometimes heated Town Council meeting Tuesday, Zandri pressed Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., Comptroller Jim Bose and Public Utilities Director George Adair on the procedures followed.

He used the Electric Division’s recent replacement of 39 ornamental streetlights as an example. Zandri said the department sent the poles directly to a scrap metal dealer with which it has a standing contract rather than reselling them. He said that he believes that, under town ordinances, Adair should have gone to the mayor, comptroller or purchasing agent Sal Amadeo for resale opportunities before choosing to scrap them.

“I thought that the procedure in town was when any asset is to be retired in town it has to go through the Purchasing Department,” Zandri said.

Zandri quoted a town ordinance that says the town’s purchasing agent is required to, “with the approval of the mayor, to transfer to or between departments or agencies or to sell supplies and equipment determined, after consultation with the head of the department, office or agency concerned, to be surplus, obsolete, or unused.”

Adair said the items were not viable assets and did not need to go through that process.

“Given their status, I don’t view these old, taken-out-of-service streetlight posts as supplies, materials or equipment, nor do they really qualify as surplus obsolete or unused. They’re damaged, unsafe to maintain, undesirable and appropriately viewed as scrap,” Adair said. “I don’t think the question quite fits.”

Most of the 39 lights, installed in 1991 in a first wave of streetscaping, were operational, but Adair said they were valueless, with poor wiring and damage to the poles from general wear and tear and snowplows, and were made in a way that wiring at the base could only be accessed in a clumsy and sometimes dangerous fashion. Electric workers had to lift and hold the 50-pound base rather than simply take off a panel, which is the way the replacement streetlights are accessed. “You’re determining that these had no value, I’m just trying to figure out the procedure here. Is it the purview of the department?” Zandri asked, saying he still feels Amadeo should make that call according to the ordinance. And the ordinance should be changed if it’s not viable, he said.

Dickinson agreed.

“The purchasing office doesn’t’ have the expertise to determine a lot of things like that ... You have to rely on the department,” Dickinson said. “We’re talking about something that does not have a functioning value here. We could not do business if everything — all scrap that’s determined to be trash —has to first be discussed with the mayor and purchasing agent. It was never meant to be that.”

Bose acknowledged that there should be more of a paper trail to such discussions by department heads and the Purchasing Department. He said he knew there had been discussions between Adair and Amadeo, but they weren’t documented.

“It’s probably something we’re going to have to improve upon,” Bose said, saying would follow up with department heads. “There’s just got to be something to see if we can document about how we go about the process. ... It could just be a form; we’ll toss something around.” Zandri said Wednesday that he would continue his push to get the process codified, and was planning to move that council recommend the mayor formalize the procedure for these things around the rules in the charter,” Zandri said.