The Amherst Town Board has refused to pay one of its vendors for more than $60,000 worth of material dating back to late summer because of improper purchasing practices by the Highway Department.
Highway Superintendent Robert Anderson was grilled by board members at Monday night’s Town Board meeting about half a dozen invoices for paving material the town purchased from Municipal Milling and Maintenance.
The Highway Department had low-bid contracts with both Municipal Milling and All American Paving for a variety of paving materials. In a series of instances, the department purchased paving materials from Municipal Milling even though All American Paving carried the low bid, a violation of state law.
Anderson said All American Paving was initially asked to provide the materials, but the company stated it was unable to do so for three weeks, an unacceptable delay during the summer paving months.
“Do we have documentation of their refusal to do the work?” asked Council Member Steven Sanders.
“No,” responded Anderson. “We don’t send out letters. This was all done by phone calls.”
Both Sanders and Council Member Guy Marlette then asked why Anderson didn’t inform the Town Board that the low bidder was unable to perform and why he didn’t seek approval to award a contract to Municipal Milling for the necessary work.
Anderson said he didn’t know what his general foreman had done until he was told by the town comptroller late last year.
Supervisor Barry Weinstein, who also serves as the town’s interim purchasing director, tried to resolve the matter by submitting a resolution authorizing him to sign a contract with Municipal Milling that was backdated to Aug. 6, 2012. The same resolution asked the board to authorize the comptroller to pay all outstanding invoices to Municipal Milling.
Weinstein and Council Members Mark Manna and Barbara Nuchereno voted in favor of the resolution, while Sanders and Marlette voted against. The resolution failed despite the 3-2 vote in favor because Council Member Richard “Jay” Anderson was absent, and a four-vote majority is required to pass any resolution.
“You’re actually punishing the innocent vendor here,” Manna said.
Weinstein said after the meeting that Municipal Milling can either sue the town for payment or wait until the next regular Town Board meeting in three weeks to see if payment authorization receives the necessary four votes.
In other business Monday, the Town Board:
• Voted, 4-1, to approve a property tax settlement reducing the $15 million assessment on the Walmart on Sheridan Drive to $13.3 million. Manna voted no.
• Did not vote on a resolution by Weinstein seeking proposals for at least one new hotel on the Northtown Center ice rink property, which the town owns. Several board members said they would vote against the resolution, so Weinstein withdrew it.