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Schroeder on Council changes: It's a 'good thing'

Comptrollers 12.30.13

Former City Comptrollers Anthony Nanula, Joel Giambra, Andrew SanFlippo and Comptroller Mark Schroeder this morning in a Hall of Comptrollers ceremony. New portraits of Nanula, Giambra and SanFlippo were unveiled. 

By Jill Terreri

Comptroller Mark Schroeder, who watches city finances from his 12th-floor offices and is a former member of the state Assembly, is thought to have ambitions to one day run for higher office.  

I asked him about the changes on the 13th floor, specifically the impending election of Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen to the Council presidency. Pridgen, if elected on Thursday by a majority of his Council peers, would assume the executive suite on the second floor if Mayor Byron W. Brown decides to leave office in the next two years (the term length for Council presidents.) As Council president, Pridgen would be in a very good position to run for mayor if Brown leaves office early , or even if he does not.

Schroeder said the change at the top of the Council was good, and that an opportunity to transition the job every two years is called for in the city charter. 

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Back-and-forth on Brand-On

By Jill Terreri

The disagreement between the city and Brand-On Services over what the company owes under its contract to operate the Erie Basin Marina continues, and a deadline is looming. 

Tomorrow is the deadline for Brand-On to pay its invoice with the city, for $343,245. The company, run by the Wolasz family, has disputed that amount, and said it only owes $27,412. A meeting last week between the parties did not resolve the matter. 

The Common Council has urged that a compromise be reached, but that has not happened yet. Legal action by the city to recover the funds is possible. 

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Schroeder doesn't want a compromise on marina

By Jill Terreri

The Common Council's more generous attitude toward the operators of Brand-On Services, the company that owes the city nearly $350,000 in rent from the Erie Basin Marina, according to a recent audit, is not sitting well with Comptroller Mark Schroeder. 

“I sincerely hope that no members of the Common Council would even consider letting this unscrupulous contractor off the hook, but I certainly will not," Schroeder said in a statement. "Brand-On ripped off the taxpayers of Buffalo, and I will not rest until they pay the city back.”

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Gun buyback costs nearly $50,000 in payouts, salaries

By Jill Terreri

The city collected 764 guns during its latest guy buyback program, which cost $47,991 in staff time and payouts, according to an audit from Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder. 

On May 4, at seven churches around the city, police officers collected 273 non-working weapons, 268 handguns, 215 rifles and eight assault weapons. People who returned guns are asked no questions about the weapons, according to city protocol. They were issued debit cards loaded with cash, on a scale based on the type of gun, from $10 for an antique gun to $100 for an assault weapon. Payouts totaled $34,340, and were funded with assets the city collects during drug investigations. 

The other major cost of the buyback operation is police personnel, which cost $11,917, and pay for auditors who monitor the buybacks, which was $1,734. 

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Schroeder's marina audit

By Jill Terreri

Here's the full audit of the Erie Basin Marina from Comptroller Mark Schroeder, including the city's response and significant plans to change the way business is done there. 

Schroeder's office found the city's vendor, Brand-On Services, owes the city $343,245, which should be paid immediately, he said. 

The story on the audit is here, and a story about the planned improvements to the marina are here

Missing from the audit below is the response from Brand-On Services, whose president is Renee Wolasz. The Wolasz family runs the business, daughter Julie told me today when I reached her at the Hatch. Julie Wolasz declined to comment on the audit because she said no one in the company had read it yet. The audit was filed today with the Common Council. (To clarify, the company was fully aware the audit was taking place - auditors had been there for months - but the comptroller audits city activities, and the appropriate city department has the chance to write a response that is included in the audit, vendors do not. The vendor is able to look at the audit once it is released to the public.)

The city is planning to seek the missing payments, though it disagrees with Schroeder's final amount, and will solicit bids for a new operator in time for the 2014 season.

 

Erie Basin Marina Audit

Today in City Hall: Fire contract

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

Today, the details of a tentative 15-year contract for firefighters, which has already been approved by the union's membership and the Brown administration, will be analyzed by the city's control board. 

The control board doesn't have any authority to approve the contract, as it is in advisory status, but members are expected to give an analysis of the document's true costs to city taxpayers when it meets at 1 p.m. today in the first-floor conference room of the Market Arcade. 

Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder also analyzed the contract, and found that it will cost the city $23 million, which is available in city reserves, though it could end up costing more as firefighters retire, induced by incentives in the contract. Approximately half of the department will be eligible to retire by June 30, 2015, and the city could face costs of "several million dollars," as it pays out for accumulated sick and vacation time, Schroeder wrote. 

The Common Council was prepared to vote on the contract last week, but the city wanted to give the control board time to review it. 

A Council vote is expected next week. 

From today's Buffalo News, Mark Sommer looks at Horsefeathers Market & Residences on Connecticut Street, which is part of a renaissance on the West Side, and Brian Meyer talks to Thomas Eoannou about his purchase of the North Park Theatre.

And in North Buffalo, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is set to open in late October

 

Buffalo comptroller analysis of fire contract

Schroeder has 'no plans' for mayoral run, but...

By Robert J. McCarthy

Ask Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder about running for mayor in 2013 and he'll provide his standard non-answer.

"I've said all along, I have no plans to run for mayor," he said again this week.

Indeed, the comptroller has not discussed even with friends the possibility of challenging Mayor Byron W. Brown and possibly Bernard Tolbert, the former Buffalo FBI chief who has formed a fund-raising committee. And Schroeder has not even hinted at efforts to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed for a serious shot at City Hall.

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Recent hires in City Hall

Buffalo has a new special events coordinator and a new director of real estate among its latest hires.

Kimberly C. Trent has been hired to fill the vacant special events position in the Brown administration, a post that pays $70,215 a year. Trent's appointment was effective April 30, and she lived in Orchard Park at the time she got the job, according to documents filed in the City Clerk's Office. She will have to move into the city to comply with the residency requirement for most city employees.

Christie R. Nelson has been appointed the city's director of real estate in the Office of Strategic Planning. Nelson, whose appointment was effective May 29, will earn a starting salary of $72,872.

In City Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder's office, the city's chief fiscal watchdog has hired a new special assistant and changed the title of one of his aides.

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Five Questions with Mark Schroeder

Every Sunday, we'll publish a quick Q&A with someone from the local political world. Instead of touching on the latest in policy issues and proposed legislation, the intent is to catch a glimpse of the person behind the title. The interviews are done via email.

Schroeder

City Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder speaks on election night last November in the Adam's Mark Hotel. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

Mark J.F. Schroeder

The basics
Age: 57
Job title: Buffalo City Comptroller
Family: Married 34 years to Kate Horan Schroeder. Three children: Matthew, Michael and Allison.
Education: Bishop Timon High School, Erie Community College, Empire State College
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous work experience: Private sector for 25 years, Erie County Legislature for three years and state Assembly for seven years.
City salary: $88,700

Continue reading "Five Questions with Mark Schroeder" »

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

tprecious@buffnews.com


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | jterreri@buffnews.com


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | jzremski@buffnews.com

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