Weather Updates

GSD delays budget, awards 2014 contracts

Updated: January 24, 2014 6:21AM

GARY — After a two-hour executive session that delayed the start of the public meeting more than an hour, the Gary Sanitary Board of Commissioners deferred action on its $25 million 2014 budget until January and awarded a host of contracts.

“Naturally, when you’re doing cleanup work it takes a little longer. Thank you for waiting,” Richard Comer, GSD board chairman, said at the start of the public meeting on Dec. 16.

The GSD commissioners serve as directors of the Gary Storm Water Board, which also voted to defer its $1.5 million budget until next month. GSD Executive Director Dan Vicari, who heads both agencies, said technical issues must be worked out in both budgets.

The GSD commissioners opted to keep board attorney Jewell Harris Jr. at a $75,000 retainer for board matters and meetings. Additional expenses were approved at $150 an hour. Harris also received a professional services contract for the collection of delinquent sewer and trash fees.

He also received a contract to provide legal advice to the Storm Water District.

Harris said he collected $800,000 in delinquent fees in 2013. He receives a commission of 15 to 25 percent.

Commissioner Sharon Mallory voted against the contract, saying the GSD paid Harris more than $185,000 in 2013 and she felt there could be a better revenue-generating way to resolve delinquent accounts, such as selling the debt.

The GSD renewed the $120,000 contract of Whittaker & Co. for accounting services. GSD finance officer Vernetta White said Whittaker helps her short-handed staff with bookkeeping needs and analyzing finances. Whittaker also received a similar contract from the Storm Water board that’s not to exceed $40,000 in 2014.

J. Gari & Associates, headed by Bo Kemp a close adviser to Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, received an $80,000 contract for consulting work. Vicari said Kemp does general consulting, work on audits, staffing levels, consent decree issues and is analyzing a waste-to-energy plan.

Mallory asked for information regarding Kemp’s hourly billing in 2013, but it wasn’t immediately available.

The GSD also authorized a contract to Indianapolis-based law firm of Barnes & Thornburg for $75,000. Vicari said the firm works on consent decree matters.

The Storm Water board gave a $40,000 contract to City Judge Deidre Monroe for work on litigation.

Mallory said vendors receiving contracts should be present. “It’s a matter of disrespect because we’re awarding public dollars to them in evidence of what they’ve done.”

Mallory also complained about a lack of supporting documents for board members as they make financial decisions for the districts.

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