WASTING ENERGY

Friedman lashes out at St. Lawrence, says he needlessly wasted $73,000 on energy contracts

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

Friedman and St. Lawrence in friendlier times
Friedman and St. Lawrence in friendlier times

RAMAPO – The Ramapo Town Board saw a brief skirmish between Councilman Daniel Friedman and Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence last Monday over energy contracts which Friedman claimed cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

Friedman proposed a new resolution reauthorizing Resolution Energy Group to conduct a request for bids to find a bidder for town energy contracts. Resolution is a consultant group which seeks out affordable energy bids to limit unecessary spending.

“Time is of the essence as taxpayer money is wasted for no justifiable reason,” Friedman said to the board.

Though Friedman received support from Councilman Patrick Withers, they were the only supporters and the resolution failed to pass. In spite of the failure, Friedman vowed to bring the matter to a vote at every subsequent meeting until action is taken.

He said that St. Lawrence’s lack of action of the energy contract was mysterious and as yet unexplained.

According to Friedman, a contract was reached with Resolution in 2011 and the town saved about $260,000 in energy expenses. Though St. Lawrence and Village Attorney Michael Klein had assured Friedman and Resolution that a renewal was in the works after the contract expired last year, Friedman said no progress had been made.

Energy contract lapses usually mean rates default to the variable interest rate, which tends to be the among the least competitive rates on the market. Penalties might also be imposed to nudge municipalities into a search for a more affordable contract.

“Once a contract lapses, rates dramatically increase and they become very, very high,” Friedman explained. “The reason for that is because they want you to continue to renew or at least find another provider with which to get cheap energy rates, so that’s what’s been happening. Now we’re paying 23 or 24 cents when we were paying six and a half,” Friedman said.

To support his claims, Friedman took to Twitter on Monday and posted savings and contract lapse summaries created by Resolution. The documents show a cost savings of $261,101.93 when the contract was in effect from 2011 to 2013 and rate increases which amount to $73,742.37 since the contract’s expiration.

Resolution President Christopher Schiller, who was present at the meeting to support Friedman’s resolution, corroborated Friedman’s claims. Schiller explained he repeatedly warned the board that rates would increase and was assured by the board that action would be taken.

Schiller also accused Klein and St. Lawrence of attempting to drive the bid. According to him, an unnammed outside party was attempting to sabotage the contract to obtain the right to a request for quotations (RFQ).

Schiller said when he confronted Klein, the town attorney assured him a resolution was in the works to cancel the Resolution contract. However, Schiller claimed Klein “outright lied” and authorized the unnamed party to bid out street lighting accounts while the Resolution contract was still in effect.

“There was an obvious agenda by Michael Klein,” Schiller said. “It wasn’t a mistake or misunderstanding.”

Schiller said he brought up the issue to St. Lawrence on November 25 and was assured a decision was imminent, but the Supervisor never responded and no progress was made. When Schiller pushed further, St. Lawrence allegedly became even more oppositional.

“He then told me he would take over being the energy consultant himself,” Schiller said.

St. Lawrence was largely silent and appeared agitated when the resolution was discussed, but assured attendees the bidding process was not dead.

“I have been in discussions with companies as to what we can do,” St. Lawrence said.

Klein declined to comment on the matter.

Friction between Friedman and St. Lawrence has been visible since last week, when the town hired Councilwoman Brendel Charles’ husband Bernard Charles as a town consultant and Building, Plannning, and Zoning Director Anthony Mallia’s daughter Melinda Mallia as a temporary clerical assistant.

Though Friedman said the agreement was upon much lower, temporary wages, Charles will receive up to $60,000 per year and Mallia could receive up to $40,000. Friedman and Withers are now asking for a temporary suspension of the employees while the town investigates why the salaries were increased and why Charles was fulfilling some roles as a consultant which Friedman was performing as a councilman.