Audit finds National Grid owes city more than $47K

JOHNSTOWN – An independent audit of city government’s energy consumption done by a Buffalo firm concluded National Grid owes the city more than $47,000 due to past discrepancies.

The Common Council in February contracted with Troy and Banks Consultants of Buffalo. The company audited the city’s electric, natural gas, phone and Internet bills to secure refunds, credits and cost reductions resulting from discovery of overcharges or costs in excess of those permitted.

Results of the audit were made public at the council meeting Monday at City Hall.

The resolution approved by the council to obtain the money indicated billing discrepancies were found and a payment amount of about $47,332 is owed to the city from National Grid. Troy and Banks keeps 25 percent of uncollected gross receipt taxes and receives 20 to 25 percent of telecommunications savings, according to the agreement between the utility and the city.

“This is the result of the audit and this is an overcharge,” city Treasurer Michael Gifford told the council.

The resolution noted Troy and Banks provided the audit to the city of its utility and telecommunications bills. The consultants challenged charges of street lighting services collected by National Grid from Dec. 1, 2005 to the present. The resolution approved a settlement agreement between the utility and the city.

“It was a worthwhile endeavor,” said 2nd Ward Councilman Chris Foss.

A Troy and Banks review of electric bills in Gloversville in 2011 recovered $82,300 in overcharges, that city’s officials said in February.

In other council action Monday:

The council approved entering into an agreement with Verizon Wireless to sell 50 of the city’s obsolete Sprint Nextel cellular phones. The city’s Department of Public Works and Water Department previously received cellular service from Sprint Nextel, but now has contracted for services with Verizon Wireless. The departments are in possession of the 50 cell phones, which are obsolete and cannot be used with Verizon service.

Verizon Wireless offered to purchase the phones for $168 and apply the money as credit on the DPW and Water departments’ accounts.

A public hearing was set for 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at City Hall to hear comments about possibly reinstating traffic signs at the former Jansen Avenue Elementary School building, which closed in June 2009.

The Greater Johnstown School District is readying the building to again be used this school year for high school technology programs. The council is looking to amend the city Code of Ordinances to reinstate 15 mph signs previously taken down.

The city has changed signage on several city streets in recent years, adapting to traffic changes, most notably on Jansen Avenue.

In November 2009, the council amended the code section related to “Speed in School Districts” and increased the speed limit on Jansen Avenue from 15 mph to 30 mph because the school was shut down. In May 2011, the council also amended the code to remove two “No Stopping” signs in the vicinity of 218 and 300 Jansen Avenue.

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