Gloversville mayor explains total DEC grant funds mixup; Council still approves use of monies

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Gloversville Mayor Vincent DeSantis speaks at the Gloversville Public Library on East Fulton Street in April.

After what appears to be something of a merry accounting mixup, Mayor Vince DeSantis said on Tuesday night that Gloversville has a combined $416,000 in both restricted and unrestricted state reimbursement funding available for brownfield remediation and demolition work — more than double what he had said on Monday.

During Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting, DeSantis apologized for statements he had made to the Leader-Herald on Monday when he accidently conflated two different brownfield-related issues:

• A long-forgotten $192,000 New York state Department of Environmental Conservation grant for a “remediation and reuse project” at the Pan American Tannery site at 318 West Fulton St., which the city was approved for in 2018, but never completed the paperwork to receive.

• $224,000 worth of DEC brownfield remediation reimbursement money the city received years ago — $125,000 for a different remediation project at the Pan American Tannery and $99,000 for the former Reisdorf tannery — both of which Gloversville Finance Commissioner Tammie Weiterschan Tuesday night said have sat idle in city capital accounts since before she became finance commissioner in 2017.

“I had that money in these accounts that was earmarked for Reisdorf and Pan Am, but I wasn’t sure where it came from,” Weiterschan said. “Back in February, maybe even before that, we talked to C.T. Male, because they would have done the work on these projects. I looked far enough back in the ledgers, and we’re talking years and years ago. They did some some research and concluded that money was probably the [state] reimbursement for the last of the invoices that we had paid out to them or to the contractors from [previously received state] grants. That money is unencumbered.”

Unencumbered meaning it’s available for however the council approves to spend it.

The commissioner said, in her talks with C.T. Male, they informed her of the $192,000 DEC grant the city had been approved for in regards to the remediation project at the Pan American Tannery in 2018, but never took steps to receive.

DeSantis on Monday had said he planned to use the never-received $192,000 for other brownfield demolition work in the city, but Tuesday night he said what he actually meant was the $224,000 in past reimbursements, which he has now earmarked for three brownfield-related demolition projects, will be used for the following locations:

• Tradition Leather (30-41 W. 11th St.) — DeSantis said the city intends to demolish at least one of the buildings on the property that has no adaptive reuse

• The former John Johns Buckskin Co. property (1 Rose St.) — DeSantis said there was recently a fire at this property, creating debris that needs to be removed.

• The former Ultimate Leather building (70 Division St.) — The city mostly demolished this building in 2019, but DeSantis said some work still remains to be done.

“It’s just not finished, because the foundation stones are still there,” the mayor said Monday.

DeSantis and Weiterschan said Monday that DEC officials have allowed the $192,000 Pan American Tannery grant from 2018, which had expired in December 2021, to be extended for the city to still use at no additional cost, but, after reading Tuesday’s Leader-Herald, they said DEC officials contacted the city to remind them that the funding can only be used for the Pan American Tannery remediation project.

“The good news is that this is another $192,000 that we had coming that was not on our radar screen,” DeSantis said.

Third Ward Councilwoman Betsy Batchelor asked how these grants and reimbursements had remained on the city’s books for so long without anyone realizing what needed to be done for them.

Weiterschan said the changeover from past officials both in her department and for the city Department of Public Works likely played a role in the funding elements slipping through the cracks.

Second Ward Councilman Art Simonds questioned whether the essentially “found” $224,000 should be put toward over-run costs for gasoline for the city’s police department, DPW and transit system.

Weiterschan said, currently, the city’s DPW has spent $107,000 of the $140,000 worth of gasoline budgeted for that department for 2022, and the transit department has spent $36,000 of the $50,000 in its fuel budget. She said both will likely go over budget by the end of next month, however, she said there is $100,000 already earmarked in the 2022 budget for contingency costs for gasoline overruns.

She said the city does not break out the cost of the Gloversville Police Department, but it’s likely the $100,000 in the already-budgeted contingency gasoline fund can cover all of the overruns for the city’s budgets.

After discussing the issue, the Common Council voted 7-0 Tuesday night to accept the $192,000 DEC grant for use at the Pan American Tannery site.

By Jason Subik

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