Purchasing policy sparks debate
January 26, 2011 - Can the Orion Township officials spend $5,000 for office improvements without consent of the Board of Trustees?
|Building plans for structures in Orion Township as they are now. Soon they will be stored flat and in better order. Photo by Gabriel Ouzounian (click for larger version)|
The answer, as stated by the township's current spending policy, is as long as the amount spent is $5,000 or less, a department head does not require board approval to spend the money.
This meant that when Orion Township Clerk Penny Shults spent $4,999 of the $5,000 earmarked in the township's budget for the clerk's office's use, her actions were legal.
Shults had used the funds to purchase organizational equipment for the clerk's office's older records.
Yet despite the legality of the purchase, this action managed to spark controversy at the Jan. 18 Orion Township Board of Trustees meeting.
"The biggest problem I have with [the purchase] is the timing," said Trustee JoAnn VanTassel. "We spent a year negotiating a contract with our labor unions, we've asked them to sacrifice, we've asked them to have no pay raise, and right at the end of the year we make what in my mind is a fairly substantial purchase.
"I think the trustees need to be involved in whatever renovations are being made here."
Trustee John Steimal echoed some of these thoughts, but maintained that the policy itself needed more attention than the purchase itself.
Shults defended by citing problems with the way records and documents had been stored at the township offices.
"The records that we got out of a back room recently were being destroyed because of moisture, there are old assessment rolls that are basically disintegrating, and as a custodian of the records it is a concern to me to get these things in safe keeping," said Shults. "Most of this stuff has been stored inadequately in boxes, in back rooms, or even under a stairwell, and we have gotten [the documents] out of those boxes and into new filing systems.
"We want to make sure this information is available to the public."
Shults added that she was sorry if she had made an error in her undertaking of the purchase, mentioning that she had attempted to make sure she was conducting the process properly by contacting the treasurer's department, but that Township Treasurer Alice Young was proving difficult to "get ahold of."
Young said that she understands that the purchase was made while adhering to the township's purchasing policy, but hopes that the policy is revised fairly quickly to acknowledge the fact that the township now has an operations manager.
The township's operations manager, Allan Feys, oversees the operational aspects of the township's facilities, grounds and fields. He also serves as a liaison between Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb's office and the other township departments, as well as to outside agencies and the general public.
One of Feys' responsibilities is acting as an authorized purchasing agent for the township.
"I had a similar situation when the Treasure's Department got a new front counter to replace the old bulletproof glass front that we had, and we found that it really opened the department up and made it more appealing to visitors," said Young. "We went through the proper procedures, consulted Alan Feys, and had it installed for the cost he was able to get us.
"I am very aware that we are using taxpayers dollars."
Gibb postponed the issue until the next meeting, closing by adding that the concern for the deteriorating files was a valid one, and that he would be creating a draft of a revised purchasing policy within the next two months.