Niles water department building ‘dangerous, commission told

By Jordan Cohen


Mayor Thomas Scarnecchia told the Financial Planning and Supervision Commission the Water Department building on State Street is “dilapidated” and “a dangerous situation for employees.”

Scarnecchia and council President Barry Steffey, both commission members, said an architect has already determined the building, which once housed The Niles Times newspaper, is beyond repair.

“The architect told us that the No. 1 priority is to get employees out of that building,” Steffey told The Vindicator after the Thursday meeting. “He said it isn’t salvageable at a reasonable expense.”

“Water is leaking terribly there,” said the mayor about the building that houses eight water department employees and various vehicles.

Steffey said in light of the architect’s warning, the city is considering alternative sites to house the department. The city also is seeking proposals for asset-management studies to determine the state of its buildings, particularly in terms of safety and insurance.

The disclosure comes at a time when the city, which has been in state-declared fiscal emergency since October 2014, is required by the state to update its financial recovery plan.

The current recovery plan drafted last year limited corrective actions to the city’s general fund and not to self-funded accounts that include Niles’ water, sewer and light departments.

“That’s the most significant update,” said Quentin Potter, commission chairman. He said the revised report will have to include analysis of funds for the next five years. The plan will have to be reviewed and accepted by state auditors and the six-member commission.

“We’re still a few steps away from requesting release [from fiscal emergency],” Potter said.

According to the council president, the city plans a budget review in June. Information from the review is expected to be incorporated into the next version of the recovery plan, which is to be submitted to the commission in advance of its next meeting July 25.

On a positive note, the city’s fiscal supervisors reported the treasurer’s office, with their help, has reconciled financial records through March. At the commission’s last meeting in February, the city was months behind in reconciliation, a problem Potter warned jeopardized eventual release from fiscal emergency.

Treasurer Stephen Telego, appointed to the post afterward, said he and two department employees are learning the software system.

“No one in that office ever did a reconciliation,” Telego told the commission. “My staff is very committed to doing this right.”

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