Niles Council moves on asset management

By Jordan Cohen


City council has taken steps to address the last remaining audit finding blocking its exit from nearly four years of state-imposed fiscal emergency.

Council unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday night authorizing negotiations to implement a city asset management plan, the absence of which led to a critical performance audit report. The Vindicator reported that the 2017 audit, which was not released until last week, found the city failed to maintain either a manual or computerized listing of every city asset, rendering monitoring and managing impossible.

None of this was news to city Auditor Giovanne Merlo, who has been working on a remedy for several months.

“What we expected is what we got out of it,” Merlo told council at Wednesday’s meeting. “This was the only finding against us in 2017, and in the 2018 audit we should not have that finding.”

Costs to develop a citywide plan had been estimated at six figures, with Mayor Steven Mientkiewicz predicting to The Vindicator last week, “I think it will be expensive.” However, Merlo revealed that three proposals have already been submitted, with the top figure at only $68,000, an amount that clearly surprised council.

The auditor cautioned a thorough evaluation of each proposal must be conducted and subsequent negotiations must be completed before he can offer a recommendation to council.

“We’re going to look at it in its entirety,” he said, adding that all the submissions appear to “meet proposal specifications” thus far.

The plan that is selected must account for every city asset from land and buildings to streets. Kevin Robertson, city project manager, public utilities and infrastructure coordinator, revealed that state auditors were unaware some listings were available at the time they conducted last year’s audit.

“We’ve had [records] containing mileage of waterlines, storm and sanitary sewers and center line mileage of streets for some time,” he said. “They never asked for them.” Robertson said he provided those lists to state auditors last week.

“Once we analyze [everything], it will take that audit finding away,” Mientkiewicz said.

The new mayor, selected in a close vote by precinct committee members earlier this month, said his first few weeks in office have been anything but dull.

“These first 15 days have been quite an adventure,” he said.

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