WARREN — Taxpayers are left with the bag for about $35,900 more than expected for county snow and ice trucks after a contract that was approved last year was never completed.
The county is set to pay the extra money for five packages of snow and ice trucks from Henderson Products of Bucyrus, Ohio, after the company raised prices, alleging issues with the pandemic and the inflation, and the county was unable to produce a contract with the original agreed price.
The purchase was unanimously approved by Commissioners Frank Fuda, Niki Frenchko and Mauro Cantalamessa on March 31, 2021, at a total cost of $1,211,661 for Henderson’s snow and ice packages and five 2022 Freightliner dump trucks from local supplier Fyda Freightliner Youngstown Inc. About $592,342 of that amount was to come from a diesel mitigation grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Attorney Jeff Goodman, speaking on behalf of the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office, addressed the commissioners at their May 4 meeting, telling them that earlier this year Henderson had attempted to increase the price of its initial offer by more than $70,000. The engineer’s office told Henderson he couldn’t do it because they had a contract – then found out there was no contract.
Fearing the county would lose if he sued Henderson without a signed contract, Goodman negotiated to split the difference, arriving at the figure of $35,900.
“And that’s the point of this story: the lack of diligence…and chaos and lack of attention to detail has become an epidemic in the commissioner’s office,” Goodman said.
Fuda on Wednesday tried to defend the apparent clerical miscommunication by reading a letter written by County Clerk Paula Vivoda-Klotz, who was a clerk at the newspaper when the original purchase was approved.
Frenchko blocked Fuda’s efforts to read the letter by repeatedly speaking above him and claiming that it was past 10:30 a.m. and it was time for the meeting to begin. County Engineer Randy Smith, on the phone, also joined in the discussion.
Vivoda-Klotz’s letter indicates that it followed normal contractual procedure for this purchase and prepared a tax agent certificate. After completing a certain amount of paperwork, she “put the contract aside” and waited to hear from the engineer’s office. He had been told earlier that getting the equipment might take a long time due to the pandemic.
The letter went on to say that the tax agent’s certificate covered both Fyda and Henderson, suggesting this might convince Henderson to honor his original quote.
Smith said the commissioners’ office had been responsible for obtaining the documents for as long as he could remember. A February 28, 2022 letter from the Engineer’s office to the commissioners lists Fyda truck contracts and Henderson snow plow contracts among those still awaiting action from the commissioners, along with eight other bullet points.
“While we strive to follow contracts from start to finish, poor performance, malfeasance and inaction by Commissioners and their staff nevertheless often prove to be insurmountable obstacles”, this letter, signed by the director of finance and personnel of the office of county engineers, Herbert Laukhart. , bed.
In a statement on Wednesday, Commissioner Fuda suggested the “whole situation” could have been better resolved with “a few phone calls” rather than a lawyer attending a meeting.
“We do more to prepare contracts for road engineers than for other departments like the health and planning commission,” Fuda said. “We do this because we believe in the spirit of cooperation, and above all, because we recognize that we are all on the same team.”
Speaking later, Fuda said he was upset that Frenchko interrupted him during the meeting.
“Everything she does – she won’t let us have a meeting,” he said.
After the meeting, Frenchko said it was important to let ratepayers know about the additional cost and how it happened.