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September 12, 2013

Treasurer calls for purchasing freeze

Acting Otsego County Treasurer Henry “Russ” Bachman recently called for a freeze on all purchasing by county agencies as one step in dealing with county government’s deteriorating financial situation.

He also strongly advised that the heads of county departments refrain from asking for any spending increases at all in their agency budgets, with the exception of those that are contractually necessary.

Each year, county department heads make the case for hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending on vehicles, computers, office furniture and other equipment they say is needed to fulfill their various missions and provide services to the public.

But Bachman argued to the county Board of Representatives that the purchases should be postponed until after the deficit-ridden Otsego Manor nursing home is taken over by a private operator.

Bachman, in an interview, also confirmed that a projected $7 million budget deficit facing the county is an accurate assessment of the county’s financial position as county lawmakers enter the annual budget production season.

A balanced budget for fiscal 2014 must be enacted in December.

The budget gap is being exacerbated by a variety of forces, the most significant of which is the ongoing multi-million-dollar subsidy to the 174-bed Otsego Manor, Bachman said. Beyond that, the county may have to spend a significant sum to repair the bridge on County Route 11C, which was wiped out nearly six months ago when it was struck by an over-sized truck.

Bachman said the tab for repairing the bridge, which has kept a stretch of 11C closed since the incident, has been estimated at $1.6 million.

The insurance carrier for the truck owner has balked at paying the full amount, arguing that because the bridge is about 80 years old, its value at the time amounted to far less than $1.6 million, county representatives said.

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