Archive for March, 2014

The Subject Matters host Joe Condon talks with Mayor Ann M Thane about the issues and community affairs concerning the City of Amsterdam NY and Montgomery County.

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compare and save!

Two of the most important responsiblities of an elected official are (1.) to ensure taxpayers that we procure the most economically beneficial and qualified service providers, and (2.) that procurements are free from favoritism.


I found this to be of interest today:

“The law provides that goods and services not required to be competitively bid must be procured in a manner to assure the prudent and economical use of public moneys in the best interest of the taxpayers; to facilitate the acquisition of goods and services of maximum quality at the lowest possible cost; and, to guard against favoritism, improvidence, extravagance, fraud and corruption.

Ethics and Conflicts of Interest
“Generally, local governments and school districts are required to have a code of ethics that sets forth standards of conduct reasonably expected of its officers and employees. Although a code of ethics is an entity-wide document, it may be beneficial to include standards for procurement activities in your code since procurement is a function where the public and private sectors meet to conduct business. Public procurement officials need to have a clear understanding of what business practices are permissible and what ones are not. It is also important that all local government and school district officers and employees maintain high ethical standards of conduct and avoid situations where there is even the appearance of impropriety.

Among the ways in which procurement activities may be addressed in your code of ethics are by the inclusion of provisions:
Purchasing activities are to be conducted in a manner that is in accordance with law, in the best interests of the local government or school district, avoids favoritism, wastefulness, extravagance, fraud and corruption, and fosters honest competition to obtain the greatest economic benefit for every tax dollar expended.
• Procurement officials should insist on and expect honesty in sales representation whether offered verbally or in writing, through the medium of advertising, or in the sample of a product submitted.
• Procurement officials must treat all vendors and prospective vendors fairly and equally.
• Procurement officials should discourage the offer of gifts, and decline gifts that in any way might influence or have the appearance of influencing the procurement of goods or services.”

“Seeking competition in the purchasing cycle isn’t just a matter of ensuring compliance with laws and local policy. The people who are directly responsible for making procurement decisions should help to create a cost-conscious and thrifty procurement environment, in which seeking competition becomes intuitive and “second nature” for the organization. The benefits of seeking competition, including the potential for cost savings, should motivate a culture of competition within your procurement function.”

New York State Office of the State Comptroller,
Division of Local Government and School Accountability,
LOCAL GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT GUIDE – Seeking Competition in Procurement.


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best of the best

I culled much of the following from an online paper and tweaked a bit to make it generic, but with all of the recent discussion about commissions, boards and committees, this is a rather succinct inventory of what I think makes up a great team. These are characteristics I look for in my appointments regardless of political affiliation. Better yet, these are the attributes we should all be looking for in candidates that run for office and set the course for our various forms of government.


need to have several of the following characteristics:

Creativity and Entrepreneurship.
The organization/ individual would show evidence of creative thinking and innovation development. They would have shown in their own work that they have the ability to nurture several projects from inception through design and implementation, and these projects should be ones that test the existing boundaries of the field in some important way. In other words, there must be a “track record” in implementing innovations.

Diverse Funding, With an Eye Toward Sustainability.
A successful organization is not dependent upon a limited number of funders, but rather has a more complex funding mix that comes from different sectors: federal, state, local, corporate and fee for service. Ideally, they do not act in a way that presumes that existing third-party resources will be around forever. For that reason, they have developed business plans that are designed to move segments of their organization toward self-sufficiency.

A successful organization has an impressive governing board giving them important connections to corporations, foundations, strategists, financial experts, entrepreneurs, and others that can open doors for future growth and impact.

Clear Direction.
A successful organization has a clear sense of where it is headed, and its “umbrella vision” is ambitious and broad-reaching.

Sense of Abundance.
A successful organization has a “sense of abundance” rather than a “scarcity mentality.” In other words, the organization is of the mind that innovation helps to create more resources for the field overall – and does not feel threatened by a potential innovation that it does not own.

Clear Commitment to the End User,
Rather Than Existing Institutions or Systems.
A leader / board member must show a commitment to changes that help the organization, with no vested interest in outside entities or relationships. This individual must show a high tolerance for disruption in the status quo, even if this means the end of certain institutions or ways of doing business. The individual should have a solid track record in helping institutions and systems serve the end users better.

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another round

Please see the following report from the Golf Commission. The Commission had done extensive research and analysis before issuing an RFP last year and conducted interviews for restructuring operations at the Golf Course. The Council continues to ignore the best interests of the City of Amsterdam’s taxpayers and golfers. I have taken a hard line here and am willing to go to court over this, but would hope that the voices of reason will sway the Council to consider a compromise.

I am putting up a resolution to take the carts “in-house” tomorrow night. With the expected profits, we can fund staff, cart maintenance and gas, as well as have a Robert Trent Jones architectural consultant make recommendations to improve the course and begin to build the golf fund balance.

If the Council does not adopt this resolution, we are back to square one and all of this profit will go into the pocket of the Pro.

I humbly ask for your support. Please review the report and if you can, call or write a letter to your alderman, write a letter to the papers, write about this online, and speak at tomorrow night’s meeting. This blatant cronyism and misfeasance is unacceptable and must stop.


“The council is ignoring financial prudence by pursuing a contract with Mr. Joe Merendo and they have torpedoed efforts at moving the course into the future. Inexplicable to us, not once since taking office has the council reached out to the Golf Commission for any input on history, our plans, or to review/question our projections and recommendations. They have simply exhibited the unwavering pursuit of reinstating the existing golf pro under his previous agreement.
We have researched the typical comp for a municipal golf pro as well have the insight of what the three competing pros who responded to the RFP were requesting for income. Below are some excerpts from some web research on Golf Course Pro compensation.

According to the 2008 PGA Compensation survey, the average Head Professional made (across the country):
Average: $83,075.21
(Bottom 10%: $40,000.00, Bottom 25%: $51,150.00, Median: $69,500.00, Top 25%: $97,000.00, Top 10%: $140,000.00)

Assistant Pro (across the country):
Average: $39,874.67
(Bottom 10%: $22,537.50, Bottom 25%: $30,000.00, Median: $38,000.00, Top 25%: $47,000.00, Top 10%: $59,174.68)

This information is from 2005 according to the PGA.

The hours that a Head Pro works and the amount of golf he gets to play vary, just as much as their salaries do. Most Head Golf Professionals work around 48-60+ hours during golf season. In areas that experience cold winters and snow, the head golf pro might only work 32-40 hours a week during the winter. He will spend most of this time setting up the calendar of events for the following season, doing merchandising work for the golf shop, and at some clubs might even run some type of an indoor practice area. Some courses up north actually close for a few months in the winter time, but the head pro still puts in his time doing basic tasks.

Another thing to consider is that some Head Pros might own the golf shop merchandise and make a large part of their income running the shop, but this can be demanding of the Head Pro’s time and require longer hours and cause more headaches.

Another aspect of the job that varies a lot depending what type of course you work at, is the lessons, some pros may give lessons 3-4 times a week while other may give 3-4 or even more lessons a day.

It is important to note that Mr. Merendo does not work for the course in the off months, has little to no interaction with the course superintendant, never attends Commission meetings, and has virtually no role in marketing the course. This leads us to feel that his role should either command the bottom 25% of the head pro salary or a salary more in line with an assistant pro. This plus our knowledge of what the other pros who responded to the RFP were looking to make lead us to believe that a $50,000 per year salary plus the ability to gain additional revenue through lessons and retail (worth $10,000 or more per year if done right) is the correct compensation level for the position at Amsterdam Muni.

We have received quotes and done extensive research on cart rental revenue projections. The commission estimates that the cart rentals will bring in an additional $89,000 in revenue after lease, fuel, and maintenance. When factoring in the changes to pro compensation and additional staffing for the pro-shop the additional income is still $35,000/year. This extra revenue could be used to balance the budget, pay for course improvements without the need to bond, or could be used to reduce the cost of memberships!

The commissions goal was to put in place an energetic, competent, teaching pro. Providing lessons and clinics is the best and most effective way to bring in new players to your course. This is the foundation of building your next generation of golfers. As it is now, many members and players at Muni go to Fox Run for lessons. Joe Merendo admitted that he gives 20- 30 lessons a year and one youth clinic. All other pros consulted give in excess of 250 lessons per year.

Operational benefits of the change: Aside from the obvious monetary benefit, there are a number of operational considerations.

Single point of sale. Currently a player must pay greens fees at the cashier booth, then proceed into the pro-shop to pay for cart rental. We are the only golf course that any of us know of that does this. The change would allow both fee’s to be collected by one person.

By combining the pro-shop staff, who previously were employed by the pro, with the cashiers we will see an economy of scale. A cashier previously could perform no other task than sit in the booth and wait for customers. Under the new scenario someone working behind the counter will be able to offer customer service regarding merchandise, etc. So now one person can do the job that it took two to do before.

Additionally, as the staff will be city employees they can be utilized during slow times to support the greens staff by filing and maintaining water coolers and emptying trash bins on the course, filling ball washers, and even tidying up outside the pro-shop and clubhouse. All things that we have received numerous complaints about over the years.”

Less that a week ago, Alderwoman Hatzenbuhler grilled Recreation Director Rob Spagnola over a project that had been funded and approved last year. Shouldn’t she and the other aldermen hold the Golf Course to the same standard?

To contact the other aldermen, call or email them at the following:

Ed Russo

Valerie Beekman

Ron Barone

Diane Hatzenbuhler

Rich Leggiero

Of course, you can always drop a letter in the mail addressed to the entire Common Council.
Send to: Common Council, City Hall, 61 Church Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010

I repeat: this has NEVER been about the man. It has been about the MONEY. We must fully understand and control all departmental finances and operations. This includes the Golf Course.

BTW, Schenectady Muni brought the carts and pro shop “in house” last year, made the Pro a city employee and made $140,000 in profit last year.

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