District gets ‘qualified’ financial report from auditors

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Center firehouse

The Shelter Island Fire District got a  “qualified” opinion on its financials from its auditors, treasurer Amber Williams told commissioners Monday night. But she stressed that while a qualified opinion is one notch below the “unqualified” opinion the district usually gets, the reason for the downgrading isn’t critical.

What prompted the qualified opinion, Ms. Williams said, is that the district hasn’t been tracking the historical cost of its equipment. That isn’t to say it hasn’t informally tracked the condition of equipment and replaced it as necessary. But it hasn’t had a formal valuation she estimated would cost at least $10,000.

“I don’t think there’s any good reason” for a formal valuation, she said, noting that in past years, Shelter Island got the coveted unqualified opinion even though the district lacked the valuation report then.

She promised to speak with the auditors to determine how critical the lack of the formal valuation is and to revert to the commissioner next month.

OSHA compliance
Commissioners, aware of the importance of ensuring  the district is compliant with Occupational Safety & Health Administration requirements, has been steadily moving in the direction of hiring a company to assist in training. Commissioners got another reminder that OSHA inspections are taking place throughout New York State from PERMA, the organization handling its workers compensation coverage. PERMA works with municipalities throughout the state, except for New York City and provides coverage, as well as advice about how to maintain proper safety and health  programs to diminish injuries.

A PERMA representative offered the district assistance in assuring that it meets OSHA requirements, but that was put on hold Monday night since Shelter Island is already engaging an OSHA expert to provide such services.

Getting connected
Commissioners are looking to the Fire Department to pick up costs of maintaining a website since they believe that it’s likely to be used more by the department than by the Board of Commissioners. Still, the commissioners are engaged in trying to guide the process, questioning how much work is likely to be involved in maintaining the site once it’s created.

They tossed around various suggestions, but Chief John D’Amato suggested they pay a firm they’re considering hiring to build the site to maintain it for at least several months. At that point, they can assess how much the site needs to be updated month-to-month. The chief said he’s hesitant about trying to maintain it in-house.

It takes a woman
That firefighters have been less than diligent about recycling is resulting in a problem for their carter, Dan Binder, who has been rendering free services to the department. But now that Mr. Binder is being threatened with loss of his privileges to bring loads to the Southold recycling center because of some loads that mixed recyclables with wet garbage, commissioners agreed they need to be more careful.

“We’re one of the main culprits” in failing to recycle, Commissioner Keith Clark said. He noted that at home the men tend to recycle only because they’re reminded  to do so by wives and mothers. But left to their own devices, they tend to get sloppy and just toss bottles and cans into barrels that contain wet garbage.

“Right now, we’re abusing somebody who’s doing us a kindness,” said First Assistant Chief Will Anderson.

The men agreed to set up labeled barrels and make an effort to re-educate department members about the need to separate out their recyclables from wet garbage — even if wives and mothers aren’t around to remind them.