Pittsford SB addresses infestations, energy, and audits


PITTSFORD—At its regular meeting on Wednesday, May 15, the Pittsford Selectboard heard a presentation from Miranda MacDonald of the auditing firm of RHR Smith & Company, which had recently completed an audit of the town’s accounts for the fiscal year that ended in June 2023. The full audit report is available at the Pittsford Town Office.

As Ms. MacDonald went over the report with the Selectboard, she noted that in several instances, she had not been able to correlate the town’s expenditures with invoices and/or warrants. Information about these expenditures was not always available from the Town Office.

“There were mistakes,” said Ms. MacDonald. “Not enough to say there’s a problem but enough to start a conversation.”

Board Vice-Chair David Mills asked how the town could avoid this situation in the future. Ms. MacDonald stated that the town’s accounting and bookkeeping practices needed to be reviewed and improved. The town’s recent implementation of coded invoices that would help tracking expenditures was noted as a positive development. MacDonald made clear that she had not seen any evidence of fraud and suggested that perhaps the town’s finance team was overworked and understaffed. 

Pittsford Town Clerk and Treasurer Helen McKinlay was present and said this was the first she was hearing of the issue, which had been outlined in a letter from Ms. MacDonald to the Board.

When asked by an attendee, MacDonald was unable to put a dollar figure on the amount of money that the errors represented and reiterated that what she saw seemed more the result of inattention to detail than of any intentional acts. 

Fire Hill Road

The Board continued its discussion of potential health hazards at three homes owned by the Forrest family on Fire Hill Road. The properties have been the subject of numerous complaints from adjacent homeowners, who claim that the derelict condition of the properties poses health hazards from rat infestations and abandoned cars leaking fluids into the ground.

Two of the homes are not occupied by their owners, though animals are kept at one. A dead dog was recently discovered on one of the properties. Neighbors have complained that rats have infested the properties and are now expanding into adjacent properties, causing great concern among residents who had never had these pests before. 

Pittsford Health Officer Rich Bowman was present and said that he had visited the properties twice with thermal imaging equipment and did not find any evidence of rats. In response to questioning from a neighbor who was in attendance, Mr. Bowman said he would record his use of the thermal equipment when he visits the properties again.

The owners of two of the properties had made efforts toward compliance with orders from the town to clean up debris, though one house was not yet in compliance and could face fines if no remedial action was taken by the owner.

Town Manager David Atherton said, “We can’t fix a 20-year problem in two weeks. Rich [Bowman] has done due diligence. We can’t go after rats if we can’t find them.”

Mr. Bowman stated that he will continue to pressure the owners to comply with the town’s orders before other action is taken.

“We don’t want to lose this in the courts,” he said.

Enhanced energy plan

Jeremy Gildrien of the Rutland Regional Planning Commission (RRPC) was present to discuss the creation of an “enhanced energy plan” as part of Pittsford’s town plan. Every town in Vermont is mandated by law to create a town plan every eight years that lays out the town’s goals and visions for itself.

Energy goals are generally a part of these town plans, but an “enhanced energy plan” goes beyond the town’s own goals to incorporate the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, which sets certain targets for energy production and use for the state. The Board had already agreed to formulate an enhanced plan. RRPC will assist the town in doing so.

The adoption of an enhanced plan will allow the town and its residents to access grants and subsidies that they would otherwise not be eligible for. The plan will be a set of “implementable targets” and not a mandate.

Mr. Gildrien noted that Pittsford already met the state’s targets for solar production because of the solar fields within the town. He also stated that Pittsford residents pay roughly 12.5% of their income on energy, which is “pretty high” in comparison to the rest of the state.

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