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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

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2013: Smoking Guns: DASNY and OPWDD

OPWDD or DASNY Smoking Gun?

According to the Free On-line Dictionary:  “smoking gun”  is a noun:  “Chiefly US and Canadian:   a piece of irrefutable incriminating evidence.”

Under the Freedom of Information Laws (FOIL) of NYS, e state government is supposed to acknowledge within 5 business days the receipt of an inquiry, and they have another 20 business days to provide the information.  A FOIL letter which I sent to DASNY (Dormitory Authority of the State of NY), which is the agency responsible for the physical facilities of the IRA homes, called “Hostels”, was mailed by me on April 30, 2012.  It was stamped “received” by DASNY on May 4, 2012, and assigned file # F-12-88.
On May 10, I received an email on DASNY letterhead, addressed to me, acknowledging receipt of my FOIL request.  It was  signed by Robert C. diOrio, Associate Records Access Officer, and a few minutes after the acknowledgement was received by me, it was “withdrawn” by 3 separate emails from a Christine V. Torey.   That was 10 days ago; I still have not received re-confirmation or further correspondence.  Yet, this is not the “smoking gun,” though it raises a number of questions.  I will write more on the handling of this FOIL request at a future time.  If anyone plans to FOIL, please note that although I requested information on the “IRA at 6166 South Vine Valley Road, Middlesex, NY 14507.” the actual cover letter I received on the FOIL materials said: “6166 Pine Valley Road, Middlesex.”  It might be useful to include both addresses to catch anything mis-filed.
As background, I need to say that a number of people in the Vine Valley area have questioned if OPWDD’s tossing the 9 long time occupants of its 6166 South Vine Valley Road into other, disperse facilities was really necessary.  It seems that Michael Feeney has proudly explained that when family members of the dispersed were told that the building  was unsafe due to not being able to evacuate quickly enough in case of fire, and that the fire suppression system did not meet code, that those family members were of course willing to have their family members moved (without apparently ever being told that they’d never return!)  With a looming so-called safety issue, evacuating the IRA home promptly became understandable.  Or did it become the excuse to get the families to agree quickly and move out the occupants to make way for the sexual offenders from the Monroe Developmental Center (MDC)?
One can certainly draw the conclusion that if the real reason for evacuation were known “up-front,” there would have been more push-back from the community, and concern by the families.  Safety issues?  Contrived or true?  Convenient or just an excuse?  We have heard from families that they didn’t know until December.  We have heard from Mr. Feeney and others that they acted promptly after receiving notice of a safety issue.  But did they?  Really?
And this is where the “smoking gun” comes in.  In addition to FOIL-ing NYS for information, there are many state records on line.  Thus, I recently received some records  which relate to the FOIL-ing issue, and are quite interesting.  It is the possible conclusion from those records which may well constitute the “smoking gun.”  These records apparently show (as best we can construe, and we are open to further clarification or correction), that a request for quote on the sprinkler system in the 6166 facility (and 3 others) was active as early as September 21, 2011.  Yes, that is more than two months before families began to learn of the concerns and, quite frankly, if DASNY knew enough about the problems in mid-September to go out for bids, the inspection must have informed them of the situation prior to that time.
So we have two conclusions that seem possible:
1) There really was a danger related to fire safety uncovered well before the bidding process and even longer before families were informed.  If that were the case, how does NYS justify leaving 9 disabled adults in a dangerous situation, which they clearly had to have known of prior to going out for bids?  Why weren’t the occupants moved in September or earlier if it really was dangerous?  How does DASNY and OPWDD justify putting their lives at risk?  OR
2) There really was never any danger (and those who seem to know about the water capacity at 6166 tend to agree with this conclusion) but some “danger” was needed to get people moved when the state was ready to move them,  to make room for MDC sexual offenders and others, and the long time disabled occupants were the victims of the shuffle and victims of a charade to break up their community and push them aside.
Now both these conclusions don’t seem possible, so which one is it?  The smoking gun certainly implies that the work and the move was planned long before the Town or families or neighbors had any idea.  Look at PAGE #1, below, accessible on line, and you will note a “First Report Date” of 9/21/2011.  You will also note a bid date of 10/20/2011.  Page #1 also shows the 4 “hostels” for which the bid is being sought for “Installation of sprinklers.”  Elsewhere on the page the work is described as “Replace/Upgrade/Repair”.  H-1200 is the “hostel” at 6166 South Vine Valley Rd.  Click on the picture to make it bigger and more readable.
Then look at PAGE #2, for the bidders’ list.
PAGE #3 has some surprising information.  Do those who were at the meeting with Michael Feeney remember a $10,ooo price tag for the renovation being mentioned?  Well the Low Bidders’ List shows 3 parties (who were also shown on page 2.)  The lowest is Simplex Grinnell from Rochester, with a “base” mechanical bid as a plumbing and piping contractor for $946,281.00.  That seems to be for four facilities.  Now would it make sense that $10,000 is for our 6166 facility and that the other 3 hostels would average over $312,000 each?  Or would it make sense that the work was comparable in all 4, for an average over $236,000 each?   But the assessed valuation of the 6166 property is $250,000.  Would it make sense to spend so much to repair a sprinkler system?  Or has DASNY lost all sense of proportion?  How in the world is this going to save taxpayers money?  How it is treating fairly the former occupants of the building?  And what constitutes the gap between the $10,000 and $236,000 or $312,000?  What is it being spent on and why?  Multiply this by the other IRA’s and ask how can it possibly make sense to close the MDC?  By the way each of the next two lowest bids were over a million dollars for the 4 Hostels.  Take a look at Page #3.  And consider that there must be a lot of money in sprinklers and piping.
 Finally, take a look at PAGE #4, which was recently run to show what contracts were awarded and it says: “No Contract Awards Found.”  Oh?  And why not?  Earlier we showed the work permit and the cut up components of the water pressure system in the article entitled “In Your Face.”  Take a look, see what you think, and post a comment.
Diane Harris


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