Criminal Probe At Schroon's Transfer Station

Town Supervisor Mike Marnell confirmed that a criminal probe into the running of the Schroon Lake Transfer Station was continuing and is actively addressing "problems" by enforcing new measures and procedures.

"I knew there was a problem there when I first took office," Marnell told Schroon Laker Monday. "The place wasn't being run correctly."

It wasn't until last November that Marnell's suspicions were confirmed.

"We had an audit of the Town books done by a state comptroller." That's when major discrepancies were discovered.

State auditors found that annual transfer station revenues reported by the town plunged more than $30,000 — a decline of 32 percent — from 2009 to 2011. (Marnell took office in January 2012).

As background, Schroon sends its waste to the Franklin County Transfer Station. 

From the report: "We found that over a three-month period in 2012, the weight of the solid waste the Town paid to dispose of at the Franklin County landfill exceeded the amount of trash accounted for as being received at the Town’s transfer station, resulting in approximately $10,000 in missing revenues". 

The audit found numerous examples of poor record keeping at the Transfer Station, particularly when it came to the accounting of cash.

From The report: "We found weak internal controls over cash receipts and poor monitoring of solid waste received at the transfer station. One individual is responsible for weighing the solid waste to determine the amount owed from the customers, collecting fees, issuing receipts, and recording the collections. 1 (*1 The attendant used a cash register during 2011 and duplicate receipt books in 2012 to record collections at the transfer station.)

Additionally, duplicate receipts were not prepared for moneys received at the transfer station and no weigh slips were retained.

The absence of the weigh slips and cash receipt records makes it impossible to determine if the proper amount of disposal fees were charged to customers and if all moneys collected were subsequently turned over to the bookkeeper in the Supervisor’s office.

We did note, however, that total revenues from the transfer station decreased from $92,745 in 2009 to $62,668 in 2011, more than $30,000 (32 percent) in two years". 

Marnell told Schroon Laker he believes the discrepancies are potentially due to oversight in several areas.

"I believe there may have been undercharging and heavy, bulky items, were not being weighed."

There may also have been illegal dumping when the Transfer Station was closed. "With the airport right there, there are many ways to get around the gate and get in."

Marnell said as soon as he took over as Town Supervisor, revenues from the Transfer Station were up substantially.

From the report:  "Subsequent to our audit, local officials indicated that revenues increased by approximately $20,000 during 2012 after updated controls were implemented". 

Among those controls, Marnell said was having two employees at the station at all times is now standard practice. "Up until I made changes there was one person there. You can't be the ship, captain and crew all in one."

Further changes being implemented include:

*Receipts to customers for cash transactions.

*The purchase of a digital scale that will record the exact amount of trash collected on a daily or weekly basis.

*Better record keeping.

Marnell said right now the matter is in the hands of the BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation), part of Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague’s office. He said he didn't know what stage the investigation is at.