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South Lockport Fire Company plans compliance with audit

LOCKPORT – The attorney for the South Lockport Fire Company said last week that the company will comply fully with a list of requests for information to be used in an audit the Town Board is insisting upon before it will consider increasing its payments to the fire company.

Michael A. Benson of Springville, hired by the fire company, said South Lockport has “no objection” to the requests included in a Feb. 19 letter from John P. Schiavone of Lumsden & McCormick, the auditing firm selected by the town.

“We’ve even offered more,” Benson said. The auditor requested copies of all of the board of directors minutes for 2015; Benson said he will turn over the meeting minutes for the regular membership meetings, too. However, he said the directors’ minutes will be redacted to remove all nonfinancial information.

The fire company’s officers told the Town Board in November that South Lockport was running an operating deficit and ought to be paid more than the $369,297 the town budget included for 2016, especially since South Lockport handles the most calls of any of the five fire companies that serve parts of the town.

South Lockport was the only company to object to a new five-year contract that increased the stipends to the fire companies by 3 percent per year. Instead, the company signed a one-year contract extension.

In early February, South Lockport president Scott Monkelbaan told The Buffalo News that the fire company had run a $56,000 operating deficit in 2015. The fire company has not filed a Form 990, a not-for-profit financial report, to the Internal Revenue Service for either of the past two years. Benson said, “We’re getting everything together.”

The 2013 form showed the fire company had a $48,873 surplus that year and nearly $300,000 in cash on hand. Since then, South Lockport bought a new ladder truck for nearly $1 million.

Benson said he is not charging the fire company for his legal services.

The town’s request for information for use in an audit, first made in mid-November, seems to have soured relations between the sides. But Town Attorney Michael J. Norris said, “We intend to negotiate in good faith. Following the audit, there will be good-faith negotiations with the fire company, dependent on what’s in the audit.”

Besides meeting minutes, Schiavone’s letter asked the fire company to give him by March 15 copies of all lease and purchase agreements for equipment; all contracts with individual employees; the complete 2015 budget and accounting records; expenditure reports compared to the budget; all loan agreements, credit card statements, ledgers, and details on all accounts payable or receivable.

Also, the auditors asked for a summary of all bank accounts; reports of revenues and costs for all fundraisers; a payroll summary and a listing of all assets.

“Other items will be requested as we begin our procedures,” Schiavone wrote.