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Timely report on state audit of pellet project called for

State auditors should report what they have learned about charges of mismanagement, sabotage and the possible loss of millions of dollars in Amherst's pellet project, a Town Board member says.

Council Member Shelly Schratz released a copy of a letter to State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi, asking him to reveal what his auditors found in their examination of Amherst's troubled program to turn sludge into fertilizer pellets.

"I implore you, on behalf of the Amherst residents, to release your findings to date," she said.

Schratz is one of three town lawmakers who requested the state audit and who are now asking for it to be released before the November election. The others are Council Members William L. Kindel and Daniel J. Ward.

Last week, a spokeswoman for Hevesi's office said it has no date for completing the audit, and she denied any suggestion that the report is being delayed by politics.

However, four Town Board seats, including the one held by the supervisor, will be filled in November balloting, and some critics say delaying the audit report is not fair to voters.

"This fall's election should not be conducted under the veil of secrecy," Kindel said.

Ward also agreed with Schratz, saying: "We requested an audit for a reason -- there was a suspicion that something was wrong."

And if voters determine that any elected Amherst official should be held responsible for the pellet project's problems, "The only real correction is at an election, since very few politicians ever get prosecuted," Ward said.

Schratz also expressed misgivings about an apparent delay in reporting the state's findings.

In June, when Hevesi's auditors began the audit, they led some town officials to believe that work would be over in less than a month.

"Part of my concern is that the county audit [by Hevesi's office] only took two months. So what is going on with this little audit?" she said.

"That pellet project has cost us millions of dollars. People have a right to know, are we doing the best we can," Schratz said.

And she said: "Every board member should join in this request, including the supervisor, because the purpose of this audit was to put us on the right track. If it exonerates everybody, terrific."

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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