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Fredonia Bickering Hits New Level

Fredonia Mayor Doug Essek criticized the village Board of Trustees over several recent moves at the group’s Monday workshop in Village Hall.

First, he slammed the board’s decision to award a technology services contract to a Jamestown company, SymLink, instead of nearby DFT Communications, adding that the resolution differed from the contract.

“The village never got two quotes. DFT, in February 2021, provided a budgetary placemaker amount. SymLink provided a totally different quote that was not consistent in equipment or services,” Essek said. “Wrong dollar amounts were passed, then corrected by our treasurer, then revoted on without question or discussion.

“We have been through a ‘Small Business Revolution’ and have pushed buying local and supporting our Fredonia business, yet this board did not even allow our local business to fairly bid this purchase,” Essek continued. He then wondered “if we should start this process over to be transparent and fair to our vendors as well as our taxpayers.”

Board member James Lynden responded that the resolution should be rescinded and the contract should be rebid. “We have some issues that none of us apparently realized at the time. It was a mistake,” he said.

“This isn’t a bidding process,” said Trustee EvaDawn Bashaw. “These are quotations and we did receive quotations and we have them. Whether they want to call them something different they can. But we received a quote from them, on paper, that says ‘quotation’ in the corner.”

Bashaw then initiated a sharp exchange with Essek where she accused him of a conflict of interest because his wife, Julie, works for DFT. The two talked over each other with raised, angry voices. Essek shot back that perhaps it was a conflict of interest that she works for the town of Pomfret, which retains DFT for its technology services.

Next, Bashaw said Essek had shared SymLink’s project price quotes with DFT. “They had the opportunity to have all those quotes, all that same information, we waited five months for DFT,” Bashaw said.

“How do you know I shared that information?” questioned Essek.

“I do know,” Bashaw fired back. “This is a small town, bud.”

“You’re a private investigator,” Essek cracked.

Bashaw went on to reiterate her stance that the trustees had done their due diligence in awarding the contract to SymLink. She agreed that a new resolution should be enacted to make sure the contract quotes matched the resolution.

“This has become quite an issue in regard to DFT,” she said.” I am all for local support. I am a local businessperson too. And if I don’t have something that a customer is looking for, or I can’t provide it in the condition that they want it, I refer them to other people who may not even be in the same town.”

She added that it was important to note that the village was not taking any services away from DFT, and in fact still had phone, internet and security services with the company that cost more than $31,000 per year.

Essek continued to say that DFT was not provided with the proper specifications on the project. He also wanted the community to know all the “freebies” that DFT has provided village government over the years, but also acknowledged that the decision on the contract was the trustees’ to make. Bashaw said, “I hope DFT realizes we still contract a great deal of services with them that we aren’t intending to change.”

She recommended just doing a corrected resolution for SymLink’s contract. That corrected resolution is supposed to be on the agenda for the board’s next meeting on Monday.

Later, the mayor wasn’t finished clashing with the board. He said a recent organizational chart passed by the trustees “makes no sense” and called for adjustments, especially in the areas mentioning the mayor.

Essek also had a problem with the resolution that allows the Fredonia Opera House to take possession of a common, currently little-used space in Village Hall for five years, under a deal where it will sell naming rights of part of it to the family of a recently deceased patron. He said he had a problem with certain language in the resolution that he feels does not match the naming agreement, and that Opera House Director Rick Davis was willing to go along with his proposed changes. Essek wanted to make it clear that if the police department needed to expand, that would take precedence over the Opera House’s desires.

“The thing is, we had a workshop on this,” Trustee Roger Britz said. “We talked about it, looked it over, sent it off to our attorney for review, we get it back, we pass a resolution, and now you want to change it.”

“I’m signing my name to this document, I want to make sure it’s correct,” Essek said.

“We approved it and asked you to sign it. It falls on us,” Bashaw said. “Our attorneys made sure it’s correct.”

After a little more discussion among trustees, Essek signed the contract, said “It’s been signed,” marched it over to village Clerk Annemarie Johnston and declared, “This is ridiculous,” as he sat down. “Wow, OK, heh,” Lynden said.

The mayor, by now clearly frustrated, then said recent changes to Department of Public Works personnel were not approved by the board at any meeting. “I’m kind of getting the feeling the department heads that it involved really weren’t on board 100% either,” he said.

This time, Lynden backed Essek and said village department heads would like the changes rescinded. Bashaw said the only practical change was that one employee will be reporting to a different work site, and added, “Unfortunately the department heads give conflicting answers.”

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