I think the recent Press-Republican article and editorial with respect to the Town of Keene's policies regarding fuel use need some clarification.
The public is led to believe because there were 18 occasions on which fuel was pumped and there was no signature, that we have no policy or oversight. That is incorrect.
Having reviewed the documentation from July 2011 through December 2011, there were 21 occasions where fuel was pumped with no signature. These, I was told, are the same months that the Press Republican reporter was shown.
The vehicles and equipment that are allowed to use the town's pumps are equipment and vehicles belonging to or doing business for the Town of Keene as well as our two fire departments.
When a vehicle gets fuel, we have a pump for which a key is required and a sheet where one is supposed to identify the department, the vehicle or equipment being filled, the date, the reading on the pump (before and after fueling) the amount and a signature. We also cross reference the amount of fuel delivered to the amount of fuel pumped on a monthly basis.
These amounts are compiled and reviewed, and the fuel used by the fire departments is then billed to them, and the town's general fund is reimbursed.
All the fuel pumped during those dates was accounted for by the equipment that was signed out. There was always documentation of the vehicle, department, amount and dates when the fuel was pumped.
The 21 occasions where a signature was missing are:
▶ July 2011, three times, all Keene Fire Department.
▶ August 2011, eight times: three by Keene Valley Fire Department, one by Keene Fire Department and four times for vehicles from Lake Placid assisting us during Hurricane Irene.
▶ September 2011, five times: one by a Lake Placid vehicle (also hurricane related, actual date Aug. 30, 2011), two by Keene Fire Department and two by Keene Valley Fire Department.
▶ October 2011: two times by the Highway Department,
▶ November 2011: two times, one by the Highway Department and one by Keene Fire Department.
▶ December 2011, once, by Keene Fire Department.
Some of these were actually signed on the space provided for a signature with a ditto because it was the same driver as the line above, and he was filling a different vehicle or piece of equipment.
We realize this system is not perfect, and it was brought to our attention when New York State Audit and Control did an extensive audit of our entire system last year.
Audit and Control was OK with continuing with our present system but stressed that we need to be more diligent in filling out the information necessary for tracking the usage.
There are options that would provide more accountability, but the cost to install is substantial, and our budgets, as everyone knows, are very tight.
The fire departments could be asked to have their own pumps, but that duplication would add a cost to their budgets, and, of course, it all has to come out of the taxpayers' pockets.
But the point I want our residents to be aware of is there is no evidence that any fuel has been taken for personal use other than the recent incident involving Supervisor Ferebee, for which he informed Audit and Control and reimbursed the town, as well as being subjected to all the public humiliation.
I would certainly like to see closure on the issue, and we, the Town Council, certainly did not sweep it under the rug.
What we have to continue to look for is that the amount of fuel we purchase corresponds with the amount that is being used by the equipment for which it was intended.
We also have to be careful not to let this issue overshadow many other issues and expenditures for which we are also responsible.
I hope this explanation helps to restore some trust that we are doing our job.
Robert Biesemeyer is a town councilman in Keene