BUCKFIELD – The Select Board is withholding further payment for the 2019-20 financial audit until it receives satisfactory explanations on two recent invoices.
The city paid accounting firm Ron L. Beaulieu & Co. of Portland about $7,900, believing the bill was paid in full. But City Manager Lorna Nichols said she recently received two new bills for $1,925 and $10,317.50.
Combined with what has already been paid, the total bill comes to over $20,000.
The new invoices include work done between April 7 and June 7, 2021, even though the company sent an invoice on June 29 that was paid by the city.
“It is surprising that all of this work was not included in an invoice that was sent to you at the end of June, even though all work relating to it was completed by June 7, 2021 at the latest,” said the city attorney, John. Conway wrote in a memorandum to Nichols dated January 10.
Nichols agreed that the timing of the bills makes no sense.
“It seems very suspicious that there was work done in April and May and two invoices provided to the city for payment after that, and none of that was included until six months later,” said Nicholas.
The invoice for $10,317.50 reveals that Beaulieu was billing the city $245 per hour for its work on the audit, which included non-audit services such as writing financial statements, scheduling changes in fixed assets and long-term liabilities, reconciliation of general ledger accounts, and adjustment and correction of journal entries.
The contract was signed by former city manager John Andrews, but the contract did not include a fee or rate schedule, Nichols noted.
“For me, this particular contract is very unusual. It’s not normal,” said Nichols, who became city manager four months ago.
President Cheryl Coffman, the only current board member who served when Andrews signed the contract, said it would have been nice if Andrews had informed the board of the hourly rate.
The city was unaware of the existence of the non-audit services contract until the firm recently provided a copy signed by Andrews.
Coach Cameron Hinkley wondered how Andrews could sign the contract when city policies prohibited the city manager from spending more than $5,000 without council approval.
The council asked Nichols to contact the auditing firm one last time to get an explanation of the latest bills. Council passed the motion unanimously.
“Why not throw the buck back in Ron Beaulieu’s court and say we won’t pay until we have a satisfactory detail?” coach Mike Iveson asked.
In other cases, Nichols said there was a problem with Railroad Bed Road, which is not a municipal road but is part of the state’s ITS snowmobile trail system. The local snowmobile club prepares and maintains the trail, but an individual recently cleared the road. Council will look into the matter and consult with the snowmobile club.
The board approved the use of the fire and rescue station for a COVID-19 rapid test and vaccination clinic run by Saco’s Crossroads Youth Center Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A special municipal assembly is scheduled for Tuesday, January 25, with voting at the municipal center from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The main objective is to correct a discrepancy in the amount budgeted between the city’s mandate and the official vote on three articles adopted at the September 28 town meeting.
Because the amounts on the ballot for debt service, winter roads, and summer roads did not match the amount listed on the warrant and signed by city officials, the votes were declared invalid, even if adopted by voters.
Residents will elect a moderator, vote to appropriate an additional $52,228 from the state the city received from the Legislative Assembly, set the date for the first property tax payment, moving it from 15 November to 30 days after the commitment date, with interest commencing after that.
Other items include the elimination of the Board of Appraisers, which would not occur until the June town meeting, and its possible replacement with a contracted professional appraiser. Another article would allocate $5,000 to pay the appraiser for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Absentee ballots are available at City Hall.
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