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State auditors find fault with Lake Ronkonkoma Fire District's procedures

Lake Ronkonkoma Fire District officials failed to follow state guidelines last year when they bought two ambulances for $348,000, state auditors said Wednesday.

An audit of district finances found fire district officials prepared specifications for the ambulances that "may have created ambiguity" for companies interested in submitting bids to supply the vehicles. As a result, some companies might not have submitted bids, auditors said.

Auditors also said the district bought $106,000 worth of uniforms, diesel fuel and other supplies without seeking competitive bids. They also found that nearly four dozen checks worth $72,000 were deposited more than 10 days after they were received, in violation of state law.

In a written response, fire district officials defended the ambulance specifications and supplies purchases, and they agreed to change the way they record checks received.

The 27-page audit report, including the fire district's six-page response, is part of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's plan to audit taxing districts throughout the state.

The Lake Ronkonkoma audit looked at the district's practices from January 2013 to this past August.

Auditors said Lake Ronkonkoma officials imposed restrictions on the ambulance contracts that may have discouraged some companies from bidding because they believed they would not be successful or could be excluded from future work for the district. Only two companies submitted bids, the audit said.

In their response, fire district officials said the restrictions were intended to "maximize the safety of the patient and care provider" and obtain "the vehicle we want, which may be different from the one the ambulance manufacturer wants to sell us."

No bidders or potential bidders raised objections, district officials said.

District officials defended the way they made most of their fuel and uniform purchases. They also rejected the audit's criticism of the district's fiscal management.

"Consequently, we intend to continue our current policies and procedures," fire officials said in their official response.


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