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Audit: $2.98M Smithtown firehouse project didn't comply with state law

Smithtown Fire Department's Station No. 1 on Plymouth

Smithtown Fire Department's Station No. 1 on Plymouth Boulevard is shown on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

A state audit of the Smithtown Fire District's $2.98 million project to construct a firehouse recommended a written policy for capital projects after determining that the district did not comply with state law.

The report by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office, made available Thursday, analyzed the construction project from January 2013 to June 2014. It showed the district failed to hold a referendum in October 2012, as required by law, when fire commissioners authorized the expense from a capital reserve fund.

District officials informed the state of the failure in February 2013, the report said.

Tom Buffa, a Smithtown fire commissioner, has said the error was a simple oversight. He was not available for comment after the report.

The district board petitioned Suffolk County to legalize its actions through a resolution, which passed in June after Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) introduced the measure.

Buffa has said the project, completed last October, was for the demolition of an existing firehouse and construction of a new one on Plymouth Boulevard to conform to standards by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Fire Protection Association.

The report also showed the district has spent or committed to spend about $2.98 million for the project, but it cited five change orders totaling $51,000 for work that was completed without the board's prior approval.

District officials are withholding final payment of $184,000 to the contractor until all disputed changes are resolved, the report said.

In a letter dated Oct. 6 and attached to the report, the district said it agreed with the state auditor's findings. District officials said they were developing a capital reserve expenditure procedure to meet legal requirements, as well as an asset policy for construction projects. Both policies will be submitted to the state within 90 days, according to the letter.

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