— How much would you pay someone to mow your lawn? $10 per hour? $20?
How about $70? Would that be too much?
Well, if you live in Honesdale, that’s how much you’ve been paying a contractor hired by the borough council to do things like cut grass and pick up trash on private property around town.
In one recent case, this contractor — Glynn Wood — was paid $420 for what his invoice claims was 6 hours’ work on a property just under 0.18 acres in size.
Although work on that East Street property went far beyond just cutting grass — as recent stories in this newspaper have shown — some, including Mayor Ed Langendoerfer, have said the work performed on the small yard did not appear that it should have taken as long as the contractor claimed.
Similarly, an invoice from June 11 shows Wood billed the borough $1,050 for just 15 hours’ work performed at four separate properties, including $595 for cutting grass on the 0.405 acre parcel at 108 Crestmont Drive, which the invoice says took 8-1/2 hours to do.
As explained in a recent story about the East Street case, the borough’s normal practice is to bill a property owner 150 percent of its cost for such services, which means for having her grass cut by the borough’s hired hand, the Crestmont Drive property owner should have received a bill for $892.50.
Although we have obtained copies of the June 11 invoice and a purchase order from the same date, a request for copies of violation notices, bills sent to property owners and any payments received from the owners for the four properties invoiced was not fulfilled by press time Monday.
The June 11 invoice bills the borough for work performed, including a statement of how many hours the contractor claims it took to do that work, a name for the property where the work was done and a price for it.
In addition to the Crestmont listing, the invoice lists $210 for three hours at the Delaware Hudson Hotel, $140 for two hours at Russell Street and $105 for an hour and a half at Briarwood apartments.
The purchase order from the same date contains less information than the invoice, omitting the number of hours but including the price anyway, which would appear to indicate the purchase order was either created after the work was done or the three councilmen signing it had agreed on the price before knowing how long the work would take.
That purchase order is intended to provide specific instructions about the work the council is hiring the contractor to do, but it contains no such description — only the name of the property in two cases, the full street address in another and just the street name in the fourth.
Of the three councilmen who signed the form, only Vice-president Jim Brennan was available for comment Monday, with Nick Slish recently resigned and Scott Smith failing to return our call by press time.
Of the four properties in question, however, Brennan said he could recall only one — Briarwood Apartments, for which he said he recalled a complaint about trash overflowing a dumpster. For this, Wood charged the borough $105 for what he says was an hour and a half of work.
A better way?
“I just signed the checks,” Brennan said, “And I trust the secretary that they’re correct. Most of the time, I don’t know what’s going on with the planning and zoning department. It’s all so compartmentalized up there.”
That, says the mayor, should not be the case here.
“You can’t just have one councilman on something like this,” he said, “That’s why three people have to sign the check and the purchase order — to make sure everything’s done right.
“I would much rather see the Department of Public Works (DPW) doing this work,” Langendoerfer said, “because a lot of times, the borough doesn’t get paid for these jobs. It would just be more efficient and a better use of resources to the DPW. It’s the best use of taxpayers’ money.”
Be that as it may, says Brennan, there just isn’t enough manpower at the DPW to do this type of work.
When asked if the $70-per-hour payments he has signed off on were excessive, Brennan said,
“It seems ludicrous, but I would have to go up there and sit and check into it.”
Our attempts to reach council president F.J. Monaghan by e-mail — the medium he recently requested we use — about this story were unsuccessful Monday.