Every “lame excuse” offered by the company that runs the Erie Basin Marina to why it doesn’t owe Buffalo more than a third of a million dollars was thoroughly debunked at the Common Council’s finance committee meeting on Tuesday, according to Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder.
“Every attempt to try to avoid paying the people of Buffalo the money that is owed to them was repeatedly shot down,” said Schroeder, referring to Brand-On Services, the company that has run the marina for the city since 2001.
On the agenda for the meeting was Schroeder’s audit of the marina, which found that Brand-On owed the city $343,245. The assistant corporation counsel repeatedly told councilmembers that Brand-On’s contract with the city requires them to pay 10 percent of fuel sales, instead of the 10 cents per gallon the operator has been paying.
“I sincerely hope that no members of the Common Council would even consider letting this unscrupulous contractor off the hook, but I certainly will not. Brand-On ripped off the taxpayers of Buffalo, and I will not rest until they pay the city back,” said Schroeder, who indicated that his office and the law department will continue to pursue full payment of the invoice issued to Brand-On as a result of the audit. “We are elected to represent the citizens of Buffalo, and they got a raw deal at the marina.”
The law department also confirmed at the meeting that the $224,377 in maintenance work that Brand-On claims it did was not part of the agreement and was not authorized by the council.
“On its own letterhead, Brand-On agreed to assume all responsibility for the maintenance of the entire marina in exchange for an $87,000 per year deduction in rent,” said Schroeder. “Brand-On got its annual deduction, but then tried to charge the taxpayers of Buffalo another quarter of a million dollars on top of that $87,000 per year. It was not part of the agreement, and the taxpayers shouldn’t have foot the bill for work that was the responsibility of the operator.”
Schroeder also said that Brand-On’s numerous explanations for the missing 20,000 gallons of fuel were implausible.
“One of their excuses claimed that an 8,000 gallon tank was holding more than 17,000 gallons of diesel fuel,” said Schroeder. “I am not a physics professor, but that doesn’t seem possible to me.”
Schroeder said that his office is assisting the Department of Public Works in developing Requests for Proposals for new operators of the marina and the Hatch restaurant.
“It is time to let someone else run the Erie Basin Marina – someone that won’t bilk taxpayers out of their hard-earned money,” Schroeder said.