White Plains to beef up parking garage inspections following state comptroller's audit

Jorge Fitz-Gibbon

The Journal News

Jan 3, 2018

White Plains will hire an outside engineer for annual inspections of the city's eight municipal parking garages following a New York state comptroller's audit that questioned oversight and record-keeping.

The audit, which examined parking structures in White Plains and five other cities in the state, found that there were "no urgent repair needs" in any of the municipal garages.

But it recommended that White Plains adopt "good business practices" that include regular outside inspections as an added measure, noting that two parking structures had not had such inspections in 10 years.

"The local governments we reviewed have varying processes in place to inspect and monitor their parking structures," the audit said. "Although available reports indicate that the structures do not have any any urgent repair needs, most units could improve their internal controls over parking structures and elevators.

Among the six cities audited — White Plains, Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Ithaca — White Plains and Ithaca use in-house engineers to monitor the garages, while Buffalo augments its in-house oversight with "an operating vendor."

White Plains Corporation Counsel John Callahan said city engineers and staffers constantly monitor the structures for maintenance and repairs.

"We do that as needed, and our garages have our people in them every day," Callahan said. "So, it's not like we're not looking at our garages. But going forward, we are going to have an outside firm take a look at each one every year."

Callahan said the city consulted with officials in Albany following the audit and would seek to adopt a similar program. The state audit called Albany's inspection and repair system, which includes annual inspections by a contracted firm, "a best practice."

"It’s a way to really improve our practices, improve our efficiency, record keeping," Karen Pasquale, senior adviser to White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, said of the comptroller's audit. "We look at it as a positive, and it's good to have another set of eyes review your processes.”

The audit said the eight White Plains garages, with 9,557 spaces, generate $11.2 million in revenues every year, more than any of the other five cities. Callahan said much of that goes right back into the facilities.

"We routinely every year invest significant amounts of money in the upkeep of our garages," he said. "It’s millions of dollars in the last number of years."

According to the audit, White Plains, Ithaca and Buffalo do not perform regular structure inspections, but instead contract for them "when they feel it is necessary."

Within the last 10 years, White Plains has contracted for inspections of three structures, the audit said. Upkeep and repairs are conducted on an "as-needed" basis.

"Officials told us they discuss the identified issues and determine how to proceed," the audit said. "However, there is no documentation to support how officials prioritized the identified repairs or the disposition of repairs not undertaken."

The audit said that capital projects and repairs are discussed at bi-monthly city meetings, but that "not all projects are documented."