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Watertown Industrial Center fails state reporting requirement

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The Watertown Industrial Center is among more than 100 public authorities and other agencies across the state that failed to comply with reporting requirements intended to shed more light on their operations.

During a meeting Tuesday, agency President Donald W. Rutherford told the WIC board that he recently received an email from the state Authorities Budget Office about the agency not submitting the annual and audit reports by the Sept. 30 deadline.

WIC runs a business incubator in a series of former New York Air Brake buildings at 800 Starbuck Ave.

Local development corporations must file the two reports within 90 days after the fiscal year ends.

The Ogdensburg Growth Fund Corp., the town of Watertown Local Development Corp. and the Clifton-Fine Health Care System were the other local organizations that failed to comply with the deadline, although the town of Watertown LDC officially dissolved this summer.

Mr. Rutherford told the board that the state threatened that it could dissolve the organization or remove him as president. The threat frustrated board members.

“And you wonder why companies move out of the state,” board member Nickolas W. Darling said.

Mr. Rutherford shot back an email to the budget office that explained that WIC had retained a consultant to complete the report but the person backed out of the job at the last minute, leaving the local development organization in the lurch.

Mr. Rutherford also told the state agency that WIC has been spending much of its time in recent months with complying with a February state comptroller’s ruling that its employees no longer could be enrolled in the state pension plan.

Describing it as a “long and onerous” process, Lyle V. Eaton, WIC’s financial officer, said WIC has gathered all the information, which is sitting in a folder until WIC can find someone to submit the information via an electronic data entry online.

The WIC board surmised it will be difficult to find someone to do the task because it’s so much work. It has some ideas, including hiring an accounting firm or a retired accountant, but is not optimistic about getting it done quickly. The board figured it could cost as much $1,000.

“It could be expensive,” Mr. Rutherford said.

Despite the added responsibilities, WIC will remain a stand-alone agency and will continue to manage the business incubator.

The WIC board discussed its pending reorganization caused by a February 2012 state comptroller ruling that forced local development corporations and economic development agencies to no longer include their employees in the state’s retirement system.

As a result of the comptroller’s ruling, the board had been working toward dissolving the organization and having the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency take over the facility. But that strategy has changed in recent months.

During the hourlong discussion, the board agreed it will have to employ a facilities manager and two maintenance employees to run the business incubator. Board members are still trying to figure out who will do the billing and other accounting work for the agency.

The WIC board also talked about providing a new private retirement package and health benefits, and what to do about implementing a new payroll system.

Toward that end, the WIC board put together a four-member committee to explore how to handle those issues. The committee members are Mr. Rutherford, Paul Morgan, Michelle L. Capone and Mr. Darling.

While the WIC board has been working for months on those issues, Mr. Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Local Development Corp., suggested WIC could use the same financial group that would provide retirement and health benefits that his agency is putting together to deal with the comptroller’s decision. He also suggested hiring Paychex, Rochester, to handle payroll services for the WIC.

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