The Case of the $33,000 Printer

As an auditor and taxpayer of Lower Nazareth Township, I cannot confirm the physical existence of this printer, but I can confirm the township paid over $33,000* for the printer, and is continuing to pay >$1,380 per year to maintain it. This ‘case’ began in the summer of 2017. I was reading the board of supervisors’ meeting minutes, and noticed the approval of a $32,461 printer purchase. As a taxpayer, this seemed expensive so I reached out to the former township manager prior to the actual purchase. He claimed that the wide format printer would “allow us to digitize our paper mapping and print materials as needed” and make compliance with state MS4 stormwater regulations easier. [Image shown is a stock photo of a KIP 860 printer. I do not know if the township’s looks like this as I am not permitted to see it.]

I found out the model number and reached out to the manufacturer directly and to learn more about the technical details and found the township’s pricing was fairly accurate although the quote I procured and shared was about $1000 cheaper. But by then it was too late, and the township had already bought the $32,461 printer. I resolved to one day figure out if this purchase was a wise use of taxes or not – there are much cheaper ways of digitizing documents – and once I was elected as the township auditor in November 2017, I thought I would easily find out the answer.

Boy, was I wrong.

First off, the township clammed up and refused to give access to the facility or any financial documents whatsoever. (See “Township Obstructs Auditor Access to Records.”) I had to resort to using the tedious Right to Know request process, and eventually scanned these documents in May 2018.

When I asked if I could simply view the printer, the current township manager, Lori Stauffer, replied in an email on June 8, 2018:

As to your request to view the printer and the other physical assets of the Township, I cannot accommodate this request.  If I allow one resident to come in and view all the Township’s physical assets, I would need to provide the same opportunity to all 6,000 plus residents. As you can imagine, opening this type of opportunity to residents would compromise the safety of the employees here as well as create a disruption in the office and road department every time a resident chooses to come in for a look at the Township’s physical assets. It has been discussed with you on a few occasions that your requests for information are done so in the capacity as a Township resident, not in your capacity as an elected auditor.  I am more than happy to provide you the opportunity to review public records under the Right-to-Know Law, the same as any other resident; however, I cannot accommodate a request to allow you access to view all the Township’s physical assets.

So there goes any chance of an open and transparent government. Taxpayer money is taken by the township, spent, and if you want to see some evidence of where YOUR money went, or even want to literally peek inside the township office, sorry!! Oh, you are a duly elected township officer, the auditor elected by the people to be an independent fiscal watchdog of the township itself?? Go pound sand, you still can’t see anything!

Please excuse my frustration. I have recently attempted further dialogue with the township supervisors and manager on April 11, 2019, and have not received any response. I also asked the township manager, since it has been nearly a year since her email: “Has any other resident during your employment as Lower Nazareth township manager requested to view any township asset? If so, how many?” No response.

I recently attended a Board of Supervisors meeting to defend myself from their efforts to remove me as auditor on April 24 and found they certainly did not wish to discuss anything I had to say. However, here are some questions I would love to have answered:

  • How does the township justify not simply utilizing an engineering firm to for this large format and printing needs as is typical practice of other townships? [These engineering firms typically already own a similar printer and have plenty of capacity and charge small printing fees.]
  • Can you supply a ROI (return on investment) or return on expense (as it is not really an investment) financial justification for this printer?
  • Why did the township not consider leasing a printer?
  • Why does the township not consider selling this asset and reverting back to utilizing an engineering firm?
  • Why weren’t more economical ways of digitizing documents considered?
  • During its first 16 months, how many documents have been printed? How many scanned? If exact figures can’t be taken from the printer, approximately how often is the printer used per hour/day/week/month? Where can the public access these scanned public documents?

*From the documentation, one can see this totaled $33,674.22 for the first 6 months. However, keep in mind that the annual maintenance cost of the printer per the contract will be at least $1,380.00 plus ink, paper, and any extra maintenance charges required, so this printer will be costing taxpayers money for years to come.

  • The township paid $32,164.00 for a KIP 860 MFP Color w/ Top Stacking 2-Roll Integrated Scanner and a 1KG of CMYK toners, plus another 2KG of black toner for $297.00 to Edwards Business Systems on 12/13/2017.
  • On 3/14/2018, the township paid another $90.00 for a “R Roll Holder Unit Type A” and noted on the invoice that “we were hoping because of the fiasco with the first machine, Edwards would have comped these handles [but] I guess not.” (I do not know what the “fiasco” was.)
  • The township paid $345.00 for the first quarterly maintenance on 12/13/2017.
  • The township paid $43.02 for a roll of paper on 1/31/2018.
  • The township was charged $345.00 for the second quarterly and $45.20 for ink usage on 5/23/2018.
  • The township was charged $345.00 for the third quarterly charge on 5/24/2018.

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