Caught in the Wires

ELIZABETHTOWN Essex County held its monthly Ways and Means Committee meeting June 30. The meeting featured a visit from Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward and a serious discussion over a rather large phone bill. Emergency Services official Donald Jaquish brought a proposed resolution to the board on appropriating funds for new radio circuit lines to Schroon Lake. The resolution asked for roughly $10,750 for installation of the lines, which are crucial to maintaining the 911 dispatch communication system. Discussion of the proposed resolution heated up when North Elba Supervisor Robert Politi inquired about a similar project for lines that were installed into Long Lake, a Hamilton County town that borders Essex County and has been included as part of the countys 911 dispatching system. The board passed a resolution in July 2007 authorizing the purchase of radio communication lines reaching to Long Lake, Ticonderoga, and Lake Placid not to exceed a specified amount. Jaquish explained that the bill for the previously installed radio circuits was in dispute and not being paid. Charges were considerably higher than expected and had accumulated to around $44,000, Jaquish estimated. We did get a quote from Verizon when we did the install into Long Lake. They then installed what Im told was a much more expensive circuit, explained Jaquish. With costs accumulating, many in the committee expressed concern over the idea of Essex County shouldering a hefty bill for services that extend to a town outside the county. No contract between the county and the town of Long Lake had been established beyond last year. So we have an outstanding bill of $44,000, weve got no contract with Long Lake, and who made the decision to do this deal? asked Politi. County Attorney Daniel Manning explained that a contract had been offered to Long Lake which would have put responsibility on the town to bare the costs, but the town never agreed to it and the lines were installed without a contract in place. Manning assured the board that the county is in the process of negotiating the bill and that Verizon is in the wrong for overcharging. A quote was given, a quote was accepted; thats a contract. They should honor those prices. Its not our fault they decided to put something else in, said Manning. The issue was originally brought up during a Ways and Means Committee meeting on March 13, 2008. Jaquish had mentioned the dispute over the bill for the Long Lake lines in the midst of a discussion about the lack of a contract between the town and the county. It was assumed at that time that the bill was being paid and that Long Lake would agree to shoulder the cost for their lines. With the situation unchanged months later and bills accumulating as they are negotiated, confusion spurred discussion over who should be blamed. I just cant quite fathom that we would go down this road without a signed contract and now were stuck in an awful mess now that these lines are in, said Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston. Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava of Moriah was convinced that the board would not have authorized a purchase without a contract in place. Whos steering the ship here? How did we get ourselves into a situation where were spending this money when this body never approved the expenditure? asked Scozzafava. Theres no contract, theres no authorization, and yet all of this work has been done. St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency asked for clarification on just how much the town of Long Lake should be responsible for. The $44,000 does include Ticonderoga lines, Wells Hill lines and Long Lake, so we need a breakdown of what the $44,000 really is. Its not only Long Lake that were talking about. We need a copy of the bill, whoever has it, she said. In disgust over complications from installing the previous lines, the committee refused the proposal for lines to Schroon Lake pending further explanation from Emergency Services director Ray Thatcher. In other business, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward paid a visit to the committee, sharing positives and negatives about the concluding legislative session. Sayward spoke victoriously about passing the youth hunting bill that allows 14-year-olds to hunt with a rifle, as well as other legislation that benefits Essex County. She expressed disappointment over the failure to pass a property tax cap at the state level and concern over affordable housing and heating fuel in the Adirondacks.

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