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Garbage can purchases draw criticism

SARANAC LAKE - The village of Saranac Lake recently purchased garbage cans, and the cost of those items is drawing scrutiny.

Mayor Tom Michael confirmed last week that the village used an expiring state-funded grant to purchase the cans. They were purchased at a rate of $400 per can. 40 of the approximately 30-gallon cans were purchased for a total of $16,000.

"The time on the grant was expiring and we had to use it," Michael said.

Trustee Jeff Branch said it was his month to do vouchers and approve bill payments. He found the bill for the garbage cans, which were ordered, received and placed without any discussion by the board.

Village Manager Marty Murphy approved the purchase.

"The mayor and other trustees tried to justify the expenditure and did not seem to have a problem paying over $400 per garbage can," Branch said.

According to Branch, one trustee said the village shopped around and found that the purchasing cost was accurate.

"My response was that the cans only cost that much if someone is willing to pay that much," Branch said.

The village did not spend any of its own funds on the purchases, Michael noted.

"We would have lost the grant if we didn't use it," he said.

Branch says it doesn't matter where the money comes from or who pays for it.

"$16,000 for garbage cans is still, in my opinion, an extravagant and unnecessary expenditure," he said. "Grant money does not grow on trees, it is still tax payer money."

Branch says the "use-it-or-lose-it" mentality is one of the reasons governments around the country are going broke.

Further, Branch tells said that the village should have hired a local out-of-work contractor to repair the wooden ones the village used to have.

"What happened to keeping it local?" Branch asked.

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