Town board members in Harrietstown were split last week over whether to pursue a $40,500 grant to study the feasibility of a countywide planning department.
The grant requires a $4,500 match from the county.
The board ultimately voted in favor of the grant with Supervisor Larry Miller casting the tie-breaking vote in favor of the study. The board emphasized that they did not want any part in a program that would add to the town's expenses.
Two county legislators attended the meeting to make the pitch for the study.
Tim Burpoe, a Democrat from Saranac Lake, and Tim Lashomb, a
Republican from Malone, said a central planning department could provide a variety of services, including technical assistance and grant writing.
Funding will come from the New York State Department of State's Local Government Efficiency Program.
The legislators insisted that a planning department would also make the county more business friendly.
Burpoe said it would put critical information at the fingertips of developers and other entrepreneurs who rely on data gathering to get project permits. Lashomb emphasized that accepting the grant for the study did not obligate towns to adopt countywide planning.
To qualify for the grant, all 25 towns in Franklin County have to vote in favor of it. Legislators floated the same study by officials last year, but less than half the towns in Franklin County supported the idea.
During the meeting, Lashomb described himself as a fiscal conservative who would not support any program that added another layer of red tape and expense to towns that are already struggling financially.
"The challenge is to have a smaller, more efficient government," Lashomb said, explaining that countywide planning can help make that happen.
Councilmen Jim Murnane and Bob Bevilacqua, who voted against the grant, told Lashomb he contradicted himself by claiming to be a fiscal conservative while advocating a program the county cannot afford to fund.
Harrietstown joins 23 other Franklin County towns in supporting the planning grant.
But John Tubbs, executive director of the county's Industrial Development Agency, told WNBZ recently that every county would need to support the project for the grant application to be successful.
Officials from the town of Bangor say they will not support the initiative.