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St. Lawrence County prepares to borrow money

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CANTON — Cash-poor St. Lawrence County is preparing to borrow to finish out the year.

“There’s not a big influx of money in September,” Treasurer Kevin M. Felt told the Finance Committee of the county Board of Legislators on Monday. “I can see we’re going to be strapped for cash.”

Mr. Felt said he wanted to get the paperwork started because it takes about two months for approvals. The interest rate could be 1 percent to 3.5 percent.

This month, the county paid out $9.4 million, including two payrolls of $3 million, Medicaid payments of $1.7 million, health insurance claims of $1.5 million and other payments of $3.2 million.

Cash revenue in the amount of $8 million included $4.9 million in sales tax. Another sales tax payment will not come for three months.

The county is owed more than $11 million from various sources, but any payments that come are not likely to make up the whole difference because of higher retirement and health insurance costs. The county has to change its ways, Legislator Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid, said.

“The bottom line is, we’re spending more money than we’re bringing in,” he said. “Until the board gets serious about this, we’re going to have to be doing this for a long time.”

To help cut costs, legislators agreed to formally gauge the interest from agencies that provide transportation for their clients for the continued operation of the county bus system.

“The goal of this is to have no county cost, but have some service,” Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said.

If proposals include a county cost, Ms. St. Hilaire said she will recommend an end to the service.

“The routes would not be what they are today,” Office for the Aging Director Nancy A. Robert said. “It would be existing routes a provider already has. It’s not going to be a big service.”

But legislator Alex A. MacKinnon said the service could serve more people because agencies such as NYSARC go all over the county.

Legislators also agreed they wanted the county to be quicker at making decisions about tax-delinquent properties rather than have the county make municipalities whole on back taxes that continue to build.

The 45 Austin St., Gouverneur, house legislators agreed to remove from public auction and sell to the village of Gouverneur for $1 had taxes owed on it of $42,571.33.

The village plans to tear down the dilapidated house and use the lot as access to river and sewer lines and for the Fire Department to reach the Oswegatchie River in case of a major fire.

Legislators debated whether to ask the village for the cost of water and sewer services to the house, which has been empty for years, but a majority agreed to the $1 transfer.

“It’s not the village’s fault. It’s our fault. We did not take title to the property,” Mr. Peck said. “This has happened many times and we usually give it to the community for the public good.”

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