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St. Lawrence County officials should stop bickering and resolve office space issue

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Political decision-making would be a lot easier if people could just keep the politics out of the process.

But bridging differences to address problems has not been on the agenda for the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators. Members are bickering among themselves about how to provide adequate space for District Attorney Mary E. Rain’s office, and nothing is getting done.

“Everyone agrees the St. Lawrence County [District Attorney’s] Office needs more space in a single location in the courthouse, but Monday’s report to the county Board of Legislators on efforts so far and reactions to it were more finger-pointing than a handshake across the aisle,” according to a story in Tuesday’s Watertown Daily Times. “Space Committee Chairman Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, was called out last week by Legislator Daniel F. Parker, R-Potsdam, and other Republicans for not informing legislators on the status of any reorganization of offices. At Monday’s meeting, Mr. Morrill read aloud an 11-page report on background, the request from Republican District Attorney Mary E. Rain, various options explored, cost points, time constraints and staging.”

“Mr. Morrill criticized Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire for having her own meeting of department heads to discuss the issue,” the story reported. “Mr. Morrill also blasted Mr. Parker, a member of the Space Committee, for not coming to meetings and then spreading rumors that some department heads were unhappy with plans.”

Ms. Rain said her office is spread over four locations. There are no private meeting spaces for witnesses, she said.

Consolidating the district attorney’s office into one space would mean rearranging other departments, and that would pose its own challenges. Perhaps one of the compromises could be to have Ms. Rain’s office located in two spaces that are close by. It’s not as good as one large space, but it’s better than four locations on different floors.

Ms. Rain is the fifth district attorney in St. Lawrence County to request improved office space. There is no excuse for this. Legislators must stop their arguing and finger-pointing and make some decisions.

What would help, first of all, is for Mr. Morrill not to use public meetings to vent his frustrations on colleagues. This doesn’t mean he can’t express his opinions when the board is in session, but taking the tone he did Monday won’t help. Comments should have the goal of devising a plan of action, not lashing out at other people.

Other county officials should recognize that the Space Committee is the proper body for coming up with a solution to this situation. If they are displeased by something said or done by committee members, bring it to their attention in a constructive manner.

Legislator Mark H. Akins, R-Lisbon, suggested that a different group should be formed to carry on with this work. Wrong! That would only further delay action on addressing the problem.

While they may not agree with all its decisions, county officials and employees should respect the Space Committee in its effort to devise alternative space for the district attorney’s office. And if some committee members aren’t fulfilling their duty by attending meetings, they have no right to criticize how things are being done.

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