MALONE - Franklin County legislators again put off making a decision Thursday on whether to accept a former bookmobile to use for emergency services.
Legislators have been skeptical about taking the bookmobile, which they helped buy for the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System in 2006, because they are concerned about hidden costs.
The bookmobile went out of service last year after the library system decided it could no longer afford to run it. Now the library system wants to give the large bus to Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties so they can use it in emergencies as a mobile command center and communication station.
The last time the topic came up in Franklin County, legislators were concerned that Essex County supervisors might decide they want compensation for the contribution their county put toward the bus in 2006. They had heard Essex County wasn't interested in taking the vehicle, along with the other counties.
Franklin County Attorney Jonathan Miller told legislators Thursday he spoke with the head of the library system and was told there was no contract or agreement from the original purchase that set forth what would happen if the library system got rid of the vehicle. Miller said the Franklin County Board of Legislators office staff checked their files and didn't find anything, either.
"It seems to be free and clear to dispose of as they see fit," Miller said.
Ten entities contributed to the purchase of the bookmobile in 2006:
|Grant through state Sen. Betty Little||$50,000|
|Friends of the Bookmobile||$3,620|
|Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System board and director||$2,716.80|
He did find out, however, that the library system board recently passed a resolution giving ownership to Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. He said the library board could redo the resolution to only include Franklin and Clinton counties if Essex County were to pull out, or Essex County could give up its right to claim any compensation for the vehicle.
Reached Friday by phone, Essex County officials told the Enterprise the issue is still up in the air. County Manager Dan Palmer said the board's Public Safety Committee had a discussion on the topic about a month ago, but it was tabled and hasn't come back up since. He said the issue of compensation did come up, but it was in the context of getting a portion of the proceeds if the library system decides to sell the bus instead of giving it to the counties, and only one supervisor expressed that opinion. Supervisors never discussed seeking money from the other counties if Franklin and Clinton counties take the bus without Essex County, Palmer said.
Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish said supervisors are still discussing it: Some are in favor, and some are opposed.
"I'm going to go with the wishes of the board," Jaquish said. "It would be nice to have, but it's totally up to the board as to whether or not they want to support it because they have to fund it."
Miller noted that most of what Franklin County officials had heard about Essex County's decision so far was through media reports. He said the county should reach out to see where Essex County is in its deliberations.
Legislator Guy "Tim" Smith, D-Fort Covington, said this situation concerned him. He said he wants a guarantee that Essex County won't have a right to compensation before he signs on to anything.
"I'm not against the program, but I'm not here to get hung, either," Smith said.
Clinton County plans to take the bus regardless of what the other counties do, according to Legislator Marc "Tim" Lashomb, R-Malone. He said he doubts Clinton County lawmakers would have decided to do that if they were going to have to pay Essex County anything.
"It's a moot issue, I think," Lashomb said.
Legislator David "Billy" Jones, D-Chateaugay, said he's still concerned the bookmobile will cost the county more money than $2,000 a year in maintenance, though Miller has said Franklin County could draw up an agreement that stipulates it's only on the line for that amount of money a year and beyond that withdraws from participation with the vehicle. Lashomb said that is a safeguard against sinking too much money into the vehicle, but Jones said it would just come back to the board when it starts costing too much.
"It's going to be brought back up, Tim," Jones said. "Now, come on, let's be honest here."
Lashomb said that's when legislators can say "no" to spending on the bus.
"I have three times," Jones said.
Legislator Sue Robideau, R-Brushton, asked the several firefighters in the room if they thought any of the county's fire departments would be willing to contribute any money. Several noted that firefighters already do a ton of fundraising and cover many fire department expenses out of their own pockets. One said that he estimates his own mileage and other fire-department-related expenses end up costing him around $2,000 a year personally.
Lashomb said he, Miller and Franklin County Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost will touch base with Essex County, talk it out and bring it back to the Franklin County board when they have some answers.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.