ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County lawmakers won't pay a $170,000 match on a $1.5 million federal transportation grant to buy five new public buses, at least for now.
A resolution to authorize the funding was withdrawn during Monday's Board of Supervisors meeting. The same resolution passed in committee meetings earlier this month.
"I don't want us to get into a situation where we're obligated for funding," Jay town Supervisor Randy Douglas, the board's chairman, said when he made the motion to withdraw.
The federal grant requires the county to chip in $170,000, although the village of Lake Placid and the state Olympic Regional Development Authority would together contribute $70,000, leaving the county with $100,000. The county's transportation director, Nancy Dougal, has proposed cuts that would decrease that figure to $60,000.
Douglas said the county "doesn't seem to be under any time constraints." He said he wants the county's Transportation Committee to review the resolution and then bring it back during budget time.
Douglas said because the county faces so many big costs as it prepares its 2013 budget, he doesn't think the board should commit to the cost before it has a clear picture of the entire budget.
St. Armand town Supervisor Joyce Morency agreed.
"The county's share (of the transportation grant) is close to 2 percent of the tax cap," she said.
Westport town Supervisor Dan Connell said the county won't be able to fund everything it wants to, and supervisors will need to make the decision "in conjunction with the total budget."
Douglas said he discussed withdrawing the resolution with county Manager Dan Palmer and Dougal last week and that both were comfortable that waiting until budget time won't jeopardize the grant.
Elizabethtown town Supervisor Margaret Bartley, who chairs the Transportation Committee, said last week that underfunding the transportation system could condemn it to a "slow death." She said that with gas prices hovering close to $4 per gallon, the county needs to offer its residents - and its own employees - a cheap transportation alternative.
Moriah town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said at the July 30 Ways & Means Committee meeting he wants a detailed report on ridership totals. He said he often sees empty buses leaving his community.
Dougal said total ridership for 2011, not including people riding to and from ORDA venues, was about 12,000.
Speaking Monday, Scozzafava renewed his call for more accurate ridership numbers. He said he wants a log-in to be added to each bus, so riders can sign in. Dougal and Bartley said they were reluctant to ask people to give their names.
Scozzafava also floated the idea that occupancy tax revenues should be used to fund the transportation system.
"I'm sure that this will start World War III," he said, "but the board needs to take a look at that."
The transportation department has five bus routes throughout the county.