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County trail coordinator post back on table

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CANTON - Despite St. Lawrence County’s fiscal problems, Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon has not given up on funding a trail coordinator this year.

The Legislature agreed in 2009 to create the position but never hired anyone because of general financial difficulties. The coordinator would oversee a 22-mile multiuse trail system in Parishville and more than 500 miles of snowmobile trails, set up a permitting fee to generate revenue and apply for grants.

The job, which Mr. MacKinnon has proposed again as a contract position through the county Chamber of Commerce, was to be paid for by Indian gaming compact money intended for economic development. Although that money may have dried up, Mr. MacKinnon said that should not be a factor in establishing the position, just as legislators would have to find other ways to fund the county Industrial Development Agency, the Soil & Water Conservation District and other agencies that receive funding through the compact.

“We have to look at things differently. We have to figure out how we can do it so we can start to get a return on our money quickly,” Mr. MacKinnon said. “It’s a need. If we wait until times are good, we’ll never ever do it.”

Under the most recently presented plan, the chamber would receive funding of $100,000 that would go toward a $35,000 salary, benefits, office space and administration. At the Legislature’s Finance Committee meeting, legislators asked Mr. MacKinnon to ask whether the Chamber would eliminate the 15 percent administrative fee it sought for having the position under its umbrella before they considered funding.

The county is also working in other ways to establish its trail system. Late last year, Empire State Development rescinded a $500,000 trails grant, for which the county has reapplied.

“Hopefully, we’ll recoup that,” said Mr. MacKinnon, the county’s representative to the Trails Advisory Board. “I think they understand now how far along we were and they just didn’t realize that. Having a coordinator is an important facet to the grant. It gives us a clean way of managing it.”

The advisory board and its consultant, Barton & Loguidice, Syracuse, are also working on an environmental impact statement for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

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