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Massena mayor: It’s time to reform social services benefits

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MASSENA - Massena Mayor James F. Hidy said he thinks the county could cut some of its costs by providing social services benefits only to the people who need it.

“I’m thinking eventually you’re paying so much out that eventually it’s going to catch up, and it’s caught up,” Mr. Hidy said during Thursday night’s St. Lawrence Conference of Mayors meeting at the Massena Country Club.

“The system is broke. It’s just upside down,” he said. “I’m all for social services for anybody who’s ever paid into it.”

He said Massena had changed drastically from the community he knew growing up, and he pinned some of the blame on county officials.

“We have cheap rent and cheap power. I feel the county is directing people here,” Mr. Hidy said. “I’ve been a real critic seeing Massena the way it used to be and seeing it now. The demographics have changed. I can tell you, these people are not from Massena.”

He said he had talked with County Administrator Karen St. Hilaire and representatives from the Department of Social Services about the demographics. He suggested that while there were some social services recipients living in Potsdam and Canton, the bulk of them were in Massena and Ogdensburg.

Mr. Hidy said that some individuals likely didn’t deserve the county’s assistance based on what he has observed.

“Some of them could work. They’re walking with their pit bulls and cell phones. Some of them have cars,” he said and, in some cases, “they’re trading their cars for drugs.”

Mr. Hidy said a sign of the village’s decline can be seen weekly at the Massena Town Hall.

“You should see our court system on Tuesday. Jerry Springer has nothing on us. There’s no accountability. They’re just draining our system,” the mayor said.

He questioned what communities could do about the problem.

“What do we do, how do we handle this?” Mr. Hidy asked. “And the county is looking at ways to start cutting money.”

His comments drew no response from his fellow mayors and other officials attending the Thursday meeting.

Mr. Hidy’s observation came as he and other mayors met to discuss the county’s options in balancing its budget. One of those options was to redistribute the sales tax, with the county keeping more of the sales tax receipts rather than distributing them to the towns and villages.

The group, after a lengthy discussion, passed a resolution telling county legislators that, while they recognized they were having financial difficulties, they were opposed to any sales tax redistribution that would affect their budgets.

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