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St. Lawrence County Historical Association contests cuts

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County legislators could end up with a lot more than they bargained for if they eliminate funding for the St. Lawrence County Historical Association.

The Historical Association is on the list of outside agencies the county does not want to give any money to next year because of a projected 20 percent tax levy increase.

“We’re a little bit different because we provide mandated services they have to do,” Association Director Trent A. Trulock said.

The county is required to appoint an historian, a duty Mr. Trulock provides, and to permanently keep its historical records, he said.

“If they don’t want us to do it, that’s entirely up to them,” Mr. Trulock said. “They can do a lot of different things with it but they have to keep it.”

The Historical Association has more than 3,500 entries in its inventory at the Silas Wright House that make up county records. They consist mainly of archival material, such as maps, histories, soil surveys, genealogies, and church records. The Historical Association keeps them in a climate-controlled area and provides a supervised place for public research.

When the Historical Association took over management of the records in the 1980s, the county paid it $24,000 annually for the service. The Historical Association received $15,836 this year toward the cost of a county historian and to provide a county historical museum. The last four to five years have seen regular deductions of 10 percent.

“Expenses haven’t gone in that direction,” Mr. Trulock said.

He estimated the county would need 800 square feet of space to house the collection along with 1,800 linear feet of steel shelving to handle the weight. The county would not have to provide the controlled climate of the Historical Association, but Mr. Trulock said archival information is important.

“Things like historical records are the first things that get cut,” he said. “At some point, that information’s going to be needed. You only have one chance to save it.”

The county also would not have to provide an area for the public to review the records or supervision but it would lose tourism dollars on those who come from out of the area to do research if it did not. The Historical Association has 6,000 visitors annually, 27 percent of which use the archives in some fashion, Mr. Trulock said.

“It really comes down to what is the most cost-effective,” he said.

County funding makes up about 9 percent of the Historical Association’s budget.

Losing the money would hurt researchers, the organization’s two full-time employees, one part-time employee, and more than 100 volunteers, but would not be catastrophic.

“We might have to trim hours. We might have to cut back staff,” Mr. Trulock said. “It would not mean we would have to close our doors.”

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