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St. Lawrence County meets with tribe

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CANTON - At the invitation of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, St. Lawrence County legislative representatives met Thursday with tribal chiefs to lay out issues of importance to each.

“I can’t give any specifics. It was a very productive meeting,” County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said. “One of the things we need is to get to know each other better and see if we have common ground.”

Recent issues have included land claims of parts of Massena and Fort Covington, among other parcels, and the hold-back of compact money to local municipalities because of a dispute between the tribe and the state over gaming exclusivity rights, but county officials declined to specify whether those topics came up.

“It was a very general meeting,” Legislative Chairwoman Sallie A. Brothers said. “It was establishing a dialog. We talked about where we were coming from. It’s a first step. We’re operating at a level of conversation with a neighbor.”

The Tribal Council declined comment on the meeting, spokesman David T. Staddon said.

The county has suffered financially because of the tribe’s disagreement with the state over gaming. More than $12 million is owed to St. Lawrence and Franklin counties and the towns of Massena, Brasher, Bombay and Fort Covington. A meeting last summer between county officials and the tribe over whether they could work out a deal without state involvement did not result in agreement, but the option was left open.

The county hired Wladis Law Firm, Syracuse, in August for advice and to represent it in a lawsuit if it pursues one.

“We are not anywhere in that range,” Mrs. Brothers said. “That is one of many options.”

Representatives agreed to meet again in January, Ms. St. Hilaire said.

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