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St. Lawrence County legislators give money to Waddington, fair board

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CANTON — Over the objections of some St. Lawrence County legislators who believe there is no money to spare, the county board gave the village of Waddington $30,000 for a Bassmaster event and the Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair more than $3,800 to replace transformers.

The money for Waddington was approved previously on the committee level, but some legislators at a meeting this week questioned cutting the amount as state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, procured $30,000 to help the village host Bassmaster events. The funding includes $10,000 for this year’s Northeastern divisional series and $20,000 for 2015, when the Bassmaster Elite series returns, Mayor Janet M. Otto-Cassada said.

The state funding will help Waddington with electrical and water systems for Whittaker Park, she said.

“You understand what we’re trying to do. We need financial assistance until we’re ready to charge,” Ms. Otto-Cassada told legislators. “Whatever you can do for us, we appreciate.”

Legislator Jim A. Bunstone, D-Potsdam, said he had no problem giving Waddington some money to help with this year’s event, but thought it prudent to cut the amount in light of Ms. Ritchie’s assistance. However, the vote to provide $20,000 to Waddington instead of $30,000 failed 6-9.

Some legislators did not support any money for Waddington because of the county’s fiscal problems.

“We are in dire straits,” Legislator Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid, said. “It kind of breaks my heart because I love Waddington.”

The vote for Waddington to receive $30,000 was 11-4. Voting against the funding were Daniel F. Parker, R-Potsdam; Mark H. Akins, R-Lisbon, Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, and Mr. Acres.

The money for the Bassmaster event will come from state-tribal gaming compact funds that are not yet in hand. The switch from taking the money from the fund balance to compact money persuaded Legislator Donald A. Peck, R-Gouverneur, to vote in favor.

But Mr. Lightfoot said the county’s financial bleed has to stop.

“I just think it’s an ongoing thing,” he said. “Lo and behold, the fair board’s looking for some money.”

The Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair is replacing eight electrical transformers to upgrade voltage.

The fair purchased four of the transformers and authorized an electrical distribution upgrade, but needed $3,840 for the remaining transformers.

The fair has other capital expenses, including sidewalk and roof replacement, Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, the legislative representative to the fair, said.

Regardless of the need, the county has to stop doling out funds, Mr. Parker said.

“We’re spending money we don’t have,” he said.

Legislator Vernon D. “Sam” Burns, D-Ogdensburg, said the fair represents the county.

“Gouverneur and St. Lawrence County Fair,” he said. “That means we have a stake in this.”

Regardless, the county made Waddington produce a budget and jump through hoops for its money but simply took the word of Mr. Morrill and Mr. Peck, the fair manager, about the fair’s needs, Mr. Akins said.

“This is a wild, wild double standard,” he said.

The vote in favor of funding for the transformers was 10-4, with Mr. Peck abstaining.

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