ELIZABETHTOWN - Whether the price tag or the timing, some supervisors questioned a resolution to bond for the replacement of four loaders for the Department of Public Works during the Essex County's Ways and Means committee meeting Jan. 31.
The loaders were part of a $950,000 bond proposition, along with other equipment, that was debated by supervisors. The resolution made its way out of the committee by a 13-5 vote and will be brought up for a final vote at the Feb. 4 county board meeting.
"I don't think that we should do this because we are asking everyone to cut back in their budgets and this seems off that we are getting four new loaders," Willsboro supervisor Ed Hatch said. "The county highway department makes up 35-percent of the amount to be raised by taxes, and we should be looking at them to see how they can cut back because we have a lot of duplication between the towns and the county."
Westport supervisor Daniel Connell said he wished the request would have been made while preparing the 2011 budget.
"I'm conflicted because I feel we should have put this into the budget," Connell said. "I know that we really need to buy equipment, but we should have thought this out during the budget process."
Keene supervisor William Ferebee, who oversees the DPW, said he agreed with the move to replace the loaders partially for the return on investment.
"The trucks should all be driven until they are run into the ground, but if we can make a move and recoup some of the cost from the loaders while they still have a high resale value, then we should do this," Ferebee said.
DPW head Anthony LaVigne told supervisors the DPW currently has three loaders that are assigned to road crews, one at the county garage and another at the county gravel pit in Moriah.
St. Armand supervisor Joyce Morency said she would support the resolution because she felt the DPW is stretched out financially as is.
"The first person that is always asked to cut in the budget is the DPW," Morency said. "Repairs cost a fortune, so I am going to support this because these machines also provide for our towns as well as the county."
Moriah supervisor Tom Scozzafava wondered if the loaders should stay in the county's hands for more time.
"The more we talk about this, the harder it gets for me to support this because if these loaders are in such great shape, then why are we looking at replacing them?"
County Manager Daniel Palmer said the loaders were up for resale now because after five years in service, which they are entering into, they start to lose resale value, making now the best time to look for replacements and to trade the current set.
"If the department head says that we need new equipment, then I don't see why we shouldn't follow that recommendation," North Elba supervisor and county vice-chairman Robert Politi said. Scozzafava brought up the notion of using fund balance to pay for the new equipment, but Palmer said the county should hold on to its funds as he was concerned rainy days were ahead.
"You may need it to add to the general fund if we are dealing with a property tax cap like the governor is proposing," Palmer said. "You have to be very careful right now with how you use that fund balance."
The full county board will meet Friday, Feb. 4, at 10 a.m. in the old county courthouse. There will be no other committee meetings throughout the month of February as supervisors will be attending several conferences on town and county matters.