ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County officials cited fiscal hardship and bad timing as they defeated a plan to support funding for North Country Community College's capital improvement project.
In a split vote at their Oct. 4 meeting, members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors rejected a resolution to take out a $16 million bond toward expanding and renovating facilities at NCCC's Saranac Lake Campus.
"I support the college, but I do not support the timing of this project today," said North Elba supervisor Roby Politi, one of eight supervisors to vote against the measure.
The resolution represented Essex County's commitment to the $65 million project, to which Franklin County would have also contributed $16 million with New York State's University Construction Fund supplying the rest.
However, several supervisors argued Essex County couldn't afford to take on the cost of the bond when they anticipate a near-40-percent rise in taxes for the coming year.
"We were working on the budget last week, and I can tell you it's not pretty," said Moriah supervisor Tom Scozzafava, who chairs the Finance Committee. "We trimmed as much as we could possibly trim during the workshop, but I can tell you right now it's not going to be enough."
Board chairman Randy Douglas, supervisor of Jay, advocated for the borrow, claiming expansion of NCCC could improve enrollment there, particularly among county residents, thereby offsetting the cost Essex County bears in enrollment chargebacks to community colleges in other counties.
"I understand my colleagues' reservations on this," said Douglas. "The timing couldn't be worse."
According to county manager Dan Palmer, Essex County would have a minimum $60,000 payment to make on the bond in the first year and $460,000 each year afterward until it was repaid.
At one point, Douglas withdrew the resolution, urging board members to hold a special meeting to address the issue next week when more accurate budget impact estimates would be available. The vote to schedule a meeting the following week failed, however.
Douglas then motioned for a similar resolution to approve Essex County's share of the project with the contingency county attorney Daniel Manning prepare a serial bond resolution.
The plan failed, however, with the weighted vote falling 1,034 in favor and 1,440 against.
Voting in favor of the renovation plan Douglas, Westport supervisor Dan Connell, Elizabethtown supervisor Noel Merrihew, Minerva supervisor Sue Montgomery-Corey, Newcomb supervisor George Canon, Schroon Lake supervisor Cathy Moses, and Ticonderoga supervisor Debra Malaney.
Voting against the resolution were Politi, Scozzafava, Crown Point supervisor Bethany Kosmider, Essex supervisor Sharon Boisen, Keene supervisor Bill Ferebee, St. Armand supervisor Joyce Morency, Lewis supervisor David Blades, and Wilmington supervisor Randy Preston.
Chesterfield supervisor Gerald Morrow and North Hudson supervisor Robert Dobie were absent.
NCCC vice president of fiscal operations William Chapin said the plan for the capital project could be reintroduced again next year, but the estimated costs may be outdated. Pushing back the project another year means construction would not begin until late 2013, he said.
"We're disappointed," said college president Carol Brown. "We understand it was a tough decision and these are tough times. Hopefully it comes back next year."