ELIZABETHTOWN -Everyone said that it was not an easy decision.
But in the end, the choice to add a third full-time lawyer to the Essex County Public Defender's Office outweighed the concerns over adding a position during rough budget times.
"I don't think that anyone here is thrilled about adding a position to the payroll," Elizabethtown supervisor Noel Merrihew said during the March 14 continuation of the March 8 county board meeting. "But I think that this is the best way to cover the added case load that is going through the office and we will not be held in the grey area of assigned council."
"The case load, whether or not they have been dragging cases out, shows that there is a need for another person," Moriah supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. "The proof is there, all you have to do is the research."
"I don't think that this is a popular choice, but to ignore this is wrong and it would come back to bite us," Wilmington supervisor Randy Preston said.
Two members of the board said that while they might agree with the majority (11 supervisors out of 14 in attendance voted for the resolution), they said that now was not the time to add a position.
"I can't support this at this time," Westport supervisor Dan Connell said. "I wish that this was coming after we knew what the state budget was going to contain for sure and then we would have a better idea of what we had for funding."
"If I had the time to look at a final state budget and see where this fit in, then I could see myself supporting it," Lewis supervisor David Blades said. "But I can't now."
Willsboro supervisor Ed Hatch said that a new full-time position was not needed with or without a state budget.
"The town justices that I have talked to said that there has not been a big increase in their case loads, but there has been a shift in the types of cases they are dealing with," Hatch said. "I think that Essex County has to take a serious look at part-time help, because for every dollar that we spend in salary, we spend 50 cents more in benefits."
Hatch said that the justices he had talked with agreed that the public defender office has been a help to the county judicial system.
"They feel that while the office does need help, another person in the office may not be the answer," Hatch said.
Keene supervisor William Ferebee asked Hatch how many justices he had talked to in the county, to which Hatch responded three.
"I don't know how you can have a feeling for the entire county by just talking to three," Ferebee said. "That's not a majority."
Hatch also asked county manager Daniel Palmer if he supported the recommendation to add the position.
"I have a responsibility in this position and I have to do what I feel is right," Palmer said. "Oh, yes, I support this."
"Okay," Hatch replied. "So when you are up there later this year saying that we have to cut, cut, cut, I will remember this."