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North Country News

Essex County Supervisors Reelect Chair For Record Term

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WAMC/Pat Bradley
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The Essex County Board of Supervisors was sworn in on Monday and they chose Randy Douglas to chair the group for an unprecedented sixth time.

Essex County in the Adirondacks is home to Lake Placid and New York’s Olympic venues. It has faced challenges over the past few years as it recovers from spring flooding and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, among other budget stresses.
When the Board of Supervisors was sworn in on Monday, Town of Jay Supervisor Democrat Randy Douglas was elected to chair the group for an unprecedented sixth time.  “There’s still some unresolved issues that I want to see through before I give up the chairmanship or my colleagues want to oust me! I made connections on the state and federal level with funding agencies and political officials and I think that I have a good rapport that I can leverage the things that are necessities here in Essex County to improve us.”

Board of Supervisors Co-Chair Republican Bill Ferebee has been Keene town supervisor for ten years and board co-chair for four years. He says the network of contacts at the local, state and national levels that Douglas has built is crucial to the county.  “Longevity in my opinion is the key to this job. When they see you in a crowd, for example, people recognize us. They know who we are, where we’re from and they relate us to Essex County  and what we do.”

Town of Moriah Supervisor Republican Tom Scozzafava also praises Douglas.  “He has built a good network of people at all levels of government that we can utilize for resources and it’s a tremendous help. It’s nice to have a chairman in place that can pick up the phone and call the governor or get ahold of someone at that level and be able to discuss with them our needs.”

With their leadership decided, the Board of Supervisors now tackles business. Scozzafava starts his 11th year as finance committee chair as they continue with a plan to bring the county budget in line with the state-mandated 2-percent tax cap.  “We’re into the third year of the five year plan. We had seven years where we had no tax increase whatsoever. That was a mistake. You can’t go back and correct past mistakes. You learn by them. I think next year the increase is calling for 5 percent. Maybe we can get a little bit above that and then we should be able to meet the cap for the next two years.”

Randy Douglas notes that roads, bridges and the Lake Placid Olympic infrastructure need improvements. He will seek state and federal funds for such projects in addition to working on county budget issues.  “The county manager came up with a five year plan. We’ve heard the people loud and clear that taxes are tough. But I’m proud of the fact that our tax rate is one of the lowest in the state of New York.  If you look at the services that we provide I think we’re proving great services that I don’t think people would really want eliminated.”

To help close fiscal gaps, Bill Ferebee expects the Board of Supervisors will streamline operations as much as possible.  “We really need to look at combining services, eliminating some costs, doing things a little more efficiently. You know we’re not looking to put folks out of their jobs because that just evolves into them then going to social services. So it’s still a cost. We want to keep everybody employed. We just would like to see things  more streamlined.”

Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas plans to meet with newly inaugurated Congresswoman Elise Stefanik in Washington next month.

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