ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County doesn’t object to Clinton and Franklin counties converting the tri-county bookmobile into a mobile command center, but it likely won’t participate.
This week, the Essex County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee declined, 4 to 3, to join the proposed mobile communications unit project.
Lawmakers instead relinquished the county’s rights to the vehicle so the conversion can proceed.
The abandonment of any claim to the bookmobile gets two more votes — on Aug. 27 and Sept. 4 — before it’s official.
Clinton County has approved the conversion of the bookmobile, which the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Regional Library System could no longer afford to operate.
The Franklin County Legislature had been waiting to find out what Essex County was going to do.
‘VERY, VERY BLEAK’
The bookmobile project had been tabled last month by Essex County, and, on Monday, Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield) brought it back to the floor.
Morrow said his resolution was that “Essex County supports it, but we have no money going toward it now or in the future.”
The bookmobile project would be chiefly funded with U.S. Department of Homeland Security money but would incur an annual cost of about $1,500, supporters said.
“We have preliminary (county) budget numbers for next year, and it’s very, very bleak,” said Supervisor Randy Preston (I-Wilmington), who chairs the Public Safety Committee.
“I don’t think, at this point in time, we should be taking this.”
Morrow said it should be turned over Clinton and Franklin counties if Essex doesn’t want to participate.
“My resolution says no money. Why should we stop the other counties who want it?”
ALL MUST TAKE PART?
After participation was voted down, County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said he would like to see the issue closed.
“The issue is the Library Board was told they must have the participation of all three counties or the deal is off,” Jaquish said. “Non-participation on our part will nix the whole deal.”
Lawmakers said they believe abandoning their rights to the vehicle would allow the project to go forward, and that resolution was introduced.
Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said Franklin County is worried that Essex County would bill them for Essex’s contribution to the three-way split used to pay for the bookmobile a few years ago.
“Let the other two counties know where we stand,” he said.
The vote to disavow any claim to the bookmobile was unanimous.
The decision pleased Franklin County Legislator Marc “Tim” Lashomb (R-Malone), who has kept the issue alive there.
“That’s great,” he said. “That answers the concerns two of the legislators had — whether Essex County would participate and if they were expecting any (compensation).
“That means I will probably bring it up again, maybe not this Thursday, but the first meeting in September.”
“My understanding is Clinton County wants to get this going right away, and that they’re going ahead irregardless of what Essex County and we decide,” Lashomb said.
He informally polled legislators a few weeks ago and came up two votes short to get the measure passed.
Lashomb said he’s still not sure if he’ll have enough votes this time.
“I think we have their (legislators’) concerns answered, but it’s a democratic process, so we’ll have to see,” he said.
— Staff Writer Denise Raymo contributed to this story.