MALONE — It came down to one question: “Do we need it?”
Franklin County legislators voted 4 to 3 Thursday that no, the county does not need a mobile-command center to be used in disaster situations.
The Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System tried to donate its unused bookmobile to all three counties to be retrofitted into a communications vehicle that would be used to talk to each other and other responding agencies during a disaster.
A variety of radio frequencies are used by agencies, so they cannot now speak to each other via radio to coordinate their efforts.
TWO COUNTIES OUT
The counties bought the bookmobile in 2005, but the CEF Library Board couldn’t afford to keep using it for its intended purpose and took it off the road about a year ago.
It offered the vehicle to the counties who, for an estimated $1,500 a year each, could insure and maintain it.
But Essex County dropped out of the running earlier this week, deciding not to share the cost, and Franklin County joined suit Thursday, leaving just Clinton County committed to accepting the vehicle and converting it for emergency use.
Clinton County Area 6 Legislator Bob Butler (R-Saranac), chair of the Public Safety Committee, said Franklin County’s decision to back out would not change the commitment made by his board.
“We are talking about $1,500. To pass on this for $1,500 between the three counties is ridiculous,” he said. “It’s too bad.
“If both (Essex and Franklin) have signed off, I assume we’d be able to have it if there is no claim on it,” Butler said. “The bottom line is it will be up to the Library System to turn it over to us.”
When Franklin County Legislator Paul Maroun (R-Tupper Lake) voted against the idea, he said he’d have some hard questions for Library Board members when they come before the legislature for their annual budget allocation in a few weeks.
He wants to know why the agency isn’t trying to sell the bookmobile, instead of giving it away. It could then put the money in a reserve fund to go toward its annual expenses.
The county gives the Library System about $15,000 a year.
Maroun said that in these tight economic times, there may not be guaranteed future allocations and that Library Board members should think about creating a reserve fund from the sale of the bookmobile for those times.
“I just can’t vote yes,” he said. “I don’t think we need it. If we need radio equipment, we should buy radio equipment.”
Butler said he hopes the Library System isn’t penalized for its efforts to give the vehicle new life.
“I didn’t want to see this turn into a political football. And I don’t want to see the Library System put in the middle.”
Butler said that if Clinton County takes ownership, it would allow the other two counties to use the command center in the event of a disaster.
Email Denise A. Raymo: firstname.lastname@example.org