How much is too much?
That was the question that sparked a lengthy debate during Thursday’s meeting of the Oswego County Legislature.
In the end, legislators approved spending up to $1,566,341 for asbestos abatement and building renovations at the county’s Department of Social Services (DSS), located in Mexico.
The vote was not unanimous as eight legislators opposed spending tax dollars on items that are not considered a necessity in completing the asbestos abatement.
Legislator Jake Mulcahey asked if the project could be done for less money, noting that the legislature is looking to cut $3 million from the preliminary 2013 budget to avoid a property tax increase.
Mulcahey said he is very concerned about the safety of the employees, however, noted that the scope of the project has grown and may continue to grow.
Majority Leader Jack Proud said the legislature needed to take into consideration the age of the building.
“We are looking at a 30-year-old building, to which no major improvements have been made over the course of those years,” he said.
The state may pay up to 75 percent of the project cost, leaving local tax dollars to pay nearly $400,000.
As Proud reminded his colleagues that the state will pay up to 75 percent, Malone reminded him that local residents pay state taxes as well.
Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler said he appreciates the urgency but cautioned that the county is currently in hard financial times.
He said that the county does need to address the asbestos, however, like other legislators, Kunzwiler questioned the need for the additional expenses, including new carpeting and painting.
The county originally authorized $30,000 for the asbestos testing and later approved an additional $70,000 for an abatement plan.
Legislator Shawn Doyle said that the project is a necessary evil that needs to be done.
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