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No answers from DOT

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Lawmakers concerned about the future of Watertown’s downtown were hoping to get some answers from a state official Thursday about whether 150 state Department of Transportation jobs would leave the area.

They left a budget hearing disappointed.

DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald testified at a joint budget hearing on transportation in Albany that the department hasn’t yet come up with a plan on where it will consolidate 11 DOT regions into six. That raised hackles among upstate lawmakers, including state Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, who aggressively questioned Ms. McDonald to pry out details but came away empty-handed.

It’s possible, though not certain, that with the consolidations, Watertown would no longer be the north country’s DOT regional hub, which would put 150 jobs at the Dulles State Office Building in jeopardy.

“We had my Albany staff at the hearing to listen to the responses, and there wasn’t enough information, and no detail,” said state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, who has an office in the Dulles Building. “Senator DeFrancisco grilled the commissioner on the specifics. I’m concerned that the questions were asked in a straightforward manner and there really is no detail.”

Mrs. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said she was informed more details would be forthcoming at that hearing.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell also told reporters Thursday’s meeting would bear details on the DOT consolidation.

“From what I understand, there is no determination that’s been made by DOT as to which regions, which areas will be combined,” said Mrs. Russell, D-Theresa. “I’ll just continue my advocacy.”

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