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Wladis Firm working on St. Lawrence County projects

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, did not start out as a supporter of the Wladis Firm, Syracuse, which was hired by the county to lobby on its behalf, but he is prepared to become one.

A proponent of a multi-use trail for the county, Mr. MacKinnon has given marching orders to Leann I. West, government relations for Wladis, that he wants to see progress on trail-worthy registration of side-by-side all-terrain-vehicles.

“They’re the perfect vehicle for the person who is less than physically fit,” he said. “What we need is to have the state allow them to be registered.”

If Wladis can identify the movers and shakers in Albany to address that issue, Mr. MacKinnon said he will happily make the trip to argue his case.

Those opposed to the hiring of Wladis for $60,000 for one year plus fees and expenses thought it an expensive way to lobby for home rule legislation that could increase the county’s local share of the sales tax, but some legislators have other ideas for the company that could make the service pay for itself.

“They have knowledge and expertise,” Legislator Jonathan S. Putney, D-Waddington, said. “We’re getting a professional service. I think the advantage is clear.”

The focus of the New York State Association of Counties tends to be on larger issues, such as Medicaid reform, rather than on issues specific to St. Lawrence County, Mr. Putney said.

Wladis has already identified a cooperative purchasing program with Onondaga County on which the county could piggyback. The program could save the county on the purchase of office supplies and highway material, Governmental Services Director Michael J. Cunningham said.

“Every year they do a big bid and we might be able to get better pricing,” he said. “Those are the things we’re exploring right now. It could give us a tool to meet the challenges of our budget.”

The county bids out 29 contracts for highway materials which are used by itself and towns and villages. By joining Onondaga’s contract for truckloads of copy paper, the county might save more than $2,000 annually, Mr. Cunningham said.

Onondaga also has substantial experience creating bid documents for energy efficient upgrades which St. Lawrence might benefit from.

If collaborative purchasing is successful, it might be extended across the north country, Ms. West said.

“It just gives the county other options,” she said.

Mr. Putney also has ideas for Waldis.

The St. Lawrence County Fire Training Facility, which is raising money for a new live burn structure to train volunteers, is often ineligible for grants because it is not a fire department and not an official part of county government.

“It’s a very important issue,” Mr. Putney said. “This is the role model for shared service.”

Wladis might work on amending eligibility criteria for grants, he said.

The company could also focus on tweaking the formula used to distribute a 911 surcharge on cell phones so rural areas receive more of the funding and point county officials to those in state government who could help with the settlement of the tribal compact dispute.

Wladis’s role could also be to alert the county to regulations that might prove cumbersome.

Sales tax could be a focus for Wladis, if it could help the county influence the way the state requires home rule legislation, Mr. MacKinnon said.

“That would be huge if we knew who the right people were,” he said.

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