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Canton Human Services building will be refinanced

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County is expected to save about $40,000 annually by refinancing the bonds that paid for the Canton Human Services building.

The county Board of Legislators authorized a refinancing plan Monday for the facility on Route 310, which is leased by the county for its Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Health Department, among other offices.

The county will see the savings through the rent it pays on the building, which is determined by the amount due on the bonds, Treasurer Kevin M. Felt said.

The building is owned by Canton Human Services Initiatives, a nonprofit organization set up about 10 years ago solely to finance the building, own it and rent it to the county. At the end of 30 years, title of the building will go to the village of Canton.

The unorthodox approach allowed the county to save money on construction by avoiding Wicks Law bidding requirements, which require separate bids and contracts for general construction, heating and air conditioning, electrical work and plumbing.

The arrangement also allowed the county to collect higher state reimbursements for some of the departments in the building because the offices are rented rather than owned by the county.

“It was an honorable attempt to save money,” said Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler.

Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said she would feel more comfortable if there were a written document spelling out that Canton would pass the building to the county at the end of the bond financing, but Mr. MacKinnon said the county was forced to rely on an unwritten handshake deal with the village.

“It’s a trust issue,” he said.

Legislator Daniel F. Parker, R-Potsdam, questioned whether the county could get a cut of the refinancing fee, but Ms. St. Hilaire said the advantage to the county will come from reduced rent. CHSI has some costs, including an annual audit.

Although Mr. Parker wanted more time to digest the information, Ms. St. Hilaire said the county’s authorization was needed for a Dec. 17 village meeting.

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