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Historic county building eyed for Canton museum

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CANTON — A historic Judson Street building adjacent to the old St. Lawrence County jail is being considered as a possible site for the Canton Town Museum, but some Town Council members said Monday that they are concerned about potential expenses.

Built in the late 1800s, the two-story stone building is owned by the county and for decades housed the county sheriff and his staff.

The building has been vacant since the sheriff’s office was moved to the county’s emergency services building on Court Street. For much of the 1900s, it also was used as a home by various county sheriffs and their families as well as office space for the sheriff.

Canton Town Historian Linda M. Casserly is looking for a site with more space that’s easier to access than the second-floor office she has in the municipal building on Main Street. The space is crowded with old photographs, a Rushton canoe and other artifacts.

“I have no space to really display Canton’s history,” Mrs. Casserly said.

Dozens of old glass plates taken by photographers a century ago as well as other pictures are stored in drawers because there is not enough display space available. The first floor of the Judson Street building has two offices, two large meeting rooms and a bathroom.

She would like to have a meeting space for people to gather and more room for visits from schoolchildren. The second floor space she’s in now cannot be accessed easily by senior citizens and others with physical challenges.

Members of the town’s and village’s joint services committee toured the Judson Street building two weeks ago, including town board members Jesse C. Coburn and Paul F. Backus and village trustees Mary Ann Ashley and Daniel J. McDonnell. Some county legislators and Sheriff Kevin M. Wells also toured the building.

Town Councilman James T. Smith said he’s skeptical about possible costs, even if the county is willing to give the building to Canton or lease it for a nominal fee.

“A free elephant is one thing; a white elephant is another,” Mr. Smith said. “It always turns out to be a lot more expensive than we ever dreamed of. When the county tells you that you can have it, that tells me they really want to get rid of it.”

During the town board meeting, Deputy Town Supervisor Paul F. Backus questioned where the town would get money to renovate the building.

Mrs. Casserly said grants are available to restore historic places and she has many volunteers interested in helping.

“I think it would be a winning situation. I’m going to stay optimistic,” Mrs. Casserly said.

Town Supervisor David T. Button said the joint services committee will continue to explore the idea.

In other action, the Town Council tabled a discussion about whether to provide 3.5 percent raises to summer recreation department employees.

Mr. Button said the village board asked for the town’s input, but didn’t provide related information he requested, such as when was the last time wages were hiked.

“We don’t have enough information to base our decision,” Mr. Backus said. “Press them again and give us the information.”

The joint services committee also will be asked to discuss the wage hike.

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