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Libraries ask for assistance as St. Lawrence legislators fund fishing tournament

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CANTON — A request to the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators to restore funding to libraries came just before legislators approved a $75,000 financial boost to Waddington for the Bassmaster Elite Tournament.

Last year, legislators eliminated funding for libraries, along with many other partner agencies, because of a financial bind.

“If your funding situation allows, I ask that you reconsider,” said Wayne L. Miller, director of the Ogdensburg Public Library.

About 10 percent of the city library’s cardholders come from towns surrounding Ogdensburg that do not pay taxes that go for its support, Mr. Miller said.

The same is true for many other libraries whose only recourse to recoup some of their costs is through county assistance, said Emily M. Owen, North Country Library System.

“I would hate for the concept of the free library to go away,” said Linda Adams, director of the Reading Room Association of Gouverneur. “Our circulation for books is way up, so people are reading.”

The library has also seen an increase of 385 more users for its computers than a year ago, she said.

The librarians did not mention the money approved Monday for the fishing tournament, but Alton W. “Ike” Guyette, Pierrepont, noted it in his comments on recent legislative actions.

The county raised property taxes more than 14 percent this year, borrowed $12 million, hired a trail coordinator, cut other jobs, and reduced services that residents needed, he said.

“Then, they turn around and give $75,000 to a fish tournament,” Mr. Guyette said.

Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, defended the decision to provide Waddington with the money as the tournament could lead to increasing tourism and the development of the county as a fishing mecca.

The contribution will come from state/tribal gaming compact funds which are restricted to economic development activities.

“This is exactly what that money should be used for,” Mr. MacKinnon said.

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