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County Legislature appeals to state on behalf of Fort la Presentation Association in fiscal battle with ExxonMobil

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CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators is unanimous in urging the state attorney general to secure additional funding from ExxonMobil for the Fort la Presentation Association, Ogdensburg.

The resolution lawmakers approved last Monday comes after state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman reached an $8 million settlement with the oil company in November to recoup the state’s costs associated with cleaning up contamination at Lighthouse Point, where ExxonMobil operated a petroleum storage facility until 1984.

The fort association, which owns much of the formerly contaminated property and discovered the contamination in 2001, was left out of the $8 million settlement.

“We hope that the state attorney general will realize how important this particular project is for all of St. Lawrence County,” said Legislator Vernon D. “Sam” Burns, D-Ogdensburg.

Mr. Burns introduced the resolution. It reads, in part, “the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators strongly urges the Attorney General to use all possible legal means to reach a resolution that includes restitution from ExxonMobil to the Fort Association, and the people of Ogdensburg and St. Lawrence County for the losses incurred by the city and county as a consequence of the ExxonMobil contamination.”

The association has a pending claim with the office of state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli seeking damages from ExxonMobil for the delays it has suffered in the past decade during the cleanup process.

Plans to build a full-sized replica of the 1749 fort built on the point by French Sulpician priest Abbe Francois Picquet had been put off for more than a decade as the fort association went through the process of finding the contamination and having it cleaned up.

“I would like to personally reach out to the attorney general’s office,” Mr. Burns said. “I have full intentions of doing the same with the state comptroller’s office and letting them know how important this is to all of us. History is worth fighting for.”

Mark Johnson, spokesman for the comptroller, said: “We have no comment on the resolution.” Mr. Johnson said the claim filed by the fort association is still pending.

“I’m very thrilled and pleased that Sam put this resolution forward,” fort association President Barbara J. O’Keefe said, adding that the fact it was unanimous was particularly encouraging. “It’s a good morale booster.”

Mrs. O’Keefe said the association is still working on its claim with the comptroller’s office and hopes to hear from Mr. DiNapoli on the matter soon.

Mr. Burns said the unanimous vote “shows the support throughout the county. All the legislators feel that this project is important. I believe the state comptroller needs to step up to the plate and do the right thing.”

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