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County board appoints Chambers as highway superintendent; battles over SAFE Act resolution

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CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators appointed a native son Monday to become highway superintendent.

Donald R. Chambers, a 1983 graduate of St. Lawrence Central School, will take over the Highway Department March 17 at an annual salary of $89,340. Mr. Chambers has been the Cortland County highway superintendent for the last 10 years.

He is from Winthrop and his wife, Wendy S., is from Massena. He graduated from SUNY Canton in 1985 and worked for consulting engineers for about 15 years before joining Cortland County, first as a senior engineer and later as solid waste supervisor before he became superintendent in 2004.

“St. Lawrence County is my home county,” he said. “I’m going to do the best I can for the county.”

While the appointment of Mr. Chambers was unanimous, the board disagreed over the wording of a resolution opposing the county seal for pistol permit recertifications and other paperwork associated with the New York SAFE Act.

The resolution proposed by Legislator Jonathan S. Putney, D-Waddington, does not adequately reflect the feelings of people in the county, said Legislator Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, who had been working on a resolution of his own. Mr. Lightfoot said he felt his work was usurped by Mr. Putney.

“I think we ought to have the opportunity to look at the other one. I believe you knew it was my intention to bring a resolution. There’s no hurry to get this through,” Mr. Lightfoot said. “I respectfully ask you withdraw. This is another county’s resolution, It’s not yours. It is a carbon copy.”

More than two dozen people at the meeting appeared to support Mr. Lightfoot.

“We don’t want a bad piece of legislation rammed through like the SAFE Act,” said Russell J. Finley.

The board delayed discussion on the resolution until Tuesday.

Opponents of the SAFE Act were unhappy with the legislature’s response to passage of the law — which did not call for its repeal — and they did not want a repeat of a watered-down resolution.

Mr. Putney’s move to supplant Mr. Lightfoot’s resolution with his own was underhanded, Dean D. Laubscher, Potsdam, said.

“There is an upcoming election and we certainly know who you are,” he said.

Mr. Putney said he was surprised by the resistance to his resolution, which also opposed the use of the county’s seal in matters related to the SAFE Act.

Earlier, opponents of the SAFE Act had criticized the Legislature for taking too long to react to the shortcomings of the act, Mr. Putney said.

“Now I tried to prevent a month’s delay and there’s criticism from the same people,” he said. “I tried to do my job and do what I thought the people wanted. I’m really disappointed in Joe’s choice to question my character.”

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