By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — WESTPORT — Evicted horses could be trotting somewhere else soon as unpaid boarding bills mount at the Essex County Fairgrounds racehorse barns.
The County Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee was told Monday that two or more tenants at the county-owned horse barns in Westport have not paid their boarding bills since August 2011.
The charges for the 17 horses involved, at $50 a month, amount to about $15,000.
One tenant paid up, only to have the check returned for insufficient funds, County Attorney Daniel Manning III said.
That same tenant recently called and said he would be at the Essex County Government Center in Elizabethtown on Jan. 19, 2013, to pay his bill, Manning said.
“If he doesn’t come in, we will serve notice in town justice court of a summary proceeding. We will get a warrant of eviction and also a judgment for the amount of money.”
All tenants have received legal notice to pay the back rent, Manning said.
“On the holdover tenants, we can now go to court. We served all the paperwork.”
Tenants’ names were not released since the matter is entering litigation.
Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport), who serves as the board’s fair liaison, said he plans to get tough with the debtors.
“I am making a strong recommendation to shut the water and electric off to the racehorse barns. There are people in there not paying, and we can’t seem to get them out. That’s my suggestion so we are no longer subsidizing them.”
That would force tenants to carry in water by hand.
They also won’t plow the harness track in the winter, Connell said, so the horses can’t be trained.
Manning said he advised against turning off the water to the barns.
However, the County Fairgrounds Facilities Committee voted Monday to turn off the water after Jan. 19, 2013, if the bill isn’t paid.
Connell said he will request that the Essex County Sheriff’s Department monitor the animals if the water is turned off. The county doesn’t supply feed for the horses, and tenants already have to bring that in.
The tenants who owe rent are not the owners of the horses, he said, but are trainers for the animals, which are used for harness racing.
Supervisor Roby Politi (R-North Elba) said the county should consider the use of the racehorse barns for storage instead of boarding.
“Does it make more sense to eliminate the horse stalls?” Politi said. “You might be able to lease that space for home-storage units. It’s just a thought.”
Connell said he’d look into that possibility, although the fair does hold annual harness races that require a certain number of stalls to be available.
Email Lohr McKinstry: email@example.com