ELIZABETHTOWN — Expense reports for Essex County lawmakers show five topped the $3,000 mark last year, while two claimed no expenses at all.
All in all, members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors received a total of $39,170 in mileage reimbursement and personal expenses for 2013.
In general, the supervisors from the county’s most far-flung towns from the county seat received more in mileage because they had longer drives to weekly county meetings in Elizabethtown.
Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) received $7,751 for mileage and expenses last year, but, as chairman of the board, he makes frequent trips to the state capital in Albany and other locations on the county’s behalf.
“As chairman the last four years, my travel has increased significantly,” he said by email. “To do the job right and to represent Essex County to the best of my ability, the chairman must travel.”
Douglas is often on the road to lobby state and federal representatives — something he’s done successfully numerous times since taking the chairman’s post.
“Travel to Albany and Washington (D.C.) is necessary to be at the front of the line to leverage funding for Essex County and the 18 towns within it, for such needs of hundreds of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) projects over the last few years, bridge repairs and replacements, water and sewer infrastructure improvements, highway repairs, radio communication upgrades, housing grants, broadband (Internet) funds and Main Street revitalization grants, to just name a few,” Douglas said.
He said grants are especially needed in the North Country because most municipalities are not able to afford multi-million-dollar infrastructure projects.
“Believe me, my family would rather have me home, but the funding opportunities are very competitive, and there is no success in leveraging these monies by sitting home.
“We have been very successful in obtaining these funds, because we are in the forefront explaining the desperate needs of the North Country to state, federal political leaders and the numerous funding agencies for us to prosper.”
One Albany visit yielded $12 million in state funding to rebuild the deteriorated Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway, Douglas said.
“My point is one successful trip like that one pays more in the returns to the county than the cost of travel.”
His extra stipend for being chairman is $5,000, but he’s wearing out his personal vehicles working for the county, he said.
“I bought a 2009 car 10 months ago, and I have already put 26,000 miles on it traveling,” Douglas said.
NO CLAIMS ENTERED
Former Supervisors Sharon Boisen (I-Essex) and Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) are the two lawmakers who claimed no mileage or expenses from the county.
Both said they wanted to give back to their constituents and felt that was one way to do it.
In addition to the Board of Supervisors, the county’s 25 department heads had $15,046 in mileage and expenses last year.
Supervisors Sue Montgomery Corey (D-Minerva), Margaret Bartley (D-Elizabethtown), Debra Malaney (R-Ticonderoga), Boisen and Hatch left office at the end of 2013.
Supervisors Charles Whitson Jr. (R-St. Armand), Ronald Moore (R-North Hudson), Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah), Roby Politi (R-North Elba), Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield), Michael Marnell (R-Schroon) and Charles Harrington (R-Crown Point) claimed no expenses, such as meals, only mileage.
The county paid 56.5 cents per mile in 2013, the same as the Internal Revenue Service’s standard mileage rate. It drops to 56 cents a mile for the current year.
Mileage is paid only to county workers who drive their personal vehicles in county service. Those provided with a county car are not reimbursed for that cost.
In 2012, supervisors got a total of $39,109 in mileage and expenses, roughly the same as 2013. The total for 2011 was $37,821.
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The 2013 combined expenses and mileage payments for the Essex County Board of Supervisors, from highest to lowest, were:
• Board Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay), $7,751.
• George Canon (R-Newcomb), $4,256.
• William Ferebee (R-Keene), $3,461.
• Sue Montgomery Corey (D-Minerva), $3,236.
• Debra Malaney (R-Ticonderoga), $3,009.
• Charles Whitson Jr. (R-St. Armand), $2,429.
• Randy Preston (I-Wilmington), $2,251.
• Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield), $1,942.
• Michael Marnell (R-Schroon), $1,846.
• Charles Harrington (R-Crown Point), $1,841.
• David Blades (R-Lewis), $1,735.
• Roby Politi (R-North Elba), $1,532.
• Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah), $1,333.
• Ronald Moore (R-North Hudson), $1,317.
• Daniel Connell (D-Westport), $1,223.
• Margaret Bartley (D-Elizabethtown), $816.
• Sharon Boisen (I-Essex), zero.
• Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro), zero.