Press-Republican

Wednesday

March 13, 2013

Workers' Comp Board site closure planned

PLATTSBURGH — A planned shutdown of the Plattsburgh Workers’ Compensation Board hearing site has local government leaders objecting.

“This is just not appropriate, and it does not seem necessary,” Clinton County Legislator Robert Butler (R-Area 6, Saranac) told the Press-Republican. “I hope they reconsider this.”

Butler is sponsoring a resolution at tonight’s legislature meeting that opposes the plan to shut down the Plattsburgh office, located at 23 Elm St., on May 1.

If it closes, people will have to drive to Saranac Lake for their Workers’ Compensation hearings.

“This is inexcusable, as far as I am concerned, and people should not  be inconvenienced like that,” Butler said.

HIGHER NUMBERS

Plattsburgh attorney John Niles, who represents many clients with Workers’ Compensation claims, said the move makes no sense. He wrote a letter to Jeffrey Fenster, executive director of the Workers’ Compensation Board, asking that the decision be reconsidered.

Niles said in his letter that between 120 and 150 claimants appear at hearings at the Plattsburgh site each month. Only about 60 to 80 people attend hearings each month at 41 St. Bernard St., Saranac Lake.

Niles said that if the Plattsburgh office is closed, people who live in the Northern Tier of Clinton County will have to travel as much as 150 miles round trip for hearings.

“As you can imagine, most Workers’ Compensation claimants struggle financially, as they are only receiving a portion of the wages that they were earning while working for their employer,” Niles wrote to Fenster.

“In many cases, insurance carriers controvert cases and claimants are receiving nothing in the way of lost wages, yet those same claimants will now be required to travel many miles without any reimbursement for mileage.”

SITE AMENITIES

The Plattsburgh office is equipped with hearing rooms for clients, their attorneys and the judges, and it has plenty of parking, while the Saranac Lake site is inadequate, Niles said.

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