Ogdensburg to pay off $825,000 debt to St. Lawrence County
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG – Ogdensburg will pay St. Lawrence County more than $800,000 in delinquent taxes owed, a portion of which has been owed to the county since 2003.
The decision to pay the debt was made in a split vote along normal lines with Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly, Deputy Mayor John Rishe and councilors Bill Dillabough and Steve Fisher supporting the measure.Among those opposed was Councilor Michael Powers who urged the city to negotiate the price down with the county.
City Manager Stephen Jellie told council the county indicated they had no interest in discounting the money owed, but were willing to discuss accepting payments.
Councilor Fisher said he believed the debt should be paid. He pointed out that the city was quick to request prompt payments from the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority for airport security and said Ogdensburg shouldn’t be hypocritical.
The move was also viewed as an effort to begin rebuilding rapport with the county after public and contentious negotiations over the county sales tax.
The city is working with the county on many fronts including an effort to have the county take over dispatch for the Ogdensburg Police Department.
Other efforts include an attempt to move the property tax foreclosure authority to the county and a partnership with the county to help clean up contaminated properties in the city.
Skelly said he believed paying the debt in a lump sum and promptly would aid in those efforts.
The debt came to light on Jan. 25 at a Finance Committee meeting when County Treasurer Renee Cole was asking the board to approve a budget change to accommodate sales tax revenue in 2020 that was $1.8 million more than anticipated.
At that time Legislator Joe Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, said Ogdensburg City Manager Stephen Jellie “at one time mentioned that the city owed the county, I think the figure he used was over $800,000” and asked Cole to clarify how that happened.
“We don’t have a ton of information ... other than ours agrees with the liability the city holds on their books, to the dollar,” Cole said at the January meeting, adding that the amount is around $825,000. “It’s not going to be a surprise for them.”
In the end council agreed to pay the debt after reviewing finances with the city’s financial advisor.