LOWVILLE — It’s a new month with, for the Lewis County Board of Legislators, a new approach to settling their collective quandary about whether to build a new county building or to repair and renovate two existing buildings.
In the September board meeting, a heated discussion was followed by the majority of legislators voting against a motion made to commit to building a new building. Many of the legislators said they were open to the possibility, but they didn’t want to commit to a new building without weighing all of the options.
On Tuesday evening, the board voted nine to one in favor of putting out a proposal request for a consulting facilitator to lead a process in which all ten of the legislators can share their ideas productively while going through the information with the intent of making a decision that has been on the table for the past six years.
While it was board Chairman Lawrence Dolholf that made the motion, District 5 Legislator Richard Chartrand floated the idea to bring in a facilitator.
“I would like a facilitator that will keep us moving forward. We spent 45 minutes a month ago and we got no place,” Mr. Chartrand said, “Let’s reconvene but lets reconvene and be productive.”
District 10 Legislator Jerry King had reopened the new building topic noting that in the last meeting, “we didn’t see eye to eye and there was a misunderstanding.”
Tempers among some legislators briefly flared when Board Chairman Lawrence Dolhof said he thought, because the new building was voted down, the next step was to get a fresh set of eyes to look at what it would cost to make the repairs and add additional space to the Highway Garage on East Road and repair the Department of Social Services building on Outer Stowe Street.
“How much more money are we going to spend on getting proposals and getting this in here and getting that in here?” District 7 Legislator Gregory Kulzer said.
Legislators who spoke generally agreed with Mr. King when he said he feels “the more information we can get, the better the decisions we can make,” however frustrations from the last contentious meeting were still on the table.
“We’ve made decisions and then all of a sudden you have people going behind your back, writing letters... because they have their own little quirks they want to get in there. Speak at the... darn meetings, that’s the time to speak, not afterwards. That’s just wrong. You’ve got something to say, bring it up,” said District 1 Legislator John Lehman.
Mr. Chartrand is the Board of Legislators’ representative on the Lewis County General Hospital and has recently been participating in a strategic planning process lead by a facilitator there. He said using a facilitator made it possible for many opinions to be heard while decisions were still getting made, which impressed him.
“I think the problem here is that this board is all over the place on what direction to go,” Mr. Dolhof said during the discussion, and the board ultimately agreed that a facilitator may help to change that.
Mr. Lehman voted against the motion to bring in a facilitator.