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Fulton County springs a leak

May 3 is the deadline for submission of sealed bids by contractors hoping to perform emergency repair action of the “significant leakage” in the Fulton County Office Building’s main roof, at 223 W. Main St.

So, the emergency repair of a major roof leak, which has reduced Fulton County’s government to using a system of buckets to collect the water — as shown in a photo taken by Mike Anich for the April 11 issue of The Leader-Herald — won’t even begin to be fixed until this summer. How long has this problem been going on?

“We’ve had some leakage problems for over a year,” Fulton County Administrative Clerk Jon Stead told the Fulton County Board of Supervisors at Monday’s meeting.

During the meeting, Johnstown 3rd Ward Supervisor Jack Callery asked why roof repairs weren’t discussed more in the past as part of capital project plans.

Fulton County last year included $50,000 in capital funding for some roof work, but officials said the county will have to look at other areas to come up with more money for future work. Stead said the board can use money intended for 2017, and look to put more money in 2018 for future roof work.

We think Callery’s question is a good one, but he need only look at himself and the rest of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors as the answer. As we’ve pointed out in the past, Stead is a very competent public servant, but he has no independent power beyond what the board approves for him to do. This deteriorating situation with the leaking roof is a prime example of what can happen in the antiquated Board of Supervisors form of government, a system where every county expenditure must be approved by a board composed of members who owe their primary loyalty to the the towns and cities from which they are elected. In Fulton County, there simply are no countywide elected officials to help prioritize the county government’s needs.

We can’t help but contrast Fulton County’s leaking roof with the $883,200 public safety building roof replacement project in Montgomery County. It’s true the repairs in Montgomery County have also been needed for a number of years, but now they are being addressed, with money already borrowed as part of Montgomery County’s six-year capital project plan. New York state requires County Executive/County Legislature forms of government to enact long-term capital projects plans to help prevent situations like the embarrassing roof leakage in Fulton County’s main office building.

We’ve said before that someone on the Fulton County Board of Supervisors should put forward a resolution to start a county charter referendum process, to at least give voters in Fulton County the opportunity to chose whether they want to remain with the Board of Supervisors model of government or try a County Executive/Legislature model of government, as Montgomery County did in 2012.

The evidence continues to mount that it would in the public’s best interest to at least have that debate.

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