County Board accepts grant for Public Defenderís Office

NORWICH Ė A resolution to accept grant funds to grow the size of the Chenango County Public Defenderís Office was accepted by the county Board of Supervisors on Monday, but not without debate over the strings attached.

Having approval from the State Office of Indigent Legal Services, the Public Defenderís Office will receive an allotment of $178,308 Ė state money that the department intends on using over the next three years for the hire of a part-time clerk and the continuation of salary for one of its two assistant public defenders on staff.

As part of the resolution, the department also proposed using $14,000 of the grant for additional expenses ($7,000 for equipment; $1,000 for training and conferences; $5,000 for contractual and expert tests; and $1,000 for other expenses).

According to the Public Defenderís Office, the allocation will help the department keep pace with an increasing workload and improve services to clients.

Merits of the grant, however, were called into question by several Board members who alluded to the cost of fringe benefits and the impact those extra costs would have on the local tax base. Benefits include health care, FICA, unemployment and pension. Although the new part-time clerk wouldnít be eligible for such benefits, the assistant public defender would.

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