ST. JAMES - Ten days ago, St. James' Santa Claus learned that he'd be out of work this holiday season, but today, the lump of coal Saint Nick got was replaced with an early gift that saved his job.

Santa Claus has appeared at the St. James General Store for nearly a decade. However, due to the tough economy, Suffolk County decided not to renew his $660 contract for this year.

But four days before Election Day, Democratic candidate for county executive Steve Bellone came in with a personal check for $660 to make sure Santa is there for the kids.

Bellone insists it's not a political issue. "I've been bringing my kids here for the past three years," he said.

Now, Saint Nick will be back at the historic General Store the weekend after Thanksgiving.

However, County Executive Steve Levy (R-Suffolk) insists taxpayers should not have to foot the bill to pay when there are plenty of volunteer Santas in every community.

For an extended interview with the St. James Santa Claus, go to your cable box and select iO Extra on Ch. 612.