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North Country Chamber seeks stimulus aid for Tri-Lakes projects

Conference center, broadband, railroad, airport terminal, bike path on Plattsburgh-based group’s wish list

January 5, 2009
By NATHAN BROWN, Enterprise Staff Writer

The Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce last week released a list of construction projects, including some in the Tri-Lakes area, that it hopes will be funded by the major stimulus infrastructure package that Congress is expected to consider this month.

"While the bill is still in flux, there are several economic development investments we have already been advocating for which could move forward fairly quickly and which would not only create construction jobs but would have a lasting impact on the North Country economy," said Garry Douglas, president of the chamber.

President-elect Barack Obama is meeting with congressional leaders to discuss his proposed $800-billion stimulus package, which would include about $300 billion in tax cuts and about $500 billion in spending increases such as infrastructure projects and money to help revenue-strapped states with Medicaid and other operating costs.

Article Photos

The proposed conference center, to be added to the Lake Placid Olympic Center, is on the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce's wish list for federal stimulus funds.
(Illustration courtesy of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority)

One of the larger items on the chamber's list was up to $14 million for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority to close the funding gap on the pending convention and conference center, "allowing this major project to move forward without compromising its design or capacity," the chamber said in a prepared statement. ORDA officials announced in June 2008 they were going back to the drawing board after bids for the project came in more than 40 percent over its $23 million budget, which was entirely state-funded under the Pataki administration. Since the shortfall, ORDA officials haven't said much about the future of the project other than to repeat their original statement.

The chamber would also like to see funding for full construction of a broadband Internet network proposed by CBN Connect of Plattsburgh that would serve Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. Although there are fiber-optic cables throughout the area, availability is limited right now.

The rehabilitation of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad line between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake is also on the wish list, followed by line improvements between Tupper Lake and Utica. Currently, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad only runs recreational train trips between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and between Utica and the Old Forge area. Former Gov. George Pataki promised $5 million in November 2006 to extend the tracks from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake, but this money has not been delivered by either of his successors.

The chamber also listed a proposed second terminal at the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear, for private plane pilots and passengers. The proposed terminal would cost well over $2 million, and Harrietstown town Supervisor Larry Miller said in August 2008 that the town would seek out grant funding and donations rather than use local taxes.

Funding a walking, skiing and biking trail along the railway between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid was also on the chamber's list. The town of North Elba has already spent more than $300,000 on the project, but suspended all work in December 2008 due to funding concerns.

Outside the Tri-Lakes, the chamber is seeking stimulus funds for a natural gas pipeline into northern Franklin County from St. Lawrence County, restoring the historic train station in Rouses Point, $1.09 million for the Plattsburgh Aeronautical Institute to buy a site at the former Clinton County Airport, restoration of the Strand Theater into a performing arts center in downtown Plattsburgh, and several pending infrastructure projects at Plattsburgh International Airport.

Douglas said the chamber has been in regular contact with U.S. Reps. Kirsten Gillibrand and John McHugh and Sen. Charles Schumer, and will continue to stay in contact with state and federal officials in the coming weeks.

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Contact Nathan Brown at (518) 891-2600 ext. 26 or nbrown@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.

 
 

 

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