LAKE PLACID - J. Patrick Barrett sat at the head of the table Tuesday morning as the new chairman of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority board.
Barrett, a North Country native, steps into the position after the state Senate unanimously confirmed Joe Martens as the new commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation earlier this month.
The transition was made without much discussion, aside from a few words of congratulations.
J. Patrick Barrett, left, the new chairman of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, poses with former chairman Joe Martens after an ORDA board meeting Tuesday morning.
(Photo for the Enterprise — Eric Voorhis)
"I'd like to thank Joe Martens for the great job he did," Barrett said, "and I'd like to congratulate him on his new position with the DEC. ... The nice thing about this transition is that he'll still be on the board."
Martens will remain on ORDA's board as a representative of the DEC.
"I still believe in this institution, and it's great to have you at the helm," Martens told Barrett.
The final word on Barrett's appointment from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office hadn't been received as of Tuesday, "but it's on the way," said ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin after the meeting. "It'll probably come in this afternoon, or tomorrow."
Cuomo happened to be in the area Tuesday with his daughters, who were skiing at the ORDA-run Whiteface Mountain Ski Area.
Barrett was the chairman of ORDA for seven months in 2006 before Martens took over that same year, appointed by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
Barrett also led the state Republican committee from 1989 to 1991, but last year, he sat as one of Cuomo's four campaign co-chairs leading up to the Democratic governor's election into office.
"I'm proud to serve this board," Barrett said.
The Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, a local-government advocacy group for the region, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon supporting Barrett and ORDA.
"(ORDA) is a vital economic engine for the Adirondack Region that helps to attracts millions in tourism dollars to our fragile economy," the statement reads. "Governor Cuomo clearly understands the importance of ORDA and in Pat Barrett he has made the right choice for Chairmanship of the authority."
A good winter
Tuesday's meeting was generally positive as ORDA CEO and President Ted Blazer went through a report to the board. After a big marketing push outlined in September's board meeting, Blazer said ORDA's budget is "right on track" despite severe budget cuts from the state and some reductions in staff. The authority will likely break even this year, he said.
"We did what we're good at this winter - events," Blazer said, going over a long list of events and competitions held this winter. Aside from those held locally, Blazer mentioned Winter Jam NYC, an annual Brooklyn-based event sponsored by the New York City Parks Department and ORDA.
"It's where we need to be to get exposure in the metro area," Blazer said.
Along with visitors from metro areas to the south, markets in Canada have improved this winter, Blazer said.
Statistics from Whiteface show that 633 percent more visitors have come from the Toronto area, along with a 387-percent increase from Montreal.
"This is a market we're working hard to tap into," Blazer said.
Even though Whiteface had some issues, with severe wind and lift malfunctions that led to frequent closures on certain sections of the mountain, the amount of natural snow made for a great winter, Blazer said. In the first week of March, Skiinfo.com reported that Whiteface piled up 155 centimeters of snow, more than any other resort in the world for that seven-day period.
A new snow-tubing facility at ORDA's ski jumping facility was also effective this winter, according to Blazer.
"It's been incredibly cost-effective," he said. "The staff really pulled together to make that happen, and we appreciate it."
Chandeliers were being installed in the new Conference Center at Lake Placid on Tuesday morning, Construction Manager Janet Kibben said in a report to the board. She said the $18 million project is still running on time and on budget, scheduled to open its doors in May.
"We have about 60 contractors working right now," Kibben said.
Once wiring, ventilation and fire-safety equipment above the ceilings are installed, carpets will go down as early as next week. The building will then be inspected, and an occupancy permit is scheduled to be issued in April.
Blazer said there are already two large groups coming to the convention center in May and three more in June. Some of the groups include Kinney Drugs, the Civil Service Employees Association, the New York State Snowmobilers Association and the Association of Dam Safety Officials, Blazer said.
"There's going to be about 200 of these dam guys," he joked.
Blazer said the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau has been showing potential clients the new facility almost daily.