TUPPER LAKE - The town board voted 3-2 to ask the state to open up the unit management plan for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor.
Town Supervisor Roger Amell, who generally only votes in the case of a rare tie, cast the deciding vote, and he asked the few townspeople in the audience at the meeting how to vote before making his final decision.
Two members of the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, who were the ones who requested the resolution be put before the board, and two members of the Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club all encouraged Amell to vote in favor of the resolution.
Town Councilwoman Kathy Lefebvre and Councilman David Tomberlin have both been ardent supporters of the railroad, and they have both been integral to the local group Next Stop Tupper Lake, which is pushing to renovate the rails while building a recreational trail next to it.
A few years ago, the group raised enough money, volunteer labor and materials to build a replica of the old train depot that the entire Junction neighborhood of Tupper Lake grew up around, on the site of the original, and the group is now fundraising and seeking ways to rehab the current tracks and build a trail next to it.
Lefebvre and Tomberlin both voted against the resolution, as have many other rail supporters. Tomberlin argued against opening up the UMP, saying that the board doesn't have all the information it needs.
He noted that Next Stop is hosting an event in two weeks, where the group plans to have representatives from the state departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation, the Adirondack Park Agency and other involved agencies, as well as shop-owners from Saranac Lake. He encouraged his fellow board members to attend that, and to postpone voting on that resolution until after it.
But Councilwoman Patti Littlefield said that the current UMP has expired and it's time to look at it again.
She said her vote was not a vote in favor of keeping the railroad, it's just good management practice to take a look that something that hasn't been examined in years, and that expired almost a decade ago.
"This UMP isn't about whether anyone likes or dislikes the railroad," Littlefield said.
"What are you afraid of?" asked Hope Frenette, one of the ARTA members who asked the resolution go before the board.
Tomberlin said the DOT has said they won't change the corridor's use, so he doesn't see the point of spending the time with the UMP.
Littlefield said many of the people involved in the public debate over the corridor have said the state holds one position or another, but the final decision is up to them, so they should go through their process of public hearings and gathering input from all the parties involved.
"It would be nice to know where they stand officially on it in writing," Littlefield said. "We are all just guessing."
After he cast his vote, Amell said he doesn't think reviewing the UMP will hurt Next Stop's programs. He said he hopes even more towns and villages will get on board with the request and the state follows through.
"We need to focus on economic development," Littlefield said.
After the vote, Lefebvre said, "I think we're going to be OK."