LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid village Board of Trustees and the North Elba town board held a rare joint meeting Monday evening to document and update the numerous shared-service agreements that exist between the municipalities.
The only testy moment came during a discussion about the Mirror Lake beach.
The 90-minute-plus meeting was generally lighthearted as trustees and councilmen discussed a list of areas where the village and town have unwritten agreements to provide each other with services on things like sidewalk and road maintenance, code enforcement, buildings and public transportation.
The North Elba town board and Lake Placid village Board of Trustees discuss shared-service agreements at a joint meeting Monday evening.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
"Over the years, we've had numerous agreements about shared services, many of which are long out of date," town Supervisor Roby Politi said. "It does appear as though it would be prudent to memorialize our partnerships, our joint ventures. I believe the fundamental goal of this process would be to make the agreements in the best interest of the community."
Village Mayor Craig Randall said many of the agreements between the town and village are "embedded in our culture." Some of the agreements have been included in the minutes of board meetings, but Randall said it can be difficult to find that information quickly.
Before the meeting started, Politi stressed that reviewing the agreements wasn't about keeping score.
"I know that Craig feels a need to have certain things done a certain way, and I'd like to try to move toward some contractual agreements where the village provides services and the town provides services in return for other services," Politi said.
Politi made it clear that the town needs help paying for maintenance and upkeep at the Mirror Lake beach, which falls under the scope of the North Elba Park District. The district includes many Olympic venues, and in recent years it was expanded to include all of the village parks, including the beach.
The cost of running the beach has become a problem for the town, Politi said.
"We have no problem with maintaining and caring for all of the parks, (but) it has become difficult to swallow having to pay for lifeguards, bathing suits, life buoys, toilet paper, the telephone - personally, I don't think it was ever intended that the park district would be in that business," he said. "There's a hell of a lot of work involved."
The park district doesn't have a revenue source other than property taxes, Politi noted. The town can't use sales tax revenue to pay for the beach because it has to put that money into the highway fund - one of the few departments that doesn't overlap with the village. According to state law, sales tax revenue can't go to an account that is attached to both village and town taxes.
Politi said the budget for care and maintenance of parks is about $80,000, and the beach takes up about $40,000 of that.
"I just think that those agreements in the past don't make any sense today," Politi said. "I would like to see the village become a stakeholder and take care of the beach."
Village trustees Peter Holderied and Zay Curtis both noted that villagers pay taxes to the park district. Curtis said the town could raise taxes to pay for the beach, although Politi didn't like that idea. Holderied then noted the village would have to raise taxes if it took on greater responsibility for the beach.
Other park district facilities, like the airport, toboggan and golf course, generate revenue that can be used for upkeep. Randall said there could be a charge to use the beach, although he didn't think officials would like that idea.
The boards eventually agreed to review a breakdown of the costs associated with the beach before taking any action.
The rest of the meeting went smoothly. Both boards said they were happy to let department heads from the town and village work out shared-service agreements on their own as long as automatically renewable contracts are written and put in place. If a board wants to terminate a contract, it would be required to notify the other board six months in advance due to differences in fiscal calendars.
At the end of the meeting, Holderied asked if the town would ever consider letting the village take over the highway department. North Elba town attorney Ron Briggs said he thinks that, by law, there must be a town highway department.
"We can check it," Briggs said.
Politi said it would make sense to share those services.
Village Treasurer Peggy Mousaw also recommended that the boards consider sharing the same accounting system.