SARANAC LAKE - Village trustees debated Tuesday whether to send Community Development Director Jeremy Evans on a North Country Community College-sponsored trip to Boston to study ways to better connect the college to downtown.
Trustee Allie Pelletieri was initially opposed to the trip, saying he thinks Evans has too much work to do in the village. He cited the recent resignation of Code Enforcement Officer Tom Worthington.
"At this time, we're short one person in the office," Pelletieri said. "The second reason is, at no time since I've been a trustee have I ever heard or seen that that Community Development office has been slow on work or they have nothing to do. Usually it's been just the opposite, that Jeremy can't get caught up on the workload he has."
Pelletieri said he hadn't been given any report after Evans took a similar college-sponsored trip in February. He suggested NCCC President Steve Tyrell meet with the village board to give "a rough draft of what he's looking to do before we send our representative down there.
"He might have some plans that we're not in favor of at all," Pelletieri said.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau said he appreciated Pelletieri's comments, calling him a "meat and potatoes guy," but he said the college-town concept NCCC officials are pursuing has "huge potential for the village." Rabideau said he also traveled with Evans to Boston in February.
The mayor agreed that Evans is "stretched out in many ways ... but there are so many irons in the fire for Saranac Lake and he's our go-to guy. He has to travel for all these opportunities that are in front of Saranac Lake."
Rabideau also agreed that the board, as a whole, deserves more information about the college's plans and asked Evans to reach out to Tyrell to make a presentation to the board.
Trustee Paul Van Cott said he supported the travel request.
"I think the efforts by Steve Tyrell and North Country Community College to promote this college-town concept and bring more of the college into downtown is great," he said. "I'm glad that Jeremy is making the trip. I think it's got a lot of potential for us."
In addition to the planned Oct. 28-29 trip to Boston, Evans sought board approval to attend a rural planning workshop in Lima, south of Rochester, from Oct. 25 to 27. Evans' travel expenses for that trip would be covered by AdkAction.org.
When the two trips came up for a vote, Pelletieri voted with the rest of the board to approve them both. Trustee Barbara Rice was absent.
Asked after the meeting about the Boston trip, Tyrell told the Enterprise that the college-town initiative was launched by his predecessor, former NCCC President Carol Brown. He said colleges too often are "insulated on a hill" and the goal of the initiative is to find ways to bring the college into downtown while also helping with municipal revitalization.
The college has hired a consulting firm, The Education Alliance of Natick, Mass., to identify possible projects, and find investors to create those projects, that would benefit the college and the village. Tyrell said the first phase of the effort, compiling and analyzing the area's demographics, is complete. He said the consultants have identified roughly a dozen projects that could be considered, including an entertainment-based bookstore, a concierge service and "later-life" or senior housing.
Tyrell said the consultants are now preparing a request for qualifications for potential investors in these projects. The RFQ will first be circulated locally, then distributed around the country, Tyrell explained. He said the college and the village would get to vet all the projects before the RFQ is released.
As for the trip later this month, Tyrell said college and village officials would meet with the consultants to review projects, provide them with additional feedback and visit the site of similar projects The Education Alliance has worked on with community colleges in the Boston area.
Tyrell said he would be willing to meet with the board to further outline the college-town concept it's pursuing.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or email@example.com.