TUPPER LAKE - The village board voted last week to move forward with a committee to advise the state and village about the reconstruction of Routes 3 and 30, despite the concerns of a village resident.
The village was awarded a grant from the state Department of Transportation to fund the project. More than a mile of highway between the Mercy Living Center nursing home and the intersection with MacLaughlin Avenue would be reconstructed, replacing the pavement, drainage, curb, sidewalk and retaining walls along the way.
Mayor Paul Maroun said he'd also like to replace the village water and sewer lines along that route.
"I'd like to make the digs (for the water and sewer lines) before the project starts and get that done so the village doesn't have to pay to repave that whole thing," Maroun said. "We'll open it, patch it, and they'll come in when the big project is done and repave that whole section for us."
Committee members will make recommendations to the village board regarding what the finished project could look like. Their recommendations will include the aesthetics of things like lighting, landscaping, retaining walls, roads and sidewalks. Maroun said a DOT representative should be in Tupper Lake within the next couple of weeks to brief the newly formed committee on what the department expects.
"This is a DOT advisory committee on what the main street will look like," Maroun said. "We're going to try to make everything standard and uniform, but ultimately all decisions come back to the village board for final approval. We have to balance the looks we want versus what the state is going to allocate for us to do."
During December's village board meeting, Maroun told board members he was taking suggestions for potential committee members. Since no one submitted any names, Maroun picked the committee members himself and announced them at last week's board meeting.
Those members are village Trustee Tom Snyder, Community Appearance Committee member Monica Parent, real estate agents Robert Gillis and Jim LaValley, property owner Tom Lawson and Little Italy restauranteur Ted Desmarais. Maroun said the committee will also include someone from the town, village planning and school boards. Those people haven't been picked yet.
"I've been advised by DOT to keep it around seven or nine people," Maroun told the Enterprise. "Everybody there, with the exception of the organizations on there, owns a piece of property in the village. Some live in the village, and some don't."
At the board meeting, village resident Ron LaScala took issue with the committee members because only two of those selected, Desmarais and Snyder, reside in the village. The rest live in the town of Tupper Lake.
"If everything goes back to the village and the project, in its entirety, is in the village, why don't we have more village residents?" LaScala asked. "We need village residents involved in this project."
LaScala also noted that any "betterments" for the project - expenses that exceed the amount budgeted for - will be footed by village residents.
Maroun said people who pay village property taxes will be affected by the change and that's why they were selected.
"Most of those people are on the main street and own businesses that pay a lot of taxes," Maroun said. "They all are taxpayers to the village. To get it started, I have a committee in place. Maybe we'll put more village people in place."
Maroun later told the Enterprise that the town residents he selected will not be replaced with village residents.
"I think it's a fair mix," Maroun said. "(The project) doesn't affect that many people. The problem is, if the committee gets too big, it'll become unwieldy."
After the meeting, LaScala told the Enterprise that this problem is nothing new for the village.
"I think this decision to appoint only two residents of the village makes it clear to me that the mayor is only interested in catering to a small group of individuals and not to the people who elected him and are paying him to look out for their best interests," LaScala said. "The mayor's idea and my idea of a resident are worlds apart. The mayor thinks that because someone owns property in the village, they are a resident. It's the same issue I have with this mayor. He lives in the town, not the village."
Maroun contends that, even though he visits his aunt in the town a lot, he resides at 59 Wawbeek Ave., which is in the village. That is also the address listed under his name in the phone book.
"It's easy to shoot from the sidelines," Maroun said. "If Ron wants to get involved, just like I tell other people, he should run for office."
Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.