Mayor questions three DRI grant applicants that are ‘confidential’

Jaclyn Hakes, director of planning services for M.J. Engineering and Land Surveying, reads the goals and strategies for achieving “prosperity” through the DRI grant in front of the Local Planning Committee in the Harrietstown Town Hall on Thursday. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

SARANAC LAKE — Of the final 63 project proposals seeking funds from a $10 million state grant package for downtown Saranac Lake, three are “confidential” with their information undisclosed to the public.

These three proposals for funding released neither the sponsor’s information nor their project details to the Saranac Lake Local Planning Committee, a body made up of village government representatives, private business owners and community leaders, at Thursday’s meeting who help administer the Downtown Revitalization Initiative grants.

The state’s deadline to apply for DRI grants is not until Dec. 14, but the village, in an effort to be ahead of the game, set its own advance deadline of Nov. 2. Village Community Development Director Jamie Konkoski said these three applicants were not yet ready to go public by then and were about to withdraw from grant consideration, but she decided to let them be confidential for a few weeks longer, closer to the official state deadline.

Konkoski, the state and a hired assessing firm know who these applicants are, but the public does not. The projects were designated as projects B45, B46 and B47.

(Correction: Information has been corrected and added in the prior two paragraphs.)

“We have all the information about the locations and the project sponsors,” Jaclyn Hakes, director of planning services for M.J. Engineering and Land Surveying, the head firm assessing project proposals said Thursday at a Local Planning Committee meeting. “They (the sponsors of the projects) are in negotiations right now to purchase property and they did not want to jeopardize any of those negotiations by having the projects go public.”

“You can’t submit for grant funding without public disclosure in my book. I mean, it’s a no go,” Mayor Clyde Rabideau said.

“Definitely by the end of the month,” Konkoski said of when that information would be released. “The next meeting.”

The committee meets next on Dec. 11.

Barbara Kendall, part of the New York Department of State delegation overseeing and liaising with the village during the DRI process, said that undisclosed projects do have a precedent in the DRI process. Kendall said that by December, when the preliminary project list is drafted, the projects and sponsors will have been disclosed.

The estimated cost of all 63 DRI proposals is $34.7 million, asking for a total of $23.8 million from the DRI. The DOS suggests that localities submit $15 million worth of projects — because despite only a little under $10 million being funded by the grant, projects can fall through in the later stages of the process.

These numbers are based on estimates submitted by the sponsors of these proposals, and vary in the amount of DRI funding sought.

“Some projects may be asking for 80 percent DRI funding; some might be asking for 20,” Hakes said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that one that’s asking for 20 percent elevates up to a priority project.”

Before December’s meeting, the LPC and the assessing team will have finished the downtown profile for Saranac Lake — a document submitted to the state broadly outlining the condition of Saranac Lake downtown, trends and what its needs and priorities are.

The committee made changes to the DRI grant boundary, worked on finalizing the DRI vision statement, drafted the goals and strategies of the DRI grant and discussed next steps.

The DRI program, now in its third year, is an initiative by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration to stimulate communities around the state by awarding $100 million to 10 communities for economic development. Communities draft and submit project proposals, both public and private, in a six-month process, submitting the finalized list to the state for approval and funding.

In total, 63 projects from Saranac Lake were submitted for DRI funding by the village’s Nov. 2 deadline. Fourteen are public projects, one is a grant and loan project, and a single project is categorized as branding and marketing. The remaining 48 are private projects.

To find out more

The DRI team will host two open house sessions in the Hotel Saranac next week on Thursday, Nov. 15 from 4 to 8 p.m., and on Friday, Nov. 16 from 9 a.m. to noon. During that time, the DRI team will also hold stakeholder meetings with parties relevant to the DRI proposal projects and the area.

The DRI team will also be staffing pop-up stations, tentatively scheduled to appear in the future at Tops and Nori’s grocery stores, the Saranac Lake Free Library and Origin Coffee among other popular spaces. Hakes said there will also be “boots on the ground” community engagement in the future with representatives walking the streets.

At the meeting

The meeting began with a partial reading off the LPC code of conduct, with three-quarters of the LPC having signed it already, according to Kendall.

“The members of the DRI Local Planning Committee must always serve and act in the public interest,” Kendall said, “Regardless of their affiliation with or relationship to any business, municipality, non-for-profit, agency, program, entity or interest group.”

The boundary of the DRI proposal map was amended to extend around Prescott and Riverfront Park between River Street and Lake Flower. A proposal has been submitted for the location, but the boundary previously bisected the park.

The amended DRI Saranac Lake vision statement was debuted at the meeting, reworked to include language from the LPC at last month’s meeting.

“A carefully executed strategic plan for downtown Saranac Lake will provide sustainable opportunities to enhance the quality of life for residents, expand business opportunities, and support a thriving and resilient community,” states the conclusion of the vision statement.

The statement will be finalized and released in full by Tuesday of next week, Hakes said.

Next, the goals and strategies were workshopped. Prosperity, urban design and livability, along with strategies for achieving these goals, were floated past the LPC for comment. LPC members suggested that language be added to make sure developments and enhancements benefit people of all economic levels, support existing cultural events and work to improve the aesthetics and appeal of the whole downtown area — rather than just it’s most heavily trafficked areas.

The next DRI meeting will take place on Dec. 11 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Harrietstown Town Hall auditorium.