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School board weighs in on ORDA construction

LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Central School Board of Education has thrown its support behind upcoming construction projects along Cummings Road, with some conditions.

The school board adopted a resolution Tuesday backing the state Olympic Regional Development Authority’s improvement plans near the Lake Placid Middle-High School, which include the construction of a “spectator tunnel” that will run beneath Cummings Road, connecting the ice rink complex to the Olympic Speedskating Oval; and a possible parking garage on land currently owned by the district and used by faculty for parking.

But the resolution also says the district will adhere to restrictions on the lease and sale of land outlined in New York state education law.

“Ultimately, the devil is going to be in the details,” said school board member Bryan Liam Kennelly.

School board President Richard Preston said there have been rumors circulating about the proposed parking garage in particular.

At the school board’s meeting Tuesday, he said he heard a lot of feedback after the Adirondack Daily Enterprise published an article outlining what was publicly known at the time about ORDA’s plans to close a portion of Cummings Road for approximately six months, as the authority works on the spectator tunnel.

Preston confirmed that the school district has been told that the upcoming construction on Cummings Road isn’t expected to impact its faculty parking lot, nor the student lot located further down the road. The lots will still be accessible from Wesvalley Road.

But Preston said ORDA has offered to purchase the faculty lot, which is located directly behind the Olympic Center. However, the school district isn’t authorized to sell it, he said, citing state education law that restricts the sale of properties currently being used.

The district will also adhere to restrictions outlined in state education law if ORDA chooses to lease the land, according to Preston.

“My intent with (proposing the resolution) was to let the public know that we have their best interest in mind, and we will be following state education law, which is very specific on how the school can lease property,” he said. “There were a lot of rumors floating around, and I thought it was time to make our position known.”

‘Good neighbors’

The portion of education law cited by the school board in its resolution says that school officials can adopt a resolution to accept a lease agreement “providing that specific real property of such district is not currently needed for school district purposes and that the leasing of such real property is in the best interest of the school district.”

The law requires that the rental payment outlined in the lease not be less than “the fair market rental value as determined by the board of education,” that the term of the lease not be more than 10 years, and that after the lease is terminated renter is required to restore the property to its “original condition less ordinary depreciation.”

If the school board wants to lease the property for more than 10 years, that’s subject to a voter referendum.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity here,” school board member Jeffrey Brownell said of ORDA’s plans. “That’s why we as a board want to have a framework, so five years down the road some other board isn’t sitting here wondering what’s happening.”

The school district owns the faculty parking lot behind the Olympic Center. The ownership of the Olympic Speedskating Oval is more complicated. When it was built ahead of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, replacing the district’s athletic fields, the land ownership was split between the state, the town of North Elba and the school district.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Olympic Center General Manager Terry Buczkowski told the school board. “You’re good neighbors to us. Whether it be the entirety of the project, or in short form Cummings Road, the oval or the parking garage, it will be the details that we will need to work on. We’re being as transparent as possible. In the end, it’s going to be a benefit to yourselves, the community and the taxpayer, as well as ORDA athletes. As long as we keep our focus and our eyes on that, we can work through it together.”

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