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Tupper Lake mayoral candidates pitch different directions for the village

TUPPER LAKE — Tupper Lake’s two mayoral candidates disagree on the direction they believe the village needs to go in.

Eric Shaheen, a local businessman, is running on the Republican and Conservative lines on a platform of a change in direction, saying the village government needs to refocus on lowering taxes. Mayor Paul Maroun is running on the Independence line to keep the village on the path it’s been on, one he believes is already going in the right direction.

Shaheen says Maroun has had 11 years as mayor and he believes it’s time for someone new to lead the village. He called Maroun a “lifetime politician” and referred to himself as a “businessman.”

“I know what the real world’s all about,” Shaheen said. “(The village) should be ran as a business.”

Maroun said the job is an all-day job.

“It’s not just 8 (a.m.) to 4 (p.m.),” he said.

Maroun said he hopes voters like the direction the village is going and want to stay the course.

“When I think that I don’t have something to contribute to the community of Tupper Lake and the citizens I won’t run again,” Maroun said.

He said businesses are doing well despite the coronavirus pandemic, developers are building hotels in the village and there are several new and upcoming attractions to town, including the Riverpigs baseball team and Tupper Lake Bandshell.

Shaheen said he wants to bring change to the village but he’s not yet certain what, specifically, he wants to change.

“It’s hard to say until I get in there,” Shaheen said. “You don’t get the real picture until you’re there.”

But he said the village is in “tough shape” financially.

“Spend, spend, spend,” he said.

He’s not sure if he would cut anything as mayor, though.

The village budget went over its state-imposed tax cap for the first time ever this year. Maroun said this was inevitable. He says the village needs to build and maintain its infrastructure, but as prices of materials, machinery and health insurance go up at rates in the double and triple digits, staying below the single-digit cap gets harder.

Maroun said the village can’t afford to cut anything — it’s all important.

Tourism

Both agree on one thing: Tupper Lake depends on tourism.

“Tourism is the economic engine for Tupper Lake,” Maroun said.

He said tourism replaced the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities’ Sunmount facility as the main economic driver for the village.

Shaheen said one of his main goals is to bring more tourism here.

He said Tupper Lake has one of the nicest cross-country ski trails and golf courses in the North Country. He said he would love the Big Tupper Ski Area to open back up, but he wouldn’t want it to be a burden on the taxpayers.

Shaheen said Tupper Lake’s attractions need to be marketed better and that the village should only concentrate on expansion within its reach.

Maroun said in recent years Tupper Lake has put a “new face” on itself.

“People who want to keep it the way it was 20 years ago and people who don’t want to follow the law, and people who don’t want to help Tupper Lake shouldn’t be in office, because they’re going to drag Tupper Lake down,” Maroun said.

Shaheen said Maroun takes credit for Tupper Lake’s successes, even when he wasn’t involved in them. He said Maroun fought the rail-trail, wanting the trains to go all the way to Lake Placid.

“Now he takes credit for it,” Shaheen said.

Maroun said his position on the rail-trail changed over time. The compromise will make Tupper Lake a “hub,” he said.

Maroun said the village brought baseball back to Tupper Lake with the Riverpigs professional baseball team. The Oval Wood Dish property was recently purchased by investors who plan to convert the abandoned factory into an apartment complex and business center. The Municipal Park on the shore of Raquette Pond has been developed in recent years with a bandshell, a playground, a little league field and improvements to the Riverpigs field.

He said getting these things done is challenging. They require permits, designs, studies, grants and construction.

Riverpigs and diversity

Both candidates said they love the Riverpigs.

“I don’t think there’s a more diverse community right now because of the baseball league, anywhere in the Park,” Maroun said.

Shaheen was asked about a sign in the street-facing window of his 195 Park St. property.

“If you’re not pissed that illegals are being given what you worked your whole life for then you must not have worked for it either,” the sign reads.

Shaheen was asked if this sign discourages people from visiting here, particularly Riverpigs players. Some of the players come from countries where many immigrants to the U.S. come from, both documented and undocumented.

“I worked my ass off for everything I have,” Shaheen said. “I’m 100% behind this country. I stand behind my flag. I’m a true-hearted American.”

He said the sign means “nothing’s free in this world.”

COVID

Some people in Tupper Lake, including Shaheen, did not like Maroun’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and regulations, many of which were mandated by the state.

In November 2020, Shaheen wrote in a Facebook post that Maroun, who is also a Franklin County legislator, should not have mandated mask-wearing in Franklin County.

“I know that there are a lot people mad at me,” Maroun said.

He said Tupper Lake was fortunate in that there were few COVID-19-related deaths. But that was because rules were enforced for stores, bars, restaurants and businesses, he said.

He said he took an oath to protect the citizens of the village.

“The mayor is the guardian of Tupper Lake,” Maroun said.

Maroun said he was born here, bred here and is probably going to die here. He said he wants to leave Tupper Lake a better community than he found it.

Shaheen said he’s been a businessman for years and seen his company, E&M Enterprises General Contracting, through ups and downs. He wants to bring a new perspective to the village and see it into the future.

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