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Public shouldn’t be exiled on Main Street

We are disappointed in the Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees for not holding a hearing or seeking any other kind of input from the public at large before voting to solicit construction bids for a huge overhaul of Main Street downtown.

The $8 million price tag, mostly paid by state grants, is nowhere near the biggest impact of this project. It will tear up Main Street for most of two years, reducing it to one-way traffic. It will rearrange on-street parking, and some store owners worry it will reduce the overall number of spots.

On a project of this magnitude for a village this size, the board would do well to listen to the people who elected them. The mayor and other leaders drew up these plans without any broad public input, and since last fall, at least, they had versions of the plan ready to show a hand-picked task force — their only attempt at a sounding board. That task force, as it turned out, had some big problems with the plan, and it was adjusted in response. For instance, the road will now be restored to normal traffic in July and August of both years.

But while that task force had business people, what about downtown workers and apartment dwellers, or residents of neighborhoods where traffic would detour? We imagine some of those people’s input might make this plan better.

The village board had plenty of time to solicit feedback, but now it’s too late to make changes.

It seems that, legally, village board members don’t have to hold a public hearing. Sure, people elected them to make big decisions like this, but those constituents expect those decisions to made through a civic process in which they feel heard. If they feel board members don’t trust them enough to let them speak in public on this topic, they may lose trust in those board members. Mayor Craig Randall, at least, is term-limited and cannot run for reelection, but what about the other four board members?

Don’t get us wrong; on balance, we support this project. The benefits go far beyond new pavement, curbs and streetscape design. More importantly, this will replace old water pipes as well as an old storm drain system that allows far too much road salt an other pollutants into Mirror Lake. This beautiful body of water, around which the village is built, is damaged. The Ausable River Association’s scientific studies show that high salt content could keep the lake from supporting trout and other animals and plants in the future.

Yet while we support the project, we think the process should have been more open.

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