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Good projects, if done right

I read John Salamy’s letter in the Tupper Lake Free Press on Dec. 29. John’s letter was well written and raised some good concerns as regards the proposal here in Tupper Lake by a group of businessmen and community members. The plan comes in four phases, focus is on the first phase for now.

It involves purchasing (1) Big Tupper Ski Area, (2) connecting snowmobile trails throughout town, (3) turning the James C. Frenette Sr. cross-country ski trails into year-round trails, (4) building 10 miles of mountain biking trails near Rock Island Bay at the south end of Tupper Lake, and (5) irrigating the lower six holes of the Tupper Lake Golf Course. Total estimated cost is $928,000. Personally, I believe that all five5 proposed projects are worthwhile for our town. Some of these very same proposals were discussed by the town board in the late 1990s and very early 2000s.

John wants to know when and if the residents will have a say in the borrowing of the $928,000. He suggests that the town of Tupper Lake hold a vote on this borrowing.

Having served as town supervisor for 18 years, I do know that the town can’t hold a vote to simply gauge public opinion. The town board, however, does have the authority to hold a vote on the financing of phase 1 of the project by passing a resolution to borrow up to $928,000 to accomplish the proposal over a set number of years.

Once authorization to borrow is finalized, the amount of borrowing is subject to a permissive referendum. The referendum can be accomplished by two ways. First is by a petition put forth properly by any resident within the boundary of the town of Tupper Lake. The petition would be required to have a minimum amount of signatures necessary based upon a percent of the number of voters who voted in the 2020 election. The second and simplest way is by a resolution of the town board to hold a public referendum on the borrowing.

The date and time of the referendum are set by the town’s resolution. The board and group proposing the projects should hold a public hearing prior to the referendum. The board should be able to provide a cost out of each project as to how it will impact taxes on homes here. They’ll also have the ability to provide information as to the positive economic benefits that borrowing and investing $928,000 will have on Tupper Lake’s economy.

I agree with Mr. Salamy that I don’t see the need to hire the Development Authority of the North Country to do a study as to what impact these proposed projects will provide. I believe the town board should try to save money by instead asking the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency to provide the service at no cost to Tupper Lake’s taxpayers. I am not sure exactly what percent of taxes we pay to our county, but I am positive that it is way more than sufficient for the county IDA to do this for Tupper Lake. Remember, what benefits Tupper Lake financially also benefits Franklin County.

To town Councilman John Quinn: Mr. Quinn, I know that you’ve bad-mouthed me every chance you get, whether it’s at your hunting camp or elsewhere, for selling Big Tupper in 1987. It was simply a business decision that needed to be made, and we made it. When we sold Big Tupper in 1987, we sold it for $550,000, or double its appraised value at the time. The problem was that previous town boards through the 1960s right up into the ’80s made investments in the ski area that simply became debt. The town had reached a point where in some instances that debt wasn’t being paid down and only the interest was being paid. So when we sold the property, there was more owed on it than we received from its sale. You recently stated that you opposed the town making improvements to trails, etc., on land that it didn’t own. I believe you may have already done that; however, I could be mistaken. But one thing that I know for a fact is that my predecessor as supervisor, and as a councilman, invested hundreds of thousands of dollars at the Big Tupper Ski Area on lands that the town didn’t own but leased. These lands had to be purchased from the two landowners, OWD Corp. and Litchfield Park, before we sold Big Tupper after more than 25 years of being leased.

Now having criticized me for years, here’s an opportunity for you to get back in the ski business, especially since you believe the board and I were so wrong all those years ago. Step up to the plate, Councilman, and if you can obtain the ski area for $130,000 — heck, even $200,000 — it’s a steal. Remember, if it doesn’t work out again, you can always sell it as we did. You can’t lose; the value of the land alone on which Big Tupper sits has got to be worth that, if not more.

I suggest that you pass separate resolutions for each of the five projects proposed in phase 1. The estimates are there for each of the five projects totaling $928,000 for these worthwhile projects. Put each of the five projects up separately at the referendum. Let the public decide which projects they proceed with and pay for.

Supervisor Littlefield made a comment earlier this past fall, when discussing the Confederate flag, about only having to actually vote on issues brought before the board when it’s a tie vote. She is totally wrong on that. What she said applies to village mayors and not town supervisors. The supervisor, as chief fiscal officer of the town, is required to vote on each and every issue that comes before the board for a vote. The town supervisor is obligated to vote yea or nay with no abstentions. I could be mistaken, but I think not. So please check with the New York State Association of Towns and stop misleading the public. Let’s be honest with the taxpayers.

Finally, and for the record, I personally support these five projects being approved. I also believe that they are economically affordable to our community when financed properly over a lengthy amount of time.

Dean D. Lefebvre lives in Tupper Lake.

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