Vote set for Tupper Lake emergency services building

TUPPER LAKE – Village board members put the wheels in motion Friday morning for a referendum on constructing a new emergency services building.

The board held a special meeting to approve a bond resolution for the project. The resolution allows the village to spend no more than $4.5 million on the building, but it lets the village borrow no more than $3.2 million for it. Village board members said they hope the rest will come from grants and private donations.

The board also passed a resolution setting a date for the public vote on the spending. it will be held from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, at the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library at 41 Lake St.

The resolutions lay out the details of the current project: It would include space for both the village Police Department and the Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department.

The village last week approved a letter of first refusal for the property on Santa Clara Avenue where they plan to erect the building, between the Civic Center and the former gas station at the corner of Santa Clara and Demars Boulevard.

The resolutions call for the building to be a single story one that covers about 16,000 square feet. Trustee Rick Donah said he thinks the square footage could have been reduced more, but he supported the resolutions despite that concern.

The bond resolution needed a 60 percent majority, rather than 50 percent or a simple majority.

Trustee Leon LeBlanc echoed his sentiments, saying that he knows the fire department has a lot of apparatus that needs to be included in the new building.

“But 16,000 square feet? That’s a lot,” LeBlanc said.

Village Mayor Paul Maroun said he’d like to see the cost reduced as well.

Donah said he’s also concerned about costs going over their current projections. Maroun noted there’s some money in the current plan for overages, but Donah said he wasn’t comfortable with the amount.

Donah said he’s heard from a number of taxpayers who are worried about the cost of the project, and he said he wants to make sure the village does everything it can to keep the price down.

LeBlanc said he wants to see the full plans for the building before giving it final approval, noting there were no plans on the table at the Friday meeting.

LeBlanc said he’s heard a mix of support from taxpayers.

“There’s a lot in favor; there’s a lot not in favor,” LeBlanc said. “I’m scared of the dollar signs that’s up here.”

Despite concerns, Donah said he is happy in general with the planning process until now.

“I think the process was successful in getting this project set up,” Donah said.

Maroun noted that Donah has pushed to bring the effort to this point. The fire and police departments have been in need of new facilities for years, and every effort in the past has stalled before getting anywhere.

But Donah has pushed for an intelligent, up-front process that focuses on facts rather than opinions, Maroun said.

“He’s really been the spark behind this,” Maroun said.

Carl Steffen, who was elected chief of the fire department at the department’s annual elections Thursday night, told village board members at their Friday meeting his department is definitely in need of a building where it can keep all of its equipment in the same place.

He said the department will work with the village and the Emergency Services Building Committee to see if any more space can be cut out from the plans. He said firefighters aren’t trying to rake taxpayers over the coals; their goal is to be available to help residents of Tupper Lake.

The village will pay the people who normally watch the polls for county-run elections to do so for this vote as well. Only people who were registered to vote in the village for last November’s general elections will be allowed to vote in May on the project.

If the referendum passes, the village could be ready to issue bonds for the project by May 29.

At $3.2 million, Maroun said the debt would mean an estimated $142,880 payments each year for the life of the bond. He expects to get $35,000 from the town of Santa Clara for fire protection. That would mean Tupper Lakers would be responsible for about $107,000 a year, which would work out to about 24 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, Maroun said.

He said any donations or grants that come in in excess of $1.3 million would be taken off that price.

Donah said a grant writer from Heuber Breuer, the company the village hired to take it through a feasibility study and the referendum process, has been in touch with the federal government about money for the project. He said she believes the village will be eligible for some money, but he hasn’t seen anything in writing yet.

Trustee David “Haji” Maroun, who is also captain of the fire department’s Company No. 2, said he talked with many of his fellow firefighters at Thursday night’s annual dinner and elections, and he said they are planning several fundraisers. They hope to contribute around $10,000 toward the building, he said.

“They’re all about seeing what they can do to get money for the fire station,” he said. “This is a big step for the whole community. It’s a big step for us to move on.”

The village has already received $170 in private donations from members of the public who wanted to support the project. Board members noted those came in without asking for any donations.

Steffen said Picerno and Cole will remain on the building committee, since they have put so much work into the project already.

The Emergency Services Building Committee plans to hold a final public forum two weeks before the vote. It is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, at the library.

Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or