Town board talks ORDA seat selection

LAKE PLACID – The North Elba town board is discussing how it wants to handle two of its appointments to the state Olympic Regional Development Authority Board of Directors.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Councilman Derek Doty noted that one of its appointments to ORDA’s board is currently expired, and another will expire at year’s end. Ed Weibrecht is currently serving in a holdover capacity, and Sergei Lussi’s term runs out on Dec. 31. The term of Jerry Strack, also appointed by the town, expires in 2014.

North Elba gets to appoint three people to ORDA’s board since it contributes about $750,000 annually to the authority’s budget.

“I’m not suggesting that we incorporate a change,” Doty said. “There’s two situations. One is board representation, the other is board appointments. I strongly feel that at least one of our three appointed positions should be held by a (town) board member.”

Several town board members serve as “liaisons” to the ORDA board, attending meetings and communicating concerns or other issues the town might have.

“As a liaison, you’re just not privy to all the inside information that’s very helpful, like structure of budgets, revenue flow that ORDA goes through,” Doty said. “I just believe our relationship with ORDA could be much stronger with a sitting board member.

“The other thing that ties ORDA with us is revenues and the depletion of revenues. We know, because of the 2 percent property tax cap, our ability to raise more money in our park district and pay this annual $750,000 a year, is crippling us. It’s no different on their side of the fence. Their revenues have dried up from the state. We’re both fighting the same battle.”

Doty said the town could help ORDA pursue new ways to bring in revenue, like a proposed zipline at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex. He said there could be other locations within the park district to build a zipline.

“It’s a way to augment our revenues and not go to the tax base for it,” Doty said.

Supervisor Roby Politi said he’s concerned that including a town board member on ORDA’s board would create conflicts of interest.

“We are giving them money and have contractual agreements with them, and yet we would also be on the Board of Directors,” he said. “I don’t know whether you can do that.”

“Well, you’d be serving two separate masters,” the town’s attorney, Ron Briggs, said. “You’d have fiduciary duties to each board. If there was a conflict between what’s in the best interest (of either board), you’d have a problem.”

Doty stressed that regardless of whether a town board member is selected as one of the appointees, a decision needs to be made soon since Weibrecht’s term has already expired. Politi said he has received resumes “from a number of interested community members.”

Councilman Bob Miller said he wants to hear from the community before the board makes a decision.

“We need to have options here so we can make good decisions,” he said.

Politi said Weibrecht, Lussi and Strack have served well.

“I don’t want to insinuate, in any way because it’s not the case, that the people who are there we are replacing for any reason,” Politi said. “We may not replace them – that’s not the issue. The issue is their terms have expired; we need to either appoint or reappoint, that’s the discussion.”

Councilman Jay Rand, the former manager of Whiteface Mountain Ski Center, said Weibrecht and Lussi have done a “remarkably good job.

“They know the business, they know the industry – they’ve got great experience,” Rand said.

“Jerry, too,” Politi added.

Politi said the board will set a date to decide on ORDA appointments. The topic is expected to be on the board’s June agenda.

The town board’s appointments are subject to legislative approval.

Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or