Tupper Lake town board divided on dam vote

TUPPER LAKE – The town board voted to sell Setting Pole Dam to ECOsponsible Inc. on Friday, but a petition might put a halt on the sale.

The vote was split, with councilmembers Jerry Fletcher and Kathleen Lefebvre voting for the sale and Patti Littlefield and John Quinn voting against it. Town Supervisor Roger Amell broke the tie by voting in favor of selling the dam.

“I wish the vote would’ve been five to zero,” Amell told the Enterprise. “But now at least it’s going back on the tax rolls. It’s going to generate about $15,000 a year in tax revenue.”

The town board agreed last month to put the 7-acre Setting Pole Dam parcel up for bid with a minimum bid of $400,000. The parcel was assessed at $436,000 last year and is currently tax-exempt.

ECOsponsible Vice President Dennis Ryan was present Oct. 11 when the board opened the company’s bid. It was the only bid the town received.

The company’s offer included $400,000 for the dam and an annual $12,000 donation for 50 years to support the town’s amateur youth sport and summer day camp program. The bid also stated that the offer was good for 10 days.

At that meeting, Littlefield and Quinn raised concerns about how much the dam is worth.

“I don’t know what the big panic is,” Littlefield told the Enterprise. “The actual assessed value is $436,000, and I wish the guy had bid $436,000, but somewhere along the line someone decided $400,000 was the minimum bid, so there we go.”

Littlefield said the process happened too quickly and the town should pay for an appraisal to determine its full value.

“I’m not against selling the dam; I think it’s the right thing to do I just don’t like the process of it,” Littlefield said. “He’s the only bidder, and the only notice went in the local paper. I’m against it. In the end, I think we’re going to end up with a petition to put it out for referendum, which John (Quinn) and I both suggested the town should take a lead on.”

Amell contends that a townwide vote is unnecessary.

“When you elect people to serve and represent you, then that’s what it is,” Amell said. “If you don’t have any trust in the people you elect, then we shouldn’t have a board. If we did that in every decision we did, if it comes up it’s going to have to be a special election, it’s going to be $5,000 to $10,000 to pay for it. It’s an expense to the taxpayers again.”

Tupper Lake resident Larry Reandeau, who was at the meeting when the vote came down, disagrees, and he is taking action.

“I am going to be running a petition for the taxpayers, a permissive referendum, so they can vote on it,” Reandeau told the Enterprise. “He’s (Amell) not giving any trust to the taxpayers who are voting for this. That’s not his property, that belongs to everybody, and it’s of great concern to me that it’s done right. Two board members are against this, and two are for it. The board is split; Roger’s merely a tie vote.”

To put the sale up for a public vote, Reandeau will have to get 5 percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, which was in 2010. Since 3,071 votes were cast in the village and town of Tupper Lake, the petition will need 154 signatures.

Reandeau said his concerns began when the the town didn’t do an appraisal before putting the dam up for bid.

“This is a very important piece of our property here,” Reandeau said. “At one time we sold a mountain (Big Tupper Ski Area) for $50,000, and it turns out that wasn’t the smartest thing to do. Decisions like this have to be thought through thoroughly, and not just one man making the decision, and that one man seems to be Roger right now. I don’t think that’s his decision to make.”

Amell maintained that the sale will be good for Tupper Lake.

“It’s a liability to us, it doesn’t cost us any money, and it’s another attraction for Tupper Lake,” Amell said. “It’s going to be green energy; it’s a hydro plant. Maybe when it gets up and running we can do a tour with the kids at the day camp or the school system. I’m just looking at it as, you’ve got The Wild Center, you’ve got the APO (Adirondack Public Observatory), our beach, and now we’ll have the new dam here. So I think this guy’s being selfish. Everyone has a right to their opinion; just don’t play politics at the board meeting.”

Reandeau said anyone interested in signing the petition can contact him at 518-359-2444.

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.