Tupper town board: Two-year hopefuls answer questions

TUPPER LAKE – Two candidates are seeking a two-year unexpired term on the town board in Tuesday’s election.

The seat was left open when Councilman David Tomberlin resigned last summer, citing a conflict with expanding his business.

Former state Adirondack Park Agency employee and Tupper Lake school board member John Quinn, a Democrat, who was selected by the board to take Tomberlin’s place until November’s election, is seeking a four-year council seat next go-around.

Democrat Kathleen Lefebvre, whose four-year seat is expiring, will challenge newcomer Eric Shaheen, a Republican, for the two-year spot.

The Enterprise expects to publish profiles of four candidates for two four-year seats on the town board Monday.

Kathleen Lefebvre

Lefebvre, like every Tupper Lake candidate, is a supporter of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort. She said it’s necessary to sustain the Big Tupper Ski Area, to add to the town’s tax base and to add jobs.

Lefebvre said she has no doubt the ACR project will eventually move forward, but she thinks Tupper Lake should still get more involved in the wood products industry.

“I think that we need to look at marketing the town’s wood based industrial park on Pitchfork Pond Road,” Lefebvre said. “I see all these log trucks loaded with softwoods headed to Canada, and then I see them return loaded with lumber of all types and sizes. Why can’t we take our raw materials and turn them into a finished product here?”

Convincing the state to allow a move in that direction would help the entire region, she added.

Lefebvre also said she has been discussing ways to attract new businesses with members of local group ARISE (Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy).

“We have an excellent workforce here in Tupper Lake, and we have very low electrical costs,” Lefebvre said. “I believe they (a new business) would qualify for a 10-year New York state Real Property Tax Law exemption of 50 percent off their assessment. We have a fairly stable economy what with Sunmount, the school, the town and the village workforces, along with a large summer population.”

Lefebvre said she has also tried to convince some retail stores, like Target and International Border Company in Malone, to set up shop in Tupper Lake. She even suggested a mini-Target she called “Bullseye.”

Retaining existing local jobs is also important to her.

“Job retention is a major goal of not only myself but of town Supervisor (Roger) Amell,” Lefebvre said. “That is why he created the newest Sunmount Task Force. I am the task force chairperson, and we are a proactive group that is working to retain the current staffing levels at Sunmount, but if lucky enough maybe just maybe add some.”

As one of the original board members of the Next Stop Tupper Lake train advocacy group, Lefebvre said she understands the potential of both the railroad and a multi-use recreational trail in the heavily debated state-owned Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor.

“I am not going to say that they would run parallel to one another from Lake Placid to Old Forge or beyond, but there certainly could be a trail within proximity to the rails in certain areas,” Lefebvre said. “Then perhaps all of the townships and counties through which the rails go could work with the trail and snowmobile advocates to create even more beautiful trails through the forests on both private and state lands, or alongside the state highways that run throughout the Adirondack Park within the highway right of ways.

“I realize that this would require more effort on the part of everyone, but wouldn’t it make much more sense than to simply tear up the rails, which are a possible mass transit system which already exists and comes directly into the heart of the Adirondacks?

“Again, here is an issue where the so-called environmental groups have us locals fighting among ourselves.”

Lefebvre applauded the town board for its recent purchase of a snowmobile trail groomer and said the town should now approach timberland owners about expanding the trail network.

“We are also planning to purchase a new mower to help maintain our town’s cross-country ski trails, and it is our hope to at some point and time winterize the country club so it serves as a destination point after a long day or weekend of cross-country skiing,” Lefebvre said.

She was also proud of the board Democrats’ work on the town budget.

“Because of the Democrat majority on the town board, town Supervisor Roger Amell, councilmen John Quinn and Gerry Fletcher, and myself, we are able to produce a budget for 2014 with only a 3-cent-per-thousand (dollar) tax increase. The new taxes on a $100,000 assessed home for a taxpayer in Tupper Lake amounts to a sum total tax increase of $3 for the upcoming year of 2014, or about six cents per week.”

Asked what Tupper Lake most has going for it, Lefebvre said it’s all about the people here.

“Tupper Lake is known far and wide for its volunteerism and community spirit,” Lefebvre said. “I believe that we as Tupper Lakers have the ability to figure out ways of doing things in a simpler and more economical way than do many others.”

Lefebvre said the future of Tupper Lake is looking up.

“I believe that Tupper Lake is poised to once again be the leading community of the Tri-Lakes region, as it was early on in the 20th century,” Lefebvre said. “I look at the Wild Center and the Adirondack Public Observatory as just two of the many things that we as a community can be proud of, and perhaps someday Tupper Lake can be known as the ‘scientific’ capital of the Adirondacks. Nothing is holding us back.”

Eric Shaheen

Shaheen said it’s time Tupper Lake began focusing on the future.

“Unfortunately there are some that can only see what Tupper Lake was, and are only interested in trying to revitalize the former glory of our quaint town,” Shaheen said. “While rebuilding replica buildings are interesting and beautiful in some cases, trying to use them in the same capacity is short-sighted. We can have history, but with a brighter future in new endeavors and businesses.”

Although Shaheen said Tupper Lake should not solely rely on the ACR to save its economy, he does support the project and noted that he helped move it forward during his five years on the town’s planning board.

“There are many good points to the project if implemented correctly,” Shaheen said.

Shaheen said the town can’t expect an influx of new businesses overnight.

“Before we can convince new businesses to come, we need to learn how to help ourselves and not wait for the ‘white knight’ to come save us.”

Removal of the tracks along the Remsen-Lake Placid corridor would be a step in the right direction, he said.

“As a former snowmobile dealer, I would love to see the tracks removed and a recreational corridor in their place,” Shaheen said. “I have said for years that Tupper Lake could be a major snowmobile destination, as we are the crossroads of the Adirondacks.”

Promoting the town’s cross-country ski trail system would also boost the winter economy, Shaheen said. He added that promotion of summer events should be increased, even if that means spending money.

“That is a double-edged sword. … No one wants to see a board who will raise their taxes; as a taxpayer I also would not want that,” Shaheen said. “However, we need to promote Tupper Lake, and you have to spend a little extra money to make money sometimes.”

Shaheen said the town and village should collaborate more for the betterment of both.

“Developers and new businesses need to see a united front in our governments,” Shaheen said.

Shaheen had some suggestions on how town meetings could be improved, too.

“First they need to be held later in the evening when more of the population can attend them,” Shaheen said. “Our board members need to be decisive and not so quick to table discussion or form committees on topics where all the information is known and present.”

Contact Shaun Kittle at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.