Tupper school district’s role with Civic Center questioned

TUPPER LAKE – The Tupper Lake Central School District school board has no intention of selling the Tupper Lake Memorial Civic Center.

On the heels of its budget discussion Monday night, teacher aide Meredith Warwick questioned the board on the financial viability of the district’s ownership of the civic center.

“A couple of years ago I had asked about the civic center,” Warwick said. “The school owns the civic center, and it has been running $25,000 in the red.”

Warwick said at that time there was a brainstorming session to determine if the district should rent the civic center out to raise funds or if the building should be sold. She asked if that discussion has continued, and if a decision has been made.

“Yes, there’s been quite a bit done,” Superintendent Seth McGowan said. “Is it something where we wave a magic wand and suddenly it starts bringing in millions of dollars for us? No. I think the value of it is not just a financial one. All of that holistically looked at, hopefully it will generate some aid. Like every facility we have, whether it’s a field that needs to be lined or a stage that needs to be waxed, there’s a cost associated with it.”

District Business Manager Garry Lanthier said staff hours have been cut, resulting in an $11,000 decrease in operating costs in the past two years. He added that a new light system was recently out in, and he expects that to lower electric costs.

Lanthier pointed out that the civic center is imperative to having a high school hockey team.

“If the civic center did close and you maintain a high school hockey team,” Lanthier said. “We’re going to spend at least $15,000 on ice time transporting that hockey team to Saranac Lake. That doesn’t count the overtime for the driver.”

School board President Jane Whitmore said eliminating the hockey team isn’t really an option for the district.

“It would only take a petition of 25 signatures, if we decided we’re not going to do hockey, a petition of 25 signatures of parents of varsity-aged children, and we would have to provide hockey team for those kids, with a coach and a bus transport them, and we’d end up buying ice time,” Whitmore said. “We can’t just make a hockey team go away.”

Lanthier said the civic center is used by the school and the community alike, and shuttering it would harm both. He said indoor hockey is in the works for this summer.

“I think for $25,000, that’s a good facility,” Lanthier said. “It’s a community building, and it’s used for school, too. It’s used for curling, graduation parties for sixth grade if the weather’s bad. Honestly, I don’t think anybody is going to buy it.”

Lanthier also reminded attendees that the civic center was recently used for the first time for the Empire State Games womens hockey tournament.

“This past spring, one thing that worked well, is the girls hockey team went there,” Lanthier said. “I took a ride through town that night, and a lot of hotels were filled in Tupper. Indirectly, our tax base is benefitting. There are other benefits besides the bottom line.”