Tupper Lake budget meeting tonight

TUPPER LAKE – Property taxes are slated to go up in this village, but the tentative budget is still under the tax cap.

The proposed village budget shows a 2.86 percent tax rate increase over the current budget, which would amount to a 38-cent increase on property taxes for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The village board met with the heads of the public works, electric, and sewer and wastewater departments to discuss their department’s budgets during a special meeting Wednesday night. The village board will hold a public budget hearing in the municipal office building at 7 p.m. tonight.

The board has until May 1 to pass the budget.

Public Works

The public works budget includes $70,000 in allocations for several paving projects: Vachereau Street, the walking path from L.P. Quinn Elementary School to The Wild Center nature museum, and possible work on Amell Lane.

A debate on whether the village should pave Amell Lane has gone on since Roger Amell and his father bought the land in the Junction neighborhood and developed it with houses a little over a decade ago. They never paved the road and residents there have complained that the street is too covered in potholes for school buses and mail carriers to drive down it. Last year, Amell – who was Tupper Lake town supervisor at the time – asked the village to pave and maintain it.

Village Mayor Paul Maroun said the Amell Lane project is in the budget “just in case” the village decides to pave it.

“We’re sending a letter to Mr. Amell saying that he has to survey that whole area, so that we know for sure that road isn’t on somebody else’s property,” Maroun said. “We want to see what’s there first; then we’ll discuss it as a board.”

Paving from the end of Hebert Lane to LeBoeuf Street was originally included in the budget but was removed.

Improvements to Church Street were added to the budget at the request of village Trustee Rick Donah. Village of Tupper Lake Department of Public Works Superintendent Mike Sparks agreed that Church Street should be a priority.

“Church Street is in dire need of repair,” Sparks said. “It’s the worst street in Tupper Lake right now.”

Trustee Tom Snyder said crews probably wouldn’t get to Church Street this summer, but Donah said it should be added as a wish-list item.

The $70,000 allocation for roadwork is on top of $82,213 in funds from the state’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program. On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $40 million in “Extreme Weather Recovery” funds for road repairs across the state. The village of Tupper Lake is slated to receive $8,852.71 from that, and the town of Tupper Lake is slated to receive $7,175.95.

Sparks also told the board that the public works department needs a new Dodge Dually pickup truck.

“It was the electric department’s truck years ago, and we converted it,” Sparks said. “The frame is broken in the front, and our mechanic refuses to inspect it. It just isn’t safe to drive.”

Sparks said the truck is used daily for tasks like patching potholes, plowing and hauling materials. He noted that two of the department’s trucks are from 1984. Snyder said he doesn’t want the village to keep spending money on old equipment.

“What we’re doing is spending good money on something bad,” Snyder said. “I just want to make sure we don’t get into the boat where we’re just throwing money out of the window.”

The board passed a resolution to appropriate $22,809 from the current budget to purchase a 2013 single-cab pickup truck.

Electric

Village of Tupper Lake Municipal Electric Department Superintendent John Bouck said the numbers for the Municipal Electric Department’s budget were “a little skewed” due to increased power costs at the end of the winter. He said he relied on 2014 actuals to determine the budget.

Bouck did not request any vehicle replacements for his department.

“We’re just maintaining right now,” Bouck said.

The village recently requested a rate review from the New York Power Authority. Bouck said that process could take up to two months.

Bouck said there are several upcoming projects, including increasing the voltage along River Road and relocating circuits on Lake Street, McLaughlin Avenue and Park Street for the state Department of Transportation’s Park Street project.

Bouck said a pole tax agreement is in the works for Time Warner Cable. The village gets $36,000 a year from Time Warner as part of a franchise agreement, but doesn’t collect money for the company’s use of its poles.

Maroun said the village should be reimbursed for the time Time Warner has used the poles.

“We’re going to get that previous money or they’re going to be off the poles, plain and simple,” Maroun said. “We should have had this 30 years ago. We got $80,000 back from Verizon when we showed them the poles we have.”

Maroun also said the electric department is not bankrupt, repeating a statement he made at a previous meeting.

“We’re staying afloat, but we don’t have the ability to do what we should be doing, what a company would be doing to get ready for capital projects or for additional equipment purchases,” Maroun said. “We’re making our payments, but we’re not in the position that we should be in.”

Snyder backed Maroun’s statement up.

“That’s the reason for the rate review, to see where we’re at,” Snyder said. “We have to run as close to the zero balance as possible. That’s what our regulators, NYPA, makes us do. No big fund balances, none of that. They want us to stay close to zero, and that is it.”

Sewer and wastewater

Village Department of Sewer and Wastewater Superintendent Mark Robillard said sewer and water rates in the village will remain the same next year. He said the village paid $12,000 in overtime per employee this year.

“Well, when you’ve got a guy on call 24 hours, all weekend long, all night, with the winter we’ve had, that’s not out of whack,” Snyder said.

Maroun said the overtime is a necessary expense.

“I understand the overtime; I really do,” Maroun said. “You get a lot of calls about people being mad about these salaries, but when someone’s sewer backs up in the middle of the night and they make that phone call, these guys come out to help them.”

The DOT project, scheduled to begin in 2015, will replace sidewalks, street lighting and the road along Park Street. Since the project will divert traffic down Lake Street, the DOT has also agreed to repave that road. The village has decided to take advantage of that and do sewer infrastructure work along Park Street, Lake Street and part of Cliff Avenue.

“They will pave it, but we’ve decided to get a year ahead and do everything beneath the road,” Snyder said. “We have the benefit of the state doing the top, we’ll do the bottom, and everything will work out for the taxpayers.”