Let private money pay for private roads

Like North Country municipalities in general, the village of Tupper Lake has a whole lot of pothole-filled roads, collapsed culverts and broken pipes to fix after this rough winter. That’s an expensive prospect. One road it shouldn’t spend its taxpayers’ money on is Amell Lane.

Private roads, like private driveways and houses and businesses, should be built with private money as a rule. Roger Amell bears primary responsibility for this still-unpaved private road for the subdivision he and his father started more than a decade ago in Tupper Lake’s Junction neighborhood. He’s asked the village to pave it and then take over ownership of it. Taxpayers can’t afford that; nor can they afford the problems such a bad precedent would create.

Amell Lane residents have complained that the street is too covered in potholes for school buses and mail carriers to drive down. That’s a bad situation, but Tupper Lake has other private properties in need of work, too. What if people complained that a local business’ parking lot was in the same rough condition? What if apartment tenants said the same of their driveway or parking area? Should the village pave these?

No, but if it paves Amell Lane, that kind of situation is bound to come up.

The fact that Amell was Tupper Lake town supervisor until January only gives the public more reason to doubt they should pick up his tab.

Amell has declined to answer questions about any of this from the press, which represents the public’s need to know. His defense last year, in a letter asking the village to take over the road, was that he had already invested $60,000 in water and sewer lines and fire hydrants to get it ready for paving. That’s good, but it’s obviously not complete, any more than a house would be if it was framed and sided but not plumbed, wired, drywalled, floored, etc. He owes it to his housing customers to finish the job.

Nevertheless, the village board has budgeted $21,000 to pave Amell Lane in the upcoming fiscal year. Board members say it’s “just in case” they decide to do it later, after they ask Amell to survey the area – but the money will be already allocated. The act of budgeting is a decision that speaks for itself.

The village has plenty of more appropriate things to do with its people’s money. In addition to other roads and public works, the board barely came up up with enough money to rehire a police officer, taking a weight off of current officers as well as the overtime budget.

Or the board could ask less of taxpayers. As of now, it’s asking a bit more from taxpayers than it did last year.

Paving Amell Lane may may not be terribly expensive, but on principle and to avoid a precedent that creates future headaches, it shouldn’t be done – unless Amell pays the taxpayers handsomely to take the road off his hands.