Press-Republican

April 29, 2013

Tupper holds final forum on fire/police station

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — TUPPER LAKE — One last public discussion pushed for answers, as this community decides whether or not to build a fire/police station. 

It was the final forum before a referendum vote slated for Village of Tupper Lake residents May 7, seeking to bond $3.2 million for a new emergency services building at a cost not to exceed $4.5 million.

Project manager Sean Foran of Heuber-Breuer Construction said $1.3 million in grants from federal and state sources hinges on voter approval of the bond.

And further grant funding may be acquired, he told about 55 people gathered in Tupper Lake for the recent evening session, if the referendum shows widespread support for the project.

The $3.2 million bond bears a 2 percent interest rate spread out over 30 years.

And if the the bond referendum passes but grant funds fall through — a scenario Foran said is highly unlikely — then the project would not move forward.

“If we don’t get the money, there is no project. You’re not committed to anything,” he said.

TAX BASE

People asked aloud if Tupper Lakers could afford a new station.

“Why not wait until the tax base is stronger to build?” local businessman Peter Day asked, arguing higher assessments in a larger tax base would lower the annual bond cost.

Municipal bond rates are at an all-time low, Foran responded.

And they aren’t going down.

“The current rate hasn’t been this low since before Lyndon Baines Johnson was president,” the project manager advised.

Increased competition among contractors is driving cost savings, even though this project is bound by state law to adhere to the prevailing wage schedule.

If the community waits, the cost would increase about $500,000 in one year, Foran said.

“With school, county, village and town (taxes going up), taxes are not sustainable,” Day said. “Everything you say is fine and good, but you still have to pay for it.”

‘TERRIBLE CONDITIONS’

Tupper Lake Police Chief Eric Proulx said in an interview that the police and fire personnel here have “terrible” and “dirty” working conditions.

“And these are our first responders?”

He said a new multi-purpose station was first proposed in 1994.

“Here we are, 20 years later, spending more money. I am a local taxpayer, and I live in the village,” Proulx said.

“My ‘yes’ vote is as a taxpayer, not as a cop or a fireman, realizing that this community needs a public safety building.”

The new facility would be large enough to cover services for proposed development of 600-plus units at the Adirondack Club and Resort, Foran said.

POLICE KEY

The Emergency Services project is ripe for critical federal dollars because it is a shared services building, Foran said.

“Police inclusion is the driving force behind much of the grant money,” he said.

“This includes a lot of funding from DOJ (Department of Justice) for commingled emergency services.”

Tupper Lake is a critical point for intercepting drug traffic between the Canadian border and New York City, Foran said.

“Tupper Lake is a ‘poster child’ for DOJ grants. This is like shooting fish in a barrel because of your unique need (both location and economic). The better this is supported (at the referendum), the more money is available.”

BUILDING IN DESIGN

A feasibility study completed a year ago looked at 15 different sites and settled on 2 acres on Santa Clara Avenue.

Foran said the feasibility data is what convinced federal agencies to support the project.

The 14,500-square-foot building is priced at $210 per square foot.

It would have a flat roof and a large, shared training room and would be built to Essential Services Building Codes as mandated by New York state in 2005.

The final design would come after voter approval, with construction to begin in August.

Grant funds would be awarded likely by mid July, Foran said.

Tupper Lake Village taxpayers with real property assessed at $100,000 would pay $34 per year. 

For taxpayers with $50,000 assessed value, the cost would be $17 per year.

NONE DISPUTED NEED 

Town of Tupper Lake taxpayers in the Tupper Lake Fire Protection District would see an increase in yearly taxes of $18 to $22 per $100,000 real property, Foran said.

But because the village manages fire and police departments, town voters cannot weigh in.

“What would happen if the Town of Tupper Lake ever decided not to share in the village fire contract?” Day asked.

Foran said, in his experience, fire contracts between towns and the villages inside them are renewed routinely.

“There’s not a town in New York state that doesn’t have fire protection,” Foran said.

And the Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department draws its team of firefighters from both village and town residents.

“Shouldn’t you have that figured out between the town and the village before we go to referendum?” Day asked.

“In a perfect world, we would have a long-term agreement (between the town and village),” Foran said.

No one in the room debated the need for new fire and police quarters.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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TUPPER LAKE REFERENDUM

From noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, voters will weigh in on whether the village should borrow $3.2 million for an emergency services building.

The vote will take place in the basement of the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library at 41 Lake Street.