RAY BROOK — Details of the 2012-13 executive budget indicate Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking to move Belleayre Ski Center operations to the Olympic Authority.
"The budget authorizes the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) to enter into an agreement to transfer the operations of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center to ORDA at the close of the 2011-12 ski season," Cuomo's proposed plan says.
"ORDA will allow for more efficient management, utilizing their expertise in the ski industry."
ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin referred questions to the Division of the Budget.
Morris Peters, spokesman for that department, confirmed that Cuomo wants to realign operations at Belleayre.
"It will align core functions and consolidate like resources. ORDA, of course, has a lot of experience running ski facilities — they run Whiteface, they run Gore Mountain, and they have the expertise to do this. This is an attempt to line up these entities under the umbrella that suits them."
The realignment has been under discussion for more than a year, but Cuomo's budget seems to push it toward decisive action.
No officials — neither lawmakers nor state agency leaders — are saying what an agreement between DEC and ORDA would look like.
"There are not a lot of details on how this transition would take place," Sen. Betty Little's spokesman Dan MacEntee said Wednesday.
"Yesterday, the budget was announced. Legislative hearings will begin shortly, and this is one of the areas Senator Little is most interested in learning more about."
Restructuring Belleayre operations is one of many "realignments" included in the governor's budget, which Cuomo said was focused on reform measures to shrink government.
While funding levels are flat, there are additional resources pointed at both capital projects and programs to entice private sector investment.
The executive spending plan sustains the Environmental Protection Fund at the current $134 million level. And it adds new capital funding to "accelerate capital infrastructure projects statewide, spur the creation of jobs and leverage private sector and federal investment."
In his budget proposal, Cuomo allocates $102 million in new funding for DEC to advance flood control, coastal erosion and critical dam-safety projects, plus $94 million for capital rehabilitation and improvement needs, including work at ORDA ski facilities.
Peters wouldn't say whether the Saranac Lakes DEC dams are included on that list nor whether some of the $94 million would go toward upgrading ski facilities at Belleayre.
"We're not talking about the project list yet; that will come out shortly," he said.
As for DEC dams and waterfront stabilization, both concerns after severe flooding in the North Country in 2011, Peters did say that the $102 million in state funding would be matched by $102 million in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers money.
"The Army Corps has looked at our dams, and we have their list of projects. Army Corps is matching that $102 million with $102 million of their own, and so we're able to do a lot of work this year in the area of water. This is all very good news."
As spelled out in his address Tuesday, Cuomo realigned revenues in budget segments to better reflect related expenses.
In one case, he proposes moving 65 DEC officers from the general-fund sheet to the conservation fund to better capture costs of fish and wildlife enforcement activities, he said.
Cuomo explained that a 16.1 percent reduction in funding for DEC stems from depletion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program monies, which drop from $200 million in 2011-12 to $38 million in 2012-13.
The projects funded by those monies have been completed, Peters said.
DEC's budget allocation drops from $1.04 billion to $873 million in the coming fiscal year.
He said that means, in essence, funding for DEC remains stable.
Executive spending measures also would allow for an estimated $1.5 billion to assist in statewide recovery from tropical storms Irene and Lee.
Weather-related disasters in August and September affected more than 42,000 people and families, who are receiving $350 million in disaster assistance, the proposed budget says.
State and local response costs totaled nearly $900 million, alongside public authority output of more than $250 million.
Cuomo said federal reimbursement is likely to cover 75 percent of recovery costs, leaving the state to come up with $65 million in disaster expenses in 2011-12 and another $108 million projected over the next two years.
Spending for Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services is up 13.1 percent in Cuomo's plan, while State Police allocation drops 0.5 percent to $717 million, and Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (the recombined DOCS and Parole Division) drops 2.1 percent to $2.79 billion.
DOCS closed seven prisons to net a two-year savings of $184 million.
The executive budget allows classes at the State Police Academy to resume after three years of dormancy due to budget cuts.
Cuomo said State Police would hold two recruitment classes in the coming fiscal year, looking for 230 new officers to maintain a State Police force of 4,458 officers, a number down 9.7 percent from 4,939 in 2009.
Allocations in the governor's budget also would expand DNA database collection, a move commended by the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police.
"The governor's proposal would add about 400 additional crimes — all remaining misdemeanors under the Penal Law and any felony under other state laws. That would include felony drunk driving and other state laws, such as Agriculture and Markets, Alcoholic Beverage Control or Taxation and Finance," association spokesman Mark Spawn said in a statement Wednesday.
Association of Chiefs President Joseph D. Waldron, Mechanicville Police Department chief, said expanding DNA collections in the databank would ensure "that more crimes can be stopped from even taking place and that the guilty will be found and brought to justice. "This law will help our members carry out their duties, and we thank the governor for his commitment to a safer New York."
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