Press-Republican

August 4, 2013

Welcome center questioned

DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

MALONE — Plans for a welcome center at the Saranac Lake campus of North Country Community College drew questions during a hearing here on the school’s 2013-14 budget.

Franklin County Legislator Paul Maroun (R-Tupper Lake) said he supports the college but “something doesn’t smell right” about the its stated intent to partner with Rabideau Corp. to build the new center at the main campus entrance on Lake Flower Avenue.

The construction company is owned by Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau.

‘OUT TO BID?’

The welcome center would house the college’s admissions and financial-aid offices on the first level, with student registration and bursar’s offices and a conference room on the second floor.

Maroun said he has nothing personal against the mayor or anyone else involved with the company, but he questioned College President Dr. Steven Tyrell about the building plans.

“Normally, it’s in the taxpayers’ best interest to put it out for competitive bid,” he said. “What is the situation with Rabideau Construction? Will it go out to bid?

“If they have the inside track and no competitive bidding, taxpayers could be losing money,” he continued. “It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t sound right, and it doesn’t smell right.

“I’m not saying there’s corruption. But is he the sole bidder? Is it legal? Does (the college’s) counsel have an opinion?

Maroun said he would write to the attorney general and comptroller to get their legal opinion on the project.

“There may be something wrong with it.”

‘NO FIRM PLANS’

Tyrell said the college has no firm plans to work with Rabideau Construction and no identified funding source for the project. He said the college’s attorneys have looked into various funding avenues.

If state money is involved, NCCC must follow a certain bid procedure to obtain the money, he said.

And if it is built using private funding, “it doesn’t mean we don’t go through a bidding process,” Tyrell said. “When we know what funding route, we’ll hold an open forum on the project.”

He added that none of the funding that Franklin and Essex counties provide as NCCC’s sponsoring counties would be used for the project.

Sponsor contributions this year remain at the same level as 2012-13: $1.14 million each.

Each county is also being asked for $50,000 for the college’s capital-improvement fund.

Franklin County unanimously approved the NCCC budget during its call to order.

The Essex County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the budget at 10 a.m. Monday.

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com