October 30, 2013

In My Opinion: Propositions 4, 5 deserve support


---- — I write this to encourage everyone to vote “yes” on two very important constitutional amendments.

The proposed amendments will appear on the back of the ballot on Election Day as Proposition 4 and Proposition 5.

As for Proposition 4, state agencies, Sen. Betty Little, Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and the chair of Hamilton County’s Board of Supervisors and I worked together to resolve this long-standing title dispute in Hamilton County.

Over the years, both New York state and the people engaged in lawsuits attempting to resolve titles with mixed results. This process is costly and time consuming.

The land in question has been occupied for more than 100 years. The fire company, school properties and private businesses have contested titles.

Clearly, the land is neither Forest Preserve nor is it private property. The legislature concluded that it is equitable and appropriate for the state to relinquish its claim, and in exchange the people will make payments to the state and the state will purchase and incorporate hundreds of acres of pristine land into the Forest Preserve.

The legislature found that the title disputes constitute a unique situation found nowhere else in New York state. This dispute dates back to the 1800s and is supported by both environmental groups and state agencies.

As for Proposition 5, state agencies, Adirondack environmental groups, NYCO, Sen. Little and I worked collectively to resolve this important economic issue.

NYCO’s mine at Lewis Hill will be exhausted soon. NYCO operates in the towns of Willsboro and Lewis, providing employees with good wages and medical and retirement benefits. Employees are volunteer firefighters, EMTs, soccer coaches, and their children attend our school.

NYCO provides critical tax revenue to local governments and school districts, reducing the tax burden of taxpayers. NYCO does business with businesses from Plattsburgh to Albany.

NYCO supports nonprofit organizations and our local communities.

Adirondack communities depend on tourism. That’s good, but if you don’t own the business, you make minimum wage. NYCO provides more than 100 jobs countywide.

The proposition will allow NYCO to take 200 acres for mining purposes. In return for temporary use of this land, NYCO will give the State Forest Preserve 1,500 acres.

Everyone will benefit from the addition of this new Forest Preserve land. The amendment is in keeping with the original intent of the Adirondack Park Agency Act, which is to balance environmental protection with economic need.

Both state agencies and two major Adirondack environmental groups support this amendment.

Teresa Sayward is a former New York state assemblywoman representing the North Country and also former Willsboro town supervisor.