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News

Tupper Arts Snow Ball a hit!

Dan McClelland

Tupper Arts organizers are basking in the glow this week from a very successful Snow Ball which raised thousands of dollars for the arts and cultural programs the new organization will offer children and adults here this coming year.

“We're so appreciative of how well the community supported us in our first Snow Ball,” chairwoman Louise McNally said this week.

Over 200 people purchased $50 tickets to attend the progressive event, which began at the former Ginsberg's building and moved two hours later to the Tupper Arts new gallery in the former Futterman's Furniture building.

Both pieces of the Snow Ball featured complimentary wine and beer, much of which was donated by local pubs, taverns and breweries, and hors d'oeuvres, prepared with skill by the staff at Well Dressed Food.

Both pieces of the party featured great entertainment. Jim & E, (Jim Boucher and Eric Pasternak) performed from the loft area above the giant timber staircase at the building now owned by Louise and Mike McNally and Leah and Stanley Rumbough. When the party was moved at 9p.m. across Park Street, it was Spring Street's turn to entertain the merri-makers. Band members included Ed Schaum, Josh Pratt, Leon Jessie and Val Rogers.

This was the arts organization's first try at Snow Ball, reviving it after a several year absence after ARISE used it each year for about a half a dozen years as its principle money-generator to open Big Tupper Ski Area.

“We thought our first try was great. It was the product of a lot of hard work by dozens and dozens of people who want us to be the vibrant program we will be,” said the very pleased McNally.

“Hopefully we can reinvent it again, with some exciting new twists!”

She said the event will go a long way to helping Tupper Arts offer great music, art and dance programs of many kinds to our community in the new year. In particular we will be able to offer a number of new and innovative programs for our children to enjoy.”

“Tupper Lake always comes together to support good things, and our event this weekend was no different!”

Part of this year's theme focussed on the many new developments coming to the uptown business district and the community at large.

Punctuating the event was the exciting announcement of the coming of a new Lake Placid-based long time business, the Adirondack Store, which will be teaming up with Garrett Kopp's Birch Boys business, both under the same roof.

Many volunteer hands make for joyous community Thanksgiving

Dan McClelland

For at least 25 years the celebration with good food and good cheer of Tupper Lake's annual Thanksgiving observance has been brightened by the selfless volunteers at the local Knights of Columbus and several groups like the Kiwanis Club which assist the fraternal organization each year.

Over 600 Thanksgiving meals were provided local residents, 500 of which were delivered to their homes.

Three of the youngest volunteers Thursday morning were Luka Dukett (second from left), Jenna Carmichael and Lexy Sabin. Assisting them with the packing of take-out meals were Joanne Bickford (left) and Ann Maltais (right). Below them was pie-cutter Carol Peets. Diane LeBlanc (not shown) was busy over in the corner of the K.of C. bar area, lining up all the containers for filling (at right).

Dave and Diane LeBlanc have been working to help the K.of C. members with their various projects since 1974. For years they worked alongside manager Dick Moeller, who is believed to have started the dinner.

Out in the kitchen Thursday morning were Yvon Fortier, Mike Russell, Jim Pryor, Joe Kimpflen and Tom Walsh. Hiding from the press this year was Dave LeBlanc.

Asked how long they have each volunteered in preparation of the festive meal, most didn't know. Yvon's been helping for ten years and Dave and Tom figured they've been involved from that start. Jimmy said he's been helping for at least several years. Joe figured two. Our well known Santa couldn't remember how many years he's been helping. For years, however, he and his brother Ralph were mainstays in the kitchen each Thanksgiving. Great job, all volunteers.

Tupper Arts gains valuable photographic collection, thanks to gifts of local man

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

In the words of Tupper Arts volunteer Ed Donnelly, the new arts and cultural organization “has been given a valuable resource that has significant historical significance” to this community, the tri-lakes region and the Adirondack Park.

At the heart of that gift is the vast photographic collection of the late Free Press photographer Kathleen Bigrow and its caretaker, Jim Lanthier. The project is called “the Kathleen Bigrow Film Conservation Project.”

Continues Mr. Donnelly, “the acquisition of the photographic collection from Jim Lanthier provides Tupper Arts with the unique opportunity to protect, archive, catalog and disseminate the images” taken by the well known local photographer over five decades.

The collection contains thousands of photos and negatives taken by Kathleen and other earlier photographers here, that were collected by Lanthier in recent years.

“We literally now have in our possession a snapshot in time of a bygone era,” Donnelly recently wrote about the unfolding project.

To make all this possible Jim Lanthier has donated a very modern computer system involving a sophisticated and expensive negative scanner and printer to accomplish the permanent preservation of the collection.

He has created with new paint and remodeling a new work station in the back room of the new gallery and arts headquarters on Park Street.

The local photographer who is seen at most local events will be working with local high school students in the months and years ahead who will be taught how to create digital images from the sometimes very old film negatives.

According to Lanthier during a recent tour of his new studio, all of Kathleen's negatives and many of the even older negatives he's collected over the years, some from the Moody estate, will be digitized, stored and preserved on multiple external hard drives.

Once scanned and digitized the original negatives will be placed in sleeves or envelopes of non-acid materials and placed in boxes especially designed for archiving.

Extensive tables of contents will be created for each box, as part of the cataloguing.

Once high school students learn the skills of scanning, Lanthier also figures he'll buy a sophisticated printer where they will be able to make images of the old files. “I'm going to give them everything they need to learn about local history,” he explained.

Phase 2 of the project involves moving the folders of scanned images from the main computer to back up hard drives. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software will be used to create a searchable image database.

Through the scanning, cataloging, archiving and all, there are seven phases to the project.

Working with Lanthier and Tupper Arts leaders is art teacher Shannon Kavanagh and her digital arts students.

“It will preserve Kathleen's photos forever, and at the same time the local high school kids will learn about their history because they will be working with it.”

Another benefit for them is learning to use the various hardware pieces in the new system.

The sophisticated scanner can scan negatives of all sizes, from 8.5 by 11 inches down.

During her entire five decades in the business Kathleen used studio-type cameras. The first ones were top view and later ones were back view. In the early days her negatives were the very large four inch by five inch film, with presented a dramatic depth of field where images up close and in the distance were all in focus. She later moved to 2.25 by 2.25 inch film, but never to 35mm.

Jim's new scanner comes with various pieces to accommodate negatives of all sizes.

He hopes the students will come down to the Tupper Arts studio for their regular classes and even after-school.

“This may give them an edge with some of this technology” that will prove valuable to them in their future careers, he noted.

Lanthier thinks the collection could eventually generate revenues for the new arts center. “We could probably create post cards to sell like the paintings that hang in the new gallery!”

Once he's finished painting the back room, he hopes to erect a wall of old photographs there for visitors to view and enjoy. “It could be a rotating display.”

Lanthier, an excellent carpenter who specializes in Adirondack furniture and who has made pieces for many top lodging facilities in the area, also fashioned a new and polished work table for the studio.

“As students are doing their thing here, I'll be working on my other projects here, some involving his vast collection of Kathleen's actual print photos.

According to Donnelly, it is estimated there could be 500,000 negatives to be scanned.

Tupper Lake honors heroes on Veterans Day

Dan McClelland

Veterans, service men and women and civilians of Tupper Lake came together on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to remember and honor those who have fallen and have served in the line of duty for their country.

Gathered at the Tupper Lake War Memorial, on the blocked-off Park Street, community members braved the cold to pay their respects to the men and women who braved so much more.

In traditional fashion of a Tupper Lake service, the Rev. Rick Wilburn lead the opening prayers. The master of ceremonies, local AMVET commander, Ray Bigrow, welcomed the community to the service and introduced and invited the guest speaker, Col. Steve Reandeau, to approach the podium.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to today’s ceremony. I’m honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to speak with you today on such an important occasion. We are here to honor our veterans and current service members, to remember the sacrifices they have made and continue to make and the courage it takes to defend our honor, duty and country.”

Reandeau then asked for a show of hands from all the veterans who were at the service that morning. “Thank you for your service,” he said to the men and women who lifted their hands at his request.

He continued, “it was a hundred years ago today, November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month that the allied powers signed a ceasefire agreement with Germany at Compiegne, France, bringing the war we now know as World War I to a close.

“President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day the following year on November 11, 1919, with these words: ‘To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given america to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.’

“Originally, a two-minute suspension of business at 11 a.m. was followed by celebrations including parades and public meetings. Today we honor our veterans with gatherings such as this with less fanfare but no less gratitude. In 1954, after lobbying efforts by veterans’ service organizations, the 83rd U.S. Congress made the 1938 act that had made Armistice Day a holiday, switching the word ‘Armistice’ in favor of ‘Veterans’. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954.

“From then on, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

“I left Tupper Lake on November 16 1975 with the full intent on serving four years in the Air Force and getting out with experience in my chosen career field. But then something interesting happened to me and many others I was stationed with. We found a camaraderie and bond that was strong.

“The Vietnam era had ended in July of that year and many of the older Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) told us how they were shunned in their local communities, mainly in cities. They felt wanted and at home in the military and realized that they were making a difference.

“This had a great impact on me and changed my life. I wanted to be part of this.

“Most of the time when we think of veterans we think of the combat soldier and rightfully so. Many gave the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedom and many more suffered debilitating injuries and post traumatic stress disorder making life difficult, for that we owe them our everlasting gratitude.

“However, many of the gains in our foreign policy came through the humanitarian relief efforts of our veterans such as assisting in hurricane or earthquake disaster recovery. In these cases the civil engineers take the lead along with our health professionals. We provide food, clothing, clean water and medical care to those in need and put a small amount of normalcy back into these grief stricken places allowing victims of disaster to get back on their feet. The American veteran did this with pride.

“Military life is not all action and high stress environments. Many young troops do thankless but valuable jobs. We call this tooth to tail, with tooth being the combat personnel and the tail being all the support troops who make it come together. Mechanics, transportation personnel, pay clerks, administrative specialists, morale welfare and recreation specialists and numerous other career fields that go along with being prepared for war and keeping that fighting edge. All contribute greatly to the end goal of ensuring the security of our great nation. The war fighters need a place to decompress when they get inside the wire, (base camp) and they need to have peace of mind knowing that there is an infrastructure in place filled with other soldiers, sailors, marines airmen and coasties to take care of them and their families when they are in harm’s way or even when they are stationed at a remote site.

“Veterans miss many of the life events we take for granted; being present at their child’s birthday parties or graduation, missing an anniversary, or being a young troop and stationed in a foreign land away from mom and dad for the first time during the holidays.

“Our veterans give up some of the freedoms we as americans have and do it willingly with a sense of duty and honor for a grateful nation.

“As former Congressman Rand Neugebauer stated, ‘while only one day of the year is dedicated solely to honoring our veterans, Americans must never forget the sacrifices that many of our fellow countrymen have made to defend our country and protect our freedoms.’”

In the tradition of a Veterans’ Day ceremony, the Tupper Lake High School band performed a number of patriotic pieces, including a service song medley of the Ballad of the Green Berets and Marches of the Armed Forces.

Also in tradition, community members and organization laid their respective wreaths at the base of the memorial.

The Tupper Lake Honor Guard, with additional non-honor guard military personnel then performed the ceremonial three-round rifle volley. Taps was performed by 11th grade student, Shannon Soucey who is the official Honor Guard bugler.

Before Reverend Rick Wilburn closed the ceremony with the closing prayer, the high school band performed Stars Over America, which is an arrangement of the Service songs melodies over America the Beautiful, ending with The Stars and Stripes Forever.

Later that afternoon, the Tupper Lake Honor Guard held a special Veteran’s Day service at Mercy Living Center to honor and pay respects to the veterans that live at Mercy Living Center and who were unable to attend the Veterans’ Day Ceremony at the war memorial.

Orwell's Animal Farm this weekend at TLHS

Dan McClelland

The Tupper Lake Free Press was granted the opportunity to get an early viewing of the Tupper Lake High School fall play, a stage rendition of George Orwell’s literary classic, Animal Farm, that tells the story of the Russian revolution and into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union, all from the perspective of farm animals that have “seized the means of production” of the farm from their human overlords. Animal Farm will be shown on Friday, November 9 and Saturday, November 10 at 7 p.m.

Hardwood mill to erect new office building

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

Tupper Lake Hardwoods is planning to build a new office at it mill campus at 167 Pitchfork Pond Road.

At the planning board's October meeting Manager Chris Dewyea and engineer Kurt Bedore of KB Engineering of Burnt Hills near Albany came before planners to explain the plans for the addition.

Mr. Bedore said plans call for a detached 30 by 40 foot single story building on a slab.

Running through the site plan, he said the building will contain three offices, a storage area and a unisex restroom. It would be situated just to the right of the mill entrance.

The mill was built in 1993- the year that the industrial park next door was created. “It was permitted by the Adirondack Park Agency and has been in existence since then... a great employer in town ever since,” explained the civil engineer.

He said Mr. Dewyea and the mill's corporate owners have wanted to build their detached office building “to improve on the business environment when they have guests and vendors” and away from the noise in the mill.

It would also be situated away from the general traffic flow of trucks and equipment in the mill yard.

The engineer called the mill operation very impressive.

The new office, he said, would tap both a new septic tank and the existing septic tank, which was originally designed to handle a company with 32 employees. Right now there are 17 employees at the mill, with plans to hire three more to work in the new office building.

From a design perspective, the original septic system is very much underused, the engineer told the planners.

A separate septic tank will be installed near the office, with the leaching materials pumped up to the leach flow of the original system, essentially for a double system, the engineer explained.

Water service to the building would come via a one-inch line off the main six-inch line servicing the mill.

The electric service will also be underground from transmission lines on Kildare Road.

The new office headquarters will have four parking spaces allotted to it, plus a handicapped space.

The small office parking lot will be surfaced in stone dust.

It will have a covered entrance of timber frames, sconce lighting, and horizontal and vertical fir siding.

“The owners wanted to make it a little nicer looking as a place of business,” Mr. Bedore told the planning board volunteers.

Tupper Lake Hardwoods Inc. is a subsidiary of Peladeau Lumber of Quebec. The company was founded more than 50 yeas ago by Edward Patenaude and Jean-Piere Peladeau.

It has become a leader in today's hardwood industry. In the early 2000s Greg Patenaude and Christian Clavel assumed leadership of the company.

The new office at the local mill will be built on a concrete frost wall with pad and will be heated with electricity. The building's siding will be tan in color.

Chris Dewyea said in their planning, they wanted to set the office back out of sight from passersby on the town. It will be hidden mostly by the thick tree cover along the road.

Board member Jim Merrihew suggested appropriate signage be installed to guide visitors to the new office.

“We've always had signage but with this new building there will be more,” Mr. Dewyea told him.

The administrative offices are currently situated right inside the mill and with the offices moving to the new building that will free up space for mill expansion next year, Mr. Dewyea explained.

With that expansion, production is expected to grow by 60% starting next year, the manager predicted.

Asked by member boB Collier about plans by the company for a second shift, the manager said he is happy with one.

There was a brief discussion about the lighting around the office and it was noted that it will be all downward directed.

The mill, however, requires a certain amount of powerful lighting around it for safety purposes, Mr. Dewyea noted.

Board members were all very satisfied by the presentation and the proposal, judging by their comments.

“There is no real action required by this board” beyond approving the site plan, Chairman Shawn Stuart told Mr. Bedore and Mr. Dewyea. The approval came moments later that evening.

Village board provisionally appoints Nason as sergeant

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

Police officer Jordan Nason, the village PD's K-9 officer, was provisionally appointed as a department sergeant at a special meeting of the village board Friday morning.

Chief Eric Proulx explained that the department is down to only one sergeant at the present time, who is Sgt. Geoff Carmichael, a retired officer from the Saranac Lake village department. To employ Sgt. Carmichael the village must obtain a waiver each year from the state retirement system.

The chief said he recently canvassed his officers and only Officer Nason expressed an interest in the administrative position.

Since he is not currently on the county civil service list as he has not yet taken the sergeant's exam, Officer Nason was appointed provisionally to the new post. Before he can be permanently appointed he will have to attend a three-week supervisor's school in January and successfully complete the sergeant's exam in a fashion he is among the top three on the civic service list.

After schooling, the new sergeant will be able to work with the department full time, even though the provisional appointment continues, the chief explained.

The chief said similar arrangements between the village and other police officers here have done in the past.

Chief Proulx expressed his confidence that the young officer is capable of assuming the new administrative duties with training.

Trustee Ron LaScala, who said he recently met at length with Officer Nason, echoed that sentiment.

In another employment matter that morning, the board officially accepted the resignation of electric department line worker Chad Montana, whose fiancé apparently took a new job out of the area.

Trustee LaScala lamented his departure, noting he was the second electric department worker who has left in recent months.

He explained that it is costly to the village when trained employees leave, after the village has paid for their training.

“There seems to be a lack of foresight into staff planning,” he stated. “We need to find better ways to retain these guys!”

Mayor Paul Maroun estimated that it costs the village about $80,000 to train an electric lineman over the course of four years.

He said there needs to be legal ways to retain them. “They need to stay at least three years!” for the village to recoup its training, he added.

Chief Eric Proulx suggested clearer employee retention language could be negotiated into the next village contract with electric department employees.

Blacktopping of village streets underway

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

The annual autumn blacktopping of village streets by the department of public works, in concert with the county's highway department and its paving equipment, began last Tuesday.

Town paving projects with the county apparently concluded last Monday.

On Thursday the Free Press photographer found the joint village-county crew on Woods Ave., as the photos attached show.

According to DPW Superintendent Bob DeGrace the list of street scheduled for new coats of blacktop this fall are Front, Arden Lindsey, Amell Lane, part of Cedar near Tupper Lake Supply and Maple Street.

Mr. DeGrace told village leaders that there has been a lot of demand for asphalt across the North Country this year- pushing back a number of projects for local towns and villages.

Trustee Clint Hollingsworth wondered if Church and Deer streets were on this year's list.

Village Clerk Mary Casagrain said they weren't, as new laterals to many of the homes there still have to be installed.

Mr. Hollingsworth said those streets are very bad and in need of major re-construction soon.

Trustee Ron LaScala said that once the water and sewer line work is done there next year the village might be better off hiring a private contractor to do the paving work.

“We don't have the manpower to tackle projects like that.”

“Then maybe we should contract out the work?” suggested Deputy Mayor Leon LeBlanc.

“I agree!” said Trustee LaScala.

Officials at the table that evening agreed that those two streets needed major reconstruction- including new water and sewer mains.

Trustee LaScala said a major redo like that shouldn't be tackled by the village DPW and sewer and water crews, but left to a private contractor. “Our guys should be focusing on our many smaller projects” in coming years, he argued.

“They should be maintaining our infrastructure, not building it!”

Village Clerk Mary Casagrain said “it is very expensive to contract out” to the work. She remembered when the village attempted to go that route a decade ago when it redid Water Street. The price for a private contractor to rebuild the street at that time was $750,000.

Mayor Maroun said the board could look at contracting out the work needed on those two streets, and at least get prices.

In other DPW matters that evening, Mr. DeGrace said the new pick-up truck his department ordered recently on state contract has arrived.

He received board permission to advertise for sale the old 2006 pick-up it replaces on the popular equipment sale web site, Auctions International.

New Tupper Lake hotel on NCREDC wish list

Dan McClelland

A new Tupper Lake hotel is among the projects on a state grant wish list released last week by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. The new hotel proposed for here was one of 17 priority projects listed by the regional group.

The NCREDC has been very successful in recent years, winning millions of dollars in grant money from the state's economic development agency's annual pool, competing against similar regional agencies covering the entire state.

The Tupper Lake priority project is a $10.9 million hotel that Tupper Lake native Rick LaMere's company is proposing to build on a three-acre parcel on Demars Blvd.

Mr. LaMere, who relocated with his family to Virginia over a decade ago, is associated with the NorthSouth Construction Co. which helps build major hotels.

His company is headquartered in Midlothian, VA.

Mr. LaMere's building firm has apparently done a lot of work with Shamin Hotels, which is an upscale hotel chain on the east coast, often erecting new structures for the Hilton chain. Shamin is headquartered in Chester, VA.

Mr. LaMere has been back home in Tupper Lake several times this year, meeting with Mayor Paul Maroun and others on plans to build a major destination hotel here. Some of the meetings have included Community Development consultant Melissa McManus and Franklin County Industrial Development Agency executive director Jeremy Evans.

According to the mayor this week the builder is looking at two sites on “the boulevard”- the former ATS Auto Parts parcel adjacent to several properties Rick's brother Tom owns there and the former Aubuchon and former A&P Store plaza.

“The IDA is ready to help with financing,” said the mayor who is also our county legislator. He also said the Shamin group is also expected to be a partner in this new venture. “Rick's company has built thousands of hotel units for Shamin!”

According to the description in the NCREDC list the new Tupper Lake hotel would cost $10.9 million, with $2.2 million sought in state funding.

“NorthSouth Construction wants to rehabilitate a 3-acre parcel of commercial land... with a lodging hotel to promote tourism and private investments. The new facility affiliated with the Tru by Hilton brand would feature 75 rooms, a breakfast dining area, an indoor pool, a fitness room, a business center, a small market and an outdoor patio area. The hotel is projected to create 20 hotel jobs and 100 construction jobs.”

Other priority projects looking for state money in this area include a new $6.5 million headquarters for Saranac Lake's Pendragon Theater, a $4.8 million building and commercial center for Citizen Advocates in Malone and a $1.6 million renovation of space at Adirondack Health to provide pulmonary rehabilitation and physical therapy services. A fourth local project is $2.3 million restoration of the Trudeau home in Saranac Lake into a public museum dedicated to Dr. E.L. Trudeau's treatment of tuberculosis.

Last year the village board began a quest to secure a major brand-name hotel for this community to help it be more of a destination for tourists.

Riley Gillis completes Eagle Scout project

Dan McClelland

 Rob Gillis, Riley Gillis, Dominic Dattola, Lisa Gillis, Doug Bencze, Peg Mauer, Adam Boudreau and Joe Salamy

Rob Gillis, Riley Gillis, Dominic Dattola, Lisa Gillis, Doug Bencze, Peg Mauer, Adam Boudreau and Joe Salamy

Riley Gillis, son of Lisa and Rob Gillis of Tupper Lake, recently completed his Eagle Scout Service project, the last phase in his journey to becoming an Eagle Scout. Riley’s project involved enhancing the west entrance of the Goff Nelson Library’s Community Room.

Riley attended a board meeting where Peg Mauer, library manager, described struggling with snow removal at the entrance facing Raquette Pond. In addition to installing a gable roof over the entrance, Riley and his team of volunteers removed pavement that had buckled from frost and installed paver stones at the entrance. They also removed a large stump and replaced a section of cracked sidewalk leading to the entrance. Over 104 hours of service from a dozen volunteers were spent to complete the project. The multi-phase project began in October of 2017 but the early winter weather forced the construction phase to be postponed until the following summer. The finishing touches were completed in August of 2018.

Before a Scout can begin working on their service project, they must submit a detailed proposal to the district advancement committee for approval.

In an email to Riley, the chairperson stated “I like this project for several reasons. You will provide an important improvement to one of the most used public facilities. You are also facilitating the village to complete the sidewalk. When I was a Boy Scout, there was a sign in our troop meeting place. It stated: The one who gets ten to work is greater than the one who does the work of ten. You are getting ten to work. Keep it up.”

Riley would like to commend the businesses which donated materials as well as the volunteers who were instrumental in completing this project. They include: Adirondack Fireplace, Bencze Logging, Village of Tupper Lake, Kentile Excavating, Aubuchon Hardware, Tupper Lake Supply, Gillis Realty, Rob & Lisa Gillis, Peg Mauer, Tom Gilman, Rob Drasye, Mike Donah, Doug Bencze, Ken Hubbard, Paul Maroun, Bob DeGrace, Adam Boudreau, Joel Boudreau, Fred Gates, Doug Bencze, Andre Suave, Rick & Dominic Dattola, Jane and Bruce LaVoy, Joe Salamy, and Richie Moeller.

 Bob DeGrace, Paul Maroun, Riley Gillis, Tom Gilman, Bruce LaVoy

Bob DeGrace, Paul Maroun, Riley Gillis, Tom Gilman, Bruce LaVoy

Village performance park nearing completion

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

One of the last elements in the completion of the Village of Tupper Lake performance park in Flanders Park was wrapped up this week by a Watertown-based landscaping firm.

The LandPro landscaping company, owned by John Moody, laid the granite paving stones in the plaza area in front of the Lions bandshell, where people will dance to performers there in coming years.

The crew of about a half dozen men also backfilled with village-provided sand and earth behind the large granite retaining walls stones. By Friday most of the sod that will top the terrace seating was in place. The crew also planted a number of new trees and grass-type shrubs on the grounds of the performing venue, next to Mill Street, and behind the bandshell, where they will help absorb some of the surface water from the sloping grade of the park.

The company owner is a cousin of Wes Moody, who owns Moody Tree Farm at Saranac Lake.

At Monday's village board meeting Mayor Paul Maroun thanked Trustee Clint Hollingsworth for the work he and his father, Tinker, did maneuvering the two-ton granite stones into place to form the seating terraces on a recent weekend. Helping too was one of Clint's employees, Doug Snyder.

He said to “align and calibrate” the semi-circular retaining walls with the village's large excavator was nothing short of impressive.

“Thank you on behalf of the entire community!” he told the trustee.

Trustee Hollingsworth chaired the overall project for the village along with Trustee Ron LaScala. Spearheading the development of the bandshell structure itself for the Tupper Lake Lions Club was Lion Tom LaMere.

Speaking about the performance park Monday night Mr. Hollingsworth admitted there had been some concerns among the volunteers on the village committee about the ability of volunteers to lay the heavy plaza stones in front of the bandshell, so the decision was made to contract out the final leg of the project.

The overall funding for the new performance area and the transformation of that section of the municipal park came from the village's multi-million dollar pool of waterfront revitalization grant money secured for the village from the state department of state in recent years by Consultant Melissa McManus

LandPro was the only North Country firm to submit a bid on the landscaping piece. It's price was about $90,000- after the village committee and the village board negotiated it down some.

“The plaza, as of Friday, was almost finished, with some fine tuning left to do on the edges,” Mr. Hollingsworth told his colleagues.

The seating terraces are now all sodded and most of the new vegetation and shrubs are in place, he added.

The company's paving stone crew should be back this week to grout between the large two foot by two foot stones with a polymer sand, which repels moisture, according to the trustee and local contractor.

He said too the stones are all with a quarter-inch of tolerance, as designed by the architect on the project, Andrew Chary

Tom LaMere still has some pieces of trim and other wood to install on the rear walls of the bandshell building and glass plates will be hung on the two sides.

“I guess it's very safe to say we're going to be enjoying performances there next summer!” said a very pleased Mr. Hollingsworth.

He took a moment too to recognize the Hazelton Lumber Co. of Wilmington for its recent donation of about $1,000 in wood materials for the bandshell. The company, which also has its own mill, donated much of the Douglas fir in the structure at its cost and charged only minimally for the milling work required. A number of other local companies have donated considerably to the project this past year including Kentile Excavating and Lemieux Construction, which did weeks of site preparation work this spring, Mitchell Stone Products with a major donation of gravel, John Gullen Fine Carpentry, Hyde Fuel and others.

The Tupper Lake Lions Club raised over $40,000 towards the cost of the bandshell, with donations coming from club activities and from hundreds of local supporters.

Mr. Hollingsworth called the building of the new performance venue “an amazing collaborative project and humongous community effort.”

Town board selling former downtown fire hall

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

With the Tupper Lake Heritage Museum now moved over to its new home in the train station, town officials on October 11 agreed to put the former downtown fire station building up for sale.

Over five years ago an earlier town board tried to sell the Pine St. building. The only bidder eventually backed away from the deal.

Supervisor Patricia Littlefield raised the matter in old business at the October monthly meeting.

“Do we want to sell the former downtown fire station as excess property?” she asked her board. “Do we want to put in on the market now? Do we want to wait for spring?” she asked.

“The sooner the better, as far as I am concerned” Councilman John Quinn told her.

“We have the appraisal on it.” added Councilman Mike Dechene. “I think we should move forward with it.”

Town Clerk Laurie Fuller reported this week the appraiser's price was $121,000.

The officials that evening moved a resolution deeming the building surplus property and agreed to advertise for bids, setting the appraisal price as the minimum bid in the tender. The separate motions were offered by Mr. Quinn and they both passed unanimously.

Town Attorney Kirk Gagnier said the town should sell the building “as is” via a quit claim deed, with the purchaser assuming all closing costs.

The bid opening is November 29 at 2p.m.

Landscaping work in high gear at performance park

Dan McClelland

Crews from LandPro landscaping contractors of Watertown have been on site this past week at the village performance park where the Lions bandshell is situated. In the photo at top workers tamp the dance floor area in front of the bandshell in anticipation of the laying of a mozaic of two-inch thick granite pieces. Sand and top soil was also trucked to the site by the village department of public works, for placement by the firm's workers behind the three rows of two-ton granite retaining wall pieces. Sod is expected to be placed in the terrace areas this week. Some of the LandPro technicians have also been involved with various plantings of grass-style and evergreen shrubs in and around the outdoor performing place. The village awarded the contract for landscaping to the Watertown firm, the only bidder, in recent weeks for a price of about $90,000. (McClelland photos)

Fire Prevention week began on Sunday, October 7 and ended Saturday, October 13

Dan McClelland

 In the photo above from left were volunteers Matt Boudreau, Scott Shannon and Nick McLear. (photo provided.)

In the photo above from left were volunteers Matt Boudreau, Scott Shannon and Nick McLear. (photo provided.)

On Tuesday, October 9, Tupper Lake fire fighters visited the local L.P. Quinn School, to show the students the equipment and shared some important information on what they should do if they are ever in a house when it is on fire.

Firefighters put on their gear and masks to show the younger students what the firefighter would look and sound like so that the youngsters would not be afraid of the firefighter should they ever have to go into a burning building to find them.

The Tupper Lake Fire Department and its members hosted an open house at its station on Santa Clara Ave on Sunday, October 14.

Golf course study work applauded by town leaders

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

Town leaders as a whole were very impressed with the work and study that went into the new report of the committee of experienced and very interested golfers who studied the local 18 over the summer, judging by comments Thursday night. The finished report was filed a month ago but was not released until Thursday when more elected leaders could be present.

Attending Thursday's session for a board discussion on the new document (see related story this week) were Gerry Goldman and Golf Pro Evan LaBarge, two of the dozen members of the study group.

Councilman Mike Dechene explained the committee was comprised of past golf course members and people “very adamant of keeping our golf course alive.”

The intent of the work, he said, was to benefit the current board and their plan to “keep things moving forward there, with the small amount of members that we have!”

“Very, very good meetings we had. A lot of good ideas came out of them.”

Of the report itself, he admitted he felt the finished product lacked a little bit about what we can do for the board that is in place right now. “The majority of this is about what happens if the town takes over or what needs to be done by the town to keep the golf course alive.”

He said the report, though, contains “a lot of good information.”

“This recommendation is that the town should take over the insurances, the fertilization programs at the golf course. My belief is that the greens, the tees, the fairways all belong to the town and we do not want this to fall apart. If we lost a green, for example, it would be unbelievable how much it would cost to rebuild it.”

“I agree with a lot of the stuff they have here. Whether or not we can fit it into our budget, that's something we need to talk about.”

He said the town currently budgets $4,500 for fertilizer used at the golf course and the Verizon communication tower yearly stipend of $4,000 also goes to course improvements.

So of the $30,000 request outlined in the report, he calculated that $8,500 is already going there.

As a municipality we just can't give money to an organization, but we can pay for services like a fertilizing company to treat the greens there. “They are our grounds being fertilized!”

“The town cannot let this golf course close up. I believe this committee was set up in case the board of directors does throw up their hands and say they can't do it anymore, the town would have to take over. I believe the board sitting here now would do that. Although we don't want to do that. We want the golf course board to be successful!”

John Quinn thanked his colleague and the volunteers who sat on his committee. “I know the time and effort was considerable!”

“-And they were happily there...meeting after meeting,” Mr. Dechene told him.

“I see this report a little differently,” Councilman Quinn told his colleagues. “I didn't see this as any kind of blueprint for the town to take it over. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as far as I'm concerned. I want the current club and its board to continue to exist and prosper.

“We all want that!” Supervisor Patti Littlefield echoed.

“It makes recommendations not only for the town but spells out some specific things for the club to do! I see the success of the club would involve a closer working relationship and partnership between the two boards,” the councilman said.

“It's our property. It's an asset. If we did nothing and the place folded, it would be a great loss to the town. Much like Big Tupper was! -And we all know where that got us!”

Of the four major requests of the town in the committee's report, he said the one stipulating that all future equipment would be bought through the town on state contract is “a no brainer.”

“Taking advantage of state pricing and having tax exempt status, however it can be done legally, is something that can be done easily.

He called the $30,000 request to buy all fertilizer “pretty substantial.”

“But I talked to a few of the older members and the town board used to do that back in the 1980s when the costs were about half of what they are now. At that time they were kicking in about $15,000 per year. Subsequent boards decided that wasn't the right thing to do!”

“Whether we can foot the whole bill, especially in one chunk, I guess we'll have to see on what impact it has on our budget.”

“I'm not so sure- and I'd want to get more information about the insurance costs. We do carry insurance on that property for the winter time at least, probably year round.”

Mrs. Littlefield confirmed the town has insurance on its umbrella policy for that property. All individual buildings there are listed separately, she noted.

She said, however, the town does not carry insurance for what she called “a golf club operation.” The golf course board buys that and provides the town with a proof of insurance, she added.

The supervisor said the insurance coverage by the two parties should be studied, to see if there is duplication of coverage and there could be a savings found there if there is.

Mr. Quinn said he believes the town should get back in the fertilizer cost underwriting- “at least to the point of sharing the cost of keeping the grounds up. One of the recommendations I haven't been convince of yet is the club could turn over its assets- its buildings and equipment- in lieu of the $83,000 still owed to the town as interest on the bond to fixing the upper nine. I'm not convinced that's the right way to go, but I'm wondering if the club could meet the town half way” on the interest monies owed.

Asked to comment, Gerry Goldman said it would “certainly be a net gain for the club if the town were to assume” some of those costs. Assuming the entire fertilizer costs would be a gain of over $20,000 for the club in any year, he gave as one example.

“We've had a successful year this year, by the bar we set. We're certainly better off than we were last year. I think we're in better shape at the leadership level with Evan (LaBarge). And Sonny working in the garage. The fundraising has been a big boost to us.” Over $25,000 was raised by the board and its members this year in fundraising. He called it “a significant part of the club's surplus” at the end of this year.

“The volunteers also did a great job this summer and the golf course, as a result “looks better dressed.”

Mr. Goldman said the brush removal, the work to the fairways, cart paths, made a great difference. He calculated that the contributions of the volunteers this summer came out the equivalent of one full-time worker the club didn't have to pay.

He said too many volunteers gave a lot more than four hours a week that they signed up for.

“I think we have our head above water, but we're just not going to be able to survive any calamities!”

He said because the board is currently putting its budget for 2019 together, it would be helpful right now to know if any new town funding was coming.

Mr. Goldman said it's the view of most of the golf course leaders that if there was a surplus found next year, that money would go to updating course equipment.

Evan LaBarge said right now most of the equipment at the golf course is owned by the club. Some is leased.

As leases expire, the board would like to look at buying machinery outright, he said, cautioning that there are many variables.

The state contract option to the town would be very important, he noted.

He mentioned that for the first time in many years all the equipment the club owns was in operation this summer.

“It doesn't mean that it's in good shape or that it will run next year, but it just reflects the work of a good team!”

Councilman Dechene asked Mr. Goldman if he had noticed “any issues” between the two boards this year and was told there didn't seem to be any.

“I think we're going to face some challenges down the road. We're going to have to reexamine our relationship with the restaurant vendor. I know with all of our attention to the course, our board has some responsibilities to the vendor” which he said it hasn't been able to meet.

One of the board's responsibilities, for example, was the maintenance of 200-place settings. “I can tell you right now if you go to a wedding at the country club, you're going to get Chinette. That's just one of responsibilities we haven't been able to meet.”

Concerning a lot of the fixtures in the kitchen, he said it was safe to admit the club has been remiss in its obligation to replace things...simply because the club doesn't have any money.

He said the club couldn't replace a gas stove that was needed and Operator Jim Ellis had to buy his own.

Mr. Goldman speculated that if Mr. Ellis doesn't renew his lease, the club's on the hook for finding a $8,000 or $10,000 gas stove.

Kitchen equipment is expensive and many of the club-owned pieces have been cobbled together over the years, he noted.

Unless there are improvements made there, the club may eventually have to renegotiate the lease with any current or future vendor, he suggested.

“We are mindful of the burden you all face in guarding taxpayer dollars and making decisions how to best spend them. I think we would be idiots if we came in here and held our hands our and said 'give us money no matter what'.”

“We're just hopeful we can look at the whole operation as a plus for Tupper Lake!”

He said he agreed with Mr. Dechene that he has an affinity for playing the course over the years with “guys like his dad.”

“The thought of that place not being there just doesn't make any sense to me!”

“You can't have a Preserve Associates resort up there without a golf course!”

“We must find a way to keep it going!”

“Well said,” Mrs. Littlefield told him.

Next week: long time golf course employee Daniel “Boonie” Carmichael weighs in on discussion of course's future.

Water district improvement, expansion in high gear

Dan McClelland

The North Country Contracting firm is moving steadily along with the expansion and improvements planned for town water district No. 3 at Tamarac. It's the same company that worked on the village well project at Pitchfork Pond this summer. When these photos were taken Thursday the crew was moving past tee No. 4 at the golf course and heading up the Big Tupper access road, excavating and laying pipe to the new water tank beside Sugar Loaf Mountain. In its digging the crew encountered a lot of hard pan and glacial fill, which contained some dandy-sized boulders shown in the photo below. Plans are to have the project and its new water tank substantially completed by year's end. The workers are working extended days to reach that goal, according to comments from project watchers at Jim Ellis' Burgundy Steakhouse. (McClelland photo)

Golf course analysis to be reviewed by town officials next week

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

The report by the town committee charged this past summer to look for innovative ways to move the Tupper Lake golf course into a brighter future will be the fodder of board discussion when the town board meets on October 11.

Earlier this year Town Councilman Mike Dechene called together about one dozen local residents who love golf and who were very familiar with the workings of the local 18 and the sport in general. A number of the committee members like Ray Martin, Ron Belleville and John Moore were former golf course board members and several were current board members, including Jim Boucher. Golf Pro Evan LaBarge was also a key member of the study group.

Mr. Dechene chaired the committee.

At the September town board meeting Mr. Dechene had the group's report in his hand, but asked his colleagues to postpone its release until all five board members could study the finding. Missing that evening were Deputy Supervisor John Quinn and Councilwoman Tracy Luton.

“I think we should talk about this when we have a full board,” he told Supervisor Patti Littlefield and Councilwoman Mary Fontana that evening.

“I'd like to hold its release until then!”

He said the volunteers who studied the revenues, expenses and current practices at the town facility with an eye to finding good paths on which to move forward “worked a lot of hours” on their assignment and the report it generated.

Mr. Dechene said the committee gathered “lots and lots and lots of information” and came up with some very realistic expectations for the golf course's future operation. “They did a fantastic job overall!”

Mrs. Littlefield, who sits on the town board's golf course committee with Mr. Dechene, said the group members “brought a lot of expertise” to their assignment, which began in early summer.

“They brought a lot of information to their discussions. In particular they looked at how things were done when times were good!” she stated.

Mr. Dechene said he believes strongly that the town-owned golf course can be an economic driver here, if operated correctly.

The supervisor said the committee was asked to come up with ways to improve the golf course at a time in America when the sport is on the wane.

“How do you make people get interested in golf?

She said a game of golf “is a five hour tour”...a five hour commitment and people today have a difficult time finding five hours in their busy lives to devote to something.

Mrs. Littlefield said that in addition to the members of the study committee there are a number of local residents who routinely volunteer to help there.

She called the golf course “a great facility” that is not nearly used to its fullest.

The board of directors there routinely struggles “to make ends meet” what with declining members.

To generate revenues the golf course leaders annually stage a number of benefits, she said.

Mr. Dechene noted that one event the board staged this year generated $21,000 to help the course's bottom line.

The supervisor said the people who serve on the golf course board are “very positive thinking.”

“As we develop our budget we are hoping we had help- maybe by covering grounds maintenance expenses,” she offered.

“My goal is to build a strong partnership” between the town board and the golf course board.

Mr. Dechene said he thought that partnership already exists.

He applauded the study group members for the “passion” they brought to their assignment by the town this summer. “It's going to bear fruit” in the years ahead.

He asserted again that the town board does not want to operate the golf course. The elected officials want the golf course board to be successful, according to the councilman.

“I'm very happy with the report. I think we're headed in a good direction!”

He admitted there are always a lot of nay-sayers in the community who probably don't think so, but he said he believes the future can be bright for the local course.

District's capital building improvement project coming to close

Dan McClelland

Editor's note: this is the first in a three-part series about the conclusion of the Tupper Lake School District's current school improvement project.

The school district's $8.3 million capital improvement project which began early last summer is wrapping up these days, and so the Free Press took a morning tour of the three buildings last week with Business Manager Dan Bower to get a close-up look of some of the projects tackled.

This particular building program was submitted to the state education department about 2013 and it took nearly a year before approval came. However, due to a staff shortage there and a backlog of building projects by districts across the state the final start date didn't occur until early 2017.

Mr. Bower noted Wednesday that future projects shouldn't see comparable delays, as the education department is currently retaining more staff to process building improvement requests…

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Tupper has most electric car charging stations in Adirondack Park

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

The village's three new electric car-charging stations are now in operation, Electric Department Superintendent Marc Staves relayed in a report to the village board last month.

The village was able to secure the hardware for the stations through a state grant and Mr. Staves' crew members installed them- two in the municipal park and one at the Wild Center.

The first one to go live was at the natural history museum on Friday, September 14- a day before it hosted a national electric car conference.

Mr. Staves said the new charger came in handy for one participant who drove his electric car to the Wild Center to the event, not knowing there was a unit there. He was able to charge up his ride with it.

Mayor Paul Maroun said there have been some requests for a charging station in the uptown business district and Mr. Staves is currently exploring that possibility. One possible site might be new village parking lot across from the village office, he thought.

Right now there are seven public and private charging stations in the community, it was noted.

“There's no excuse for people not to come to Tupper Lake to charge their cars,” said the electric department chief. He said Tupper Lake now has more charging units than any other community in the Adirondacks.

Mr. Staves thanked the Robert Merrill family for the loan of its electric car to test out the three new units his department installed.

He said one of the requirements of the grant program is that all units have to be load-tested on a vehicle, so the Merrills loan of their car saved money for the village, which would otherwise would have had to rent an electric car.

He said right now each station here is in what he called “a free vend mode,” so users can charge their cars for free. The benefit of having chargers in a community is that owners of those types of cars plan their travel paths around them. Mr. Staves said he feels the village should soon establish a fee structure and he said he will be discussing that with officials from the New York Power Authority at a meeting with them that month.

Trustee Clint Hollingsworth suggested placing concrete bollards in front of the units to protect them from collisions and plowing and Mr. Staves said he had been thinking about the need for them.

In other news in his department, he said that evening the tree-trimming project underway at Moody by a private contractor was about half completed. “The guys did a tremendous job and very much opened up the (transmission) line right of way for us.”

Trustees Clint Hollingsworth and Ron LaScala said they had both walked portions of the right of way along Route 30 where the crews were cutting and applauded the work. “They did a real, clean job!” was how Mr. LaScala described the workmanship by the contractor.

He said he had never realized how overgrown the line easement area had become.

The board that evening also approved the resignation of electric line helper Kaine Favro, who returned to his native South Dakota.

Asked by Trustee LaScala why the relatively new member of the electric crew left, Mr. Staves said he just wanted to return to his former employee closer to home.

He also reported that Verizon recently accepted the village's proposal to hang its lines on village utility poles. The telecommunications company will pay the village $16,000 each year for that privilege.

Register to vote at library Saturday

Dan McClelland

There's no reason Tupper Lakers aren't able to vote in the November election!

County election officials have made it easy with the announcement this week that there will be a voter registration drive this Saturday, October 6 from 10a.m. to 2p.m. at the Goff Nelson Memorial Library.

In addition to registering to vote, those who attend will also be able to pick up absentee ballot applications.

Here are some of this year's important voting deadlines:

Registration and party change deadline is Oct. 12. Address change deadline is October 17. The last day to postmark an absentee request is October 30. The last day to vote by absentee in person is November 5 but this must take place at the county board of elections office in Malone.

Any teenager 17 years of age can also participate in the election process. They may pre-register to vote and while they cannot vote until they are 18 years of age, they can work as a poll inspector- duties for which they will be paid.

Election commissioner Tracy Sparks and Tupper Lake Republican Chairman Ray Bigrow were instrumental in setting up Saturday's event.