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Filtering by Category: News

Multiple agencies respond to sinking vessel

Dan McClelland

On Wednesday, May 1 at approximately 7:05p.m. Dave Francisco, a resident on Emma Street, looking out over the lake from his window said, “he was in the right spot, at the right time.” He saw a boat leaving shore, watched it flip and quickly called 911 and notified them of a sinking vessel with one occupant on the northwest portion of Raquette Pond.

New York State Police, DEC, Tupper Lake Police and Tupper Lake Rescue Squad responded to multiple locations including the Moody Bridge, Municipal Park, Water Street and Underwood Bridge in search of the sinking vessel.

The boater, Lee Roussel, 46, of Tupper Lake, was located close to the northern shore.

A member of the Tupper Lake Rescue Squad was able to use a private watercraft to make contact with and remove Mr. Roussel from the water. Mr. Roussel was found clinging to the floating gas tank of his boat and was not wearing a personal floatation device. He was then taken to the Tupper Lake Municipal Park Boat Launch and transferred to the awaiting ambulance.

The Tupper Lake Rescue Squad then transported Mr. Roussel to Adirondack Health in Saranac Lake for the onset of hypothermia.

His boat sank in the shallow water near where it was found.

Old parade route, new spark coming for 2019 Woodsmen's Days parade

Dan McClelland

With the major reconstruction of the uptown business district by New York State behind us, the Tupper Lake Woodsmen's Days organizers of the large kick-off parade decided this year to switch back to the old route.

For years the parade participants assembled on upper Park Street and some of the side streets there and then proceeded down Park through the business district, rounding the corners on Wawbeek and Lake and moving down Lake Street to the Tupper Lake Municipal Park outer area. With Park Street torn up in recent years, the Demars Blvd. Route was used the past three years.

-And to make the parade bigger and more vibrant than Tupper Lake and its many visitors have seen in years, Andrew McClelland and Pat Bedore of Stacked Graphics and Faith McClelland of Spruce and Hemlock have teamed up this year with Parade Coordinator Amanda Lizotte.

The young entrepreneurs who relocated to the heart of the uptown business district this winter are inviting their commercial and retail neighbors to join them in decorating their storefronts and business fronts in a lumberjack theme with plenty of red and black check plaid.

The decoration trio is asking everyone on that two-block stretch of Park Street to have the decorations in place from Thursday, July 12 to Sunday, July 14 to welcome all visitors with grand and home-spun lumberjack hospitality.

The decorations don't have to be costly and elaborate...just simple and colorful like the early lumberjacks here.

“How magnificent would our business district look decked out in buffalo plaid for four days?” the three say. “We may be surprised at how many tourists stop without even knowing about our Woodsmen's Days to find out what's going on.”

The decorations may also bring local residents down to see the decorations and stop in stores they haven't been in for years, they figure.

They are calling on their commercial neighbors to start planning their decorations now, before the busy summer season begins.

The three business people say: “Let's make this the year of participation...the year of camaraderie... the year of supporting one another...the year of Tupper Lake!”

In a related matter, Mrs. Lizotte is also looking for businesses, groups and organizations of all sorts to again join the Woodsmen's Parade with their floats and marching groups to make it as good or better than any in its 40-year history. Last year's procession, under the parade coordinator's direction, boasted one of largest turn-outs of large logging industry equipment and tractor trailers in recent years.

Last week the village board approved the new parade route and the retail promotion to accompany the parade.

Tamarac water tank set to go up

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

The materials to construct the new water tank above Tamarac Village in water district No. 3 were on site earlier this month, awaiting installation.

In a report to the town board February 14, supervisor Patti Littlefield, said she had attended a meeting that day with the contractor and officials from the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC), who are overseeing the project for the town.

“It was on site late last fall, but then the weather got the best” of the installers, she reminded her board.

She said the heavy equipment to erect the sections of the tank arrived on site that day.

The installers hired to construct the tank were expected to begin this past Monday, she said.

“They are allowing two weeks” to bring it to final construction. “They have to allow time for the tank to cure and then water is added to the water main there and the tank is filled.”

The process of filling the tank with chlorinated water involves a lot of back washing and cleaning and testing” before it is ready for use, she explained.

She said also at the meeting were members of the village line crew for discussions on where new utility poles would be installed to service the tank complex. The tank will be connected by antenna to the other two village tanks to coordinate the flow of water in the village system.

The pad for the new tank was poured by the contractor, North Country Contracting last fall.

The “substantial completion date” for the project is the end of May, according to the supervisor.

The contractor will have to do “a little tidying up” on the road next to the No. 3 and No. 4 fairways where the new water mains were installed last summer, she said.

“When it's all said and done the hydrants in that water district will be functioning properly. Every resident at Tamarac will have a consistent flow of water plus there's room for expansion now on the mountain.”

“If and when something happens at the ACR they can come right down the hill and draw right out of the new tank!”

Train station wins grant for lighting improvements

Dan McClelland

Next Stop! Tupper Lake, the local not for profit organization, which built and operates the Tupper Lake train station, has been notified by the Adirondack Foundation that it has won a grant of $1,843 through its Generous Act program to add a new lighting system to the dimly-lit interior of the station.

The grant application was written and filed by Dan McClelland, chairman of the train station group.

The money comes from community-minded donors to the Lake Placid-based foundation, whose investment profits are put back into the community for myriad good works. Money is also given to the Foundation by many friends of the Adirondacks to be distributed to worthwhile community projects.

“We are delighted with the help of the Adirondack Foundation. Its generous gift will go a long way to making substantial lighting improvements inside our station, and in particular to better show off the exhibits of our new tenant, the Tupper Lake Heritage Museum,” Mr. McClelland said this week.

“When we built the station ten years ago, we underestimated the amount of lighting we needed in the great room for events there,” he noted. Three chandeliers provide most of the interior lighting in that section of the station.

Last summer after problems developed with the physical condition of the town's old Pine St. firehall the Next Stop! Tupper Lake board welcomed the Tupper Lake Heritage Museum to the large room of its building. Over the winter museum volunteers have been organizing and building exhibits of Tupper Lake historical artifacts for a June re-opening.

Museum Chairwoman Kathleen Lefebvre and several of her board members and Mr. McClelland are currently working with lighting professional David Naone of Tupper Lake to purchase the best system for the money. Mr. Naone has identified three good systems and has recently briefed the museum board on those. Some of tonight's meeting of the museum board is expected to center on his recommendations.

Mr. Naone has directed the lighting for numerous Tupper Lake High School musical and dramatic productions in the school auditorium over the years, giving generously of his time and talent. He also advised on the new lights installed in the high school auditorium, as part of the recent capital improvements this past year.

Preliminary village budget calls for spending hike of 2.79%

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

On Monday at noon the Tupper Lake Village Board presented to the public a draft of financial plan that will guide the village's operation in the fiscal year beginning June 1.

The only people in attendance were the mayor and Trustees Clint Hollingsworth, Ron LaScala and Leon LeBlanc, along with Treasurer Mary Casagrain.

The proposed budget, which must be finalized this month likely after several work sessions, forecasts total spending this coming year of $3.048 million- a figure up by $83,016 or 2.79% over the current year.

The proposed budget covers spending in only the village's general fund which covers the operations of the village staff at the Park St. headquarters, the village fire and police departments and the department of public works (street and sidewalk detail). The village electric and water/sewer departments are funded for the most part by ratepayers of those utilities and do not affect the village tax rate.

In the preliminary plan, after $100,000 in unexpended balance from the current year is rolled forward and after revenues from other than taxes of $942,131 are applied, the balance of spending that figures into the calculation of the total tax levy in the village will be $2.005 million- or up by just shy of two percent (1.976%) from the total village tax levy this year.

If the budget is adopted without substantial alteration later this month by the board, the plan would produce a total tax levy of $58 below the state's permanent 2% tax cap which for the village this coming year will be $2,005,997.

In prospect for the village's 2019-20 financial year is a total tax valuation in the village of $141,759,758 which will produce a tax rate of $14.51 per thousand assessed valuation, based on this year's spending.

The amount of assessed property to share the tax burden next year (village tax base) is up by $274,344 from $141,485,414 this year.

The proposed tax rate of $14.15 is up by 25 cents per $1,000 from the current rate of $$13.898 per $1,000 or an increase of 1.78%.

The village tax rate five years ago in 2014-15 was $13.331 per $1,000. Based on a house in the village assessed at $100,000 village taxes were $1,333 per year then. This coming year that owner of that same house with the same $100,000 assessment will pay $1,415 in total village taxes, $82 or six percent more they did five years ago.

Dog owner drops legal action against town after

Dan McClelland

Mark Dewyea late last week withdrew his small claims legal action against the Town of Tupper Lake for the balance of veterinarian bills he owed for his tiny dog's over one dozen surgeries last year. His action came after his outstanding bills were satisfied by two anonymous donors.

In August 2018 Mark's tiny terrier, Jackson Browne, was attacked in the front yard of the family's Fourth Ave. home by a German Shepherd that had escaped from a village patrol car. Village Patrolman Mike Vaillancourt and town dog control officer Wayne LaPierre had picked the dangerous dog up earlier and tried to recapture it near the Dewyea driveway after it escaped from the rear of the patrol car.

The bigger dog grabbed the tiny 12-pound dog by the neck and head and nearly killed it, resulting in about $5,000 worth of surgeries at the High Peaks Animal Hospital in Ray Brook to save it in the weeks which followed. Officer Vaillancourt shot and wounded the 130-pound attacking dog, saving the smaller dog's life.

On Thursday, March 14, the pet owner appeared before the town board to ask it to pay the $1,572 balance of the bills at the veterinary hospital, where the dog was cared for over four weeks.

He said the reason he was putting some of the blame on the town was because the dog control officer was partially responsible for “corralling” the dangerous German Shepherd into his front yard.

“If Jackson Browne had been out on the street when he was attacked that would be an entirely different thing and I wouldn't be standing before you tonight,” he told the town officials that evening.

Asking the town leaders for help, he said their insurance company, the New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal, had denied the claim he made against the village and town last year. Both the village and town have the same insurance carrier. According to Mr. Dewyea, the claim was denied by the company because neither municipality carries negligence insurance.

He claimed that through the actions of their police officer and dog catcher, the village and town governments here were negligent.

In reviewing the claims openly that evening Town Supervisor Patti Littlefield revealed that the village board agreed to pay $1,572 after NYMIR denied the claim.

A Go Fund Me campaign generated another $325 and after the German Shepherd's owner paid a small sum and after other payments of about $625, a balance of $1,572 was left that Mr. Dewyea wanted the town to pay.

After some back and forth between Supervisor Littlefield and the pet owner over the documents re-presented to her that evening, the supervisor announced she felt it would be setting “bad precedent” for the town to pay a claim their insurance carrier refused to pay.

She listed some of the payments made on the bill by the various parties.

Mrs. Littlefield promised Mr. Dewyea to pursue the matter with Town Attorney Kirk Gagnier and get back to him at some point.

She also suggested he pursue legal action in town small claims court, which he did Wednesday, before Judge Len Young.

He told town officials on March 14 he didn't want to sue the town, but the outstanding bills left him no choice if the town didn't help him.

Because the local town court cannot hear a case against the town government, the decision where to hear it was referred to County Judge Robert Main.

The action didn't get that far, however, as a veterinarian from the High Peaks Hospital called Mark Friday and told him his bill had been satisfied by two anonymous donors.

A few minutes later Mark said he called Court Clerk Laurie Fuller and told her to rip up the paperwork against the town.

Mark said Monday he was very thankful for the gifts to clear up his bill at the animal hospital and happy he didn't have to sue the town.

Several members of the village board- including Trustees Ron LaScala and Clint Hollingsworth and Mayor Paul Maroun- were upset with their counterparts on the town board who didn't immediately help Mark Dewyea with some of the hospital bills, as they had done.

Village officials were also upset with the town supervisor for reading all the payment amounts aloud at her board meeting.

“I think the town board members should be ashamed of themselves for not making good on this small invoice that is a lot more detrimental to Mr. Dewyea than it is the town,” Trustee Hollingsworth was quoted as saying last week.

Trustee Ron LaScala said last week that good boards have to sometimes look beyond the legal question and act on the side of what's ethical and what's moral. “Sometimes it's all about doing the right thing!”

He said Monday he was pleased to see the two donors step up and help the local pet owner out of a tough situation, none of which was his fault.

Temporary water easement notices create ruckus

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

The flurry of the temporary water easements sent to all village water customers early last week from Engineer Kevin Feuka's C2AE office in Canton created some discomfort for some people here.

Trustee Ron LaScala, who oversees the water and sewer departments, acknowledged that in this report to the board Wednesday.

“I'm sure you've all got some phone calls from some people who are not happy,” he told his colleagues that evening.

He encouraged unhappy customers to speak with Superintendent Mark Robillard or other village administrators who understand the legal requirement.

The temporary easements are necessary to give the village's contractor permission to enter customers' residence to install the new water meters/monitors.

The legal documents must be signed and notarized and returned to Mr. Feuka's office before any work can be scheduled.

“I can tell you as a board member that if any damage is done to someone's property during installation (of the new devices), it won't be coming out of the homeowner's pocket if it is due to the village's negligence or the contractor's negligence,” Trustee LaScala assured the community that evening.

“That's been the number one question put to me,” he said of water customers' concerns.

“People can relax” that the work won't cost them any money.

“We are being forced to install these water meters. Not a single member here wants to put them in.”

He said the requirement came from the state Department of Environmental Conservation when it came time for the agency to license the drawing of water from the new wells at Pitchfork Pond. Village leaders were apparently caught off guard by the mandate, according to their recent comments.

Mr. LaScala said it made no sense to sue the state agency to prevent the installation of the devices at the property of each water customers “because we were going to lose!”

“It's all part of what we do here...and we don't always get what we want!”

“People had some honest questions, and we've tried to answer them as honestly as we can!”

“The water department has undertaken a huge infrastructure project here” and the water meters are part of that, he explained.

Mayor Paul Maroun said he too has received calls from some “agitated” water customers.

“We're going to work with everyone.”

He said there were approximately 2,400 letters sent out. Everyone who uses municipal water in the town or village got one.

He said the easements expire in December 2020- a time frame which would give the village and its contractors time to finish the installations.

The devices will be installed just past where the water pipe enters a property in its basement. An alternative installation will be inside a well pit in the lawn, where there is not a basement in the residence.

“We are liable from the time we go in until we leave,” he said of the process.

Retired water and sewer staffer Gary Drayse has been retained to supervise each installation.

“Gary's been in most of the cellars in the community and he will make sure everything is set before we leave the premises.”

“No homeowner will be liable for anything...for any of the work done!” he assured residents.

“We are going to make this as painless as possible...we will work with people around their schedules!”

The mayor said they will attempt to tackle one neighborhood at a time.

“I know there are people here who are very upset, but we are upset too. If we want to get well water from the wells where we spent a ton of money, we have to do it this way!”

Ron LaScala said the devices will be good to have in the community. “These are not meters...we are not using them to charge for the water.”

They will be used by the village “to track its water loss” through the entire system. Water loss is what the DEC is very concerned about, he noted.

He said several summers ago the village spent weeks looking for a major leak in the village system and there was plenty of overtime rate paid village employees to eventually find it. With the new monitors, he said, that will be avoided in the future.

“It will save ratepayers a lot of money, because in the future they will not have to pay to clean and chlorinate water that through a major leak would just have been wasted.”

Town lease with golf course leaders extended

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

The lease between the town and the country club board of directors was extended last week for another seven years.

Aside from the time extension little was changed in the new contract.

“As you know they've had some financial troubles in recent years,” Supervisor Patti Littlefield told board members Mike Dechene and Traci Luton, the only two present that evening. “Right now, however, there's a lot of energy and excitement on the golf course board and they are all in!”

In recent years the club leaders haven't been able to make their $30,000 lease payment on the town bond that financed the renovation of the upper nine, nearly two decades ago. Instead, Mrs. Littlefield noted, they have been paying $10,000 per year on the debt.

There is about $70,000 remaining on the note.

The idea now is to have seven more years to pay $10,000 a year to satisfy the debt.

“At the end of seven years the entire debt owed to the taxpayers of Tupper Lake will be paid,” Mrs. Littlefield explained.

“It's exactly the same lease that they had, just changing the dates.”

The current lease was due to expire in 2020. The new lease will expire October 15, 2026.

Councilman Mike Dechene said the move has precedence here, when the payments were lowered from $50,000 per year to $30,000 and the lease extended a number of years ago.

The supervisor said as a town-facility, the town board is anxious to see it flourish.

At a recent meeting attended by her, Mr. Dechene and the golf course leaders it was agreed that the town would try to “partner” more with the golf course, as to the purchase of new equipment on state contract, available through the town.

The supervisor said she had recently met with Rob Foster, the equipment steward at Craig Wood golf course, who is associated with MTE-Jacobsen, a company that makes golf course equipment.

“He gave me a big spreadsheet that we want to share with the golf course board.”

“They need a fairway mower and a sidehill mower, which comes with many attachments.

Mr. Dechene said it's called a Ventrac machine which comes which comes with dual wheels on both ends. Its designed to not dig up the terrain and can be used for mowing near the greens and tees, as well as the fairways.

“It's got great stability on the sides of hills.”

The utility vehicle also comes with unique mowing decks, which can mow on both sides of a hump at the same time, he noted.

He said one of the recommendations of last summer's Friends of the Golf Course study committee was that the town should use its ability to buy on state contract to cut the prices of new golf course purchases.

“We're not going to purchase the equipment, but by purchasing their equipment through the town they can do it at state contract prices.”

That represents a big savings, he added.

He noted that previous golf course boards use to to take advantage of that town benefit, but recent boards haven't.

“It was the committee's No. 1 recommendation!”

Job fair at Tupper Lake High School

Dan McClelland

The Tupper Lake Middle/High School will be holding a Job Fair on Monday, April 29 held in the High School Library from 2-4 p.m.. If you are an employer seeking summer or full time employment and would like to reserve a table please contact Andrea Stuart at the high school, 518-359-3322 ext. 2006. Community members are welcome to attend! We would love it if you could join us!

Records retention project underway

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

The village board took the first step last week in beginning what could be a major records retention project that will secure important documents in perpetuity. The village and town leaders are working collectively on the project, which will be largely grant funded.

At Wednesday's monthly meeting the board voted unanimously to engage the firm of K. Sickler Murphy, conditional on grant funding in upcoming months.

The firm will be charged with reviewing all village and town old records, and making recommendations to both boards on what should be kept and what should be discarded.

The firm was one of two companies that responded to recent bid offerings and its charge was the lowest.

The second part of the retention project will involved a much larger government grant which will provide the necessary funds for a firm to scan and preserve all documents that the both governments want to retain.

State funds coming for energy storage facilities

Dan McClelland

There is expected to be state funding ahead for the development of energy storage facilities like the one the Tupper Lake Electric Department and others have been studying this past year.

At February's village board meeting Electric Superintendent Marc Staves said there has been an announcement from the Governor's office and from the New York State Energy Research Authority that money will be made available for these energy storage facilities to be built.

“If we find out through our study that a facility would be worth it to us, there'll be money to get it implemented,” he told the village leaders that evening.

Last year Mr. Staves and his counterpart from the Lake Placid Municipal Electric Department, Kimball Daby, began discussions with the Adirondack North Country Association's Nancy Bernstein and Professor Tom Ortmeyer of Clarkson to begin preparations to launch a feasibility study of energy storage in the two municipal electric systems.

The study is seen by the four proponents as the first step in determining whether storing power during low-use times of the day in the course of a year can shave peak demand periods and loads in times of high electrical consumption like winter.

In both municipally-owned electric systems, when heating and other costs in winter exceed their hydro-power allocations, the departments are required to buy more expensive coal- and nuclear-generated powers. The systems and their ratepayers pay the price for the expensive power. Tupper Lake receives bout 19 megawatts of hydro-generated electricity, which runs about four cents per kilowatt hour, before it has to buy the more expensive varieties which can run 14 cents per kw. In Lake Placid, the hydro-allocation is about 29 megawatts per month.

At a meeting of the four last year Mr. Staves speculated that storing electricity with large batteries could be “a no wires” solution to staying under the 19-megawatt mark and thereby reduce costs here.

Professor Ortmeyer of Clarkson's electric engineering department is something of a battery expert. Another battery expert who recently joined the college's faculty is expected to help with the project.

He said that “battery technology” is advancing rapidly and the costs of acquiring the large units are coming down.

Ms. Bernstein, who is ANCA's energy specialist, said these large batteries now come encased in large shipping containers for placement next to substations, like the village's on McLaughlin Ave.

Kimball Daby is aware of at least one electric facility in the region which successfully employs batteries to keep its costs down. Solar power is also used there to help charge the two megawatt systems of batteries.

One of the things the study will look at for the two communities is the feasibility of installing solar fields on “Brownfield sites” or polluted tracts in each town, which can't be used for much else, Mr. Staves told the Free Press this week.

In many places the electricity stored in large batteries is used to cut power needed from the grid during day-light hours when system-wide consumption is typically higher and then the batteries are re-charged overnight when energy consumption in a system is usually lower.

How much can new batteries on the market store?

“That's the purpose of the study,” noted the professor in an earlier interview. He also said the study would, among other things, determine the years of payback on the purchase of any giant batteries.

NYSEDRA's reviewed the study group's preliminary information in a submittal in February, 2018 and invited it to complete and submit a feasibility study by late June, which it did.

“There's a lot of interest in New York State in promoting energy storage,” according to Ms. Bernstein.

The local group received “the go ahead” late last year and “the kick off meeting” occurred last week, Mr. Staves said this week.

The work ahead now is for the two municipal electric departments to furnish its billing and use data to Professor Ortmeyer and perhaps one of his engineering students who will be formulating the data and plugging it into various formulas.

Mr. Staves said there will be various energy-saving options explored in Prof. Ortmeyer's computations in the months ahead.

“If the study finds its feasible” and practical to use batteries to shave peaks of usage and save the system and its customers money then the village board will make the decision to install the battery system, he explained.

The forthcoming funding he spoke of a the February 20 meeting would help the village system buy and install the large batteries.

The new study should also show that if battery storage works well here, it should work in other electric systems, according to the professor.

At the first meeting here last year Mr. Staves said Tupper Lake derives 80% of its electricity from “green sources.” Any new battery storage system would increase that percentage.

The cost of the new study which just began will likely run about $75,000 and 25% of that will come from Clarkson to advance its knowledge and curriculum about high voltage electric systems, Professor Ortmeyer said in the interview last year.

School district continues SRO discussions

Dan McClelland

SRO public hearing_01.JPG

by Ian Roantree

School officials, headed by district Superintendent Seth McGowan, hosted a public information session on Wednesday, February 27 at the Tupper Lake High School library to further the dialogue between the Tupper Lake Central School District (TLCSD) and the Tupper Lake community on the matters of the district introducing School Resource Officers (SROs) into Tupper Lake schools.

The TLCSD began entertaining the idea of an SRO as far back as September last year at the monthly Board of Education meeting. But for many, including Superintendent McGowan, it goes much further back than September.

“America was woken up in ‘99 with Columbine. That was a wake-up call,” McGowan said. “Then there were other incidents like Parkland, but it was the one at Sandy Hook that made it clear that this is a matter of life and death. It’s just as likely to happen here than anywhere else.”

When threats were made over Facebook from a former Sunmount resident resulting in national headlines, state-wide manhunts and the TLCSD closing its doors to staff and students, it was made clear to the entire community that such an event could happen in Tupper Lake.

Over the past several months, the TLCSD has been implementing new components and protocols to their safety plan, and an SRO is only a piece of a much larger picture.

The tactical drill that New York State Police and other local police agencies conducted in the hallways of the Tupper Lake High School back in November helped the district discover many holes in their system. It also allowed those holes to be quickly filled in.

“In part, that was an upsetting day, but it was also a revealing day,” McGowan said.

The district’s safety plan, now adapted to the findings of the tactical drill, has become a model plan, one that Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill calls “amongst the best he’s seen.”

The district is required to submit a safety plan to the state every year and it’s the help of local law enforcement, fire rescue, and first responders that allows our educators to meticulously go through their plans and look for problems and holes that need to be addressed and filled.

McGowan attributes our district’s great safety plan to the outstanding relationship that the district maintains with local law enforcement. “Not every district is welcoming of the local police departments, or state police in their school,” said McGowan, who is the exact opposite. “I’m glad we have that relationship. It’s made the conversations with Chief Eric Proulx very easy.”

Along with an adapting safety plan, the district is also addressing physical “holes” in their system. The district has submitted a small capital project to fix problems like some doors in the school not locking or latching properly which will be carried out over the next 12 months.

The district is also looking towards implementing a new entry system at both campuses to create a more secure environment for visitors who enter the schools which, although costly and complicated, is on the district’s radar for down-the-road capital projects.

At this point, the next steps that the district is taking is entering the phase of drafting contracts and considering all of the possibilities for an SRO.

The job description for an SRO varies and exists on a spectrum that can be split-up into three bands—according to McGowan.

On one end of the spectrum, there’s the armed-guard—a position that already exists in Franklin County. This guard is identified as law enforcement and their sole purpose is security.

On the opposite end of the spectrum there’s an unarmed safety education person who works with students, teachers and administration on educational program relating to safety.

Then in the middle, the role that this district is eyeing the most is someone who fits roughly in-between a security guard and a school counselor.

“We’re currently talking about someone in the high school and elementary school full time...who builds relationships with the kids from a very young age,” said McGowan. “We’re in an era of ‘see something, say something’ and kids aren’t likely to say something to somebody they’re not comfortable with.”

This SRO would not only be a trusted figure inside the schools, but also a trusted member of our community and it’s the aspect of relationship building that McGowan believes to be the key.

The district is still unsure where such a figure would come from, whether he or she is contracted through our local police or contracted through an outside agency.

McGowan and Chief Proulx are still having that conversation of figuring out what would work best. If this SRO were to be contracted through local police, he or she would be assigned to that campus building and that’s where they’d stay.

“If there was a bank robbery and Chief Proulx was short on responders, it’s understood that our two ‘officers’ would not be touched,” McGowan explained.

If the SROs were on vacation, sick, or attending to a family emergency, the positions would be backfilled from the local police department somehow, or through the agency in which they’re hired through.

“It’s not a done deal by any stretch...this SRO is one piece to a much bigger fix to our safety,” said McGowan.

The district will continue to work with the Village of Tupper Lake, local law enforcement and the community before making any concrete decisions, and will be taking feedback from the community through Facebook.

Tupper Lake Health Center and Mercy Living Center on lockdown Wednesday

Dan McClelland

The Adirondack Health Center and Mercy Living Center, both located in Tupper Lake, were on lockdown on Wednesday, February 20.

A press release from Adirondack Health stated an individual had made threatening comments on Tuesday, February 19 in the presence of an Adirondack Health employee. Adirondack Health then contacted the Tupper Lake Police Department to alert them of the threat.

At approximately 11a.m. on Wednesday, the Tupper Lake Police Department notified Adirondack Health that during its investigation the police department received a call from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) that the individual in question had attempted to purchase a fire arm three days earlier.

The Tupper Lake Police recommended the facility initiate lockdown procedures at both Tupper Lake Health Center and Mercy Living Center. Adirondack Health officials proceeded with the lockdown of both facilities.

At approximately 12:50p.m. on Wednesday, the police department notified Adirondack Health that the individual in question was in custody and was transported to Adirondack Health in Saranac Lake for an evaluation.

The lockdown was subsequently lifted and both Tupper Lake Health Center and Mercy Living Center resumed their normal daily activities.

New retail, services businesses coming to former Newberry building: Spruce and Hemlock, Stacked Graphics now under one roof

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland


The village and town planning board on January 23 took a preliminary look at plans for a major commercial block here at 115 Park Street.

The preliminary review came on the heels of a public hearing and conditional approval of a second major commercial development just down the street at 83 Park in the former Ginsberg's Department store building.

The commercial premises at 115 Park was the popular and spacious J.J. Newberry Store, which provided household wares for generations here from the 1940s through the 1970s. In recent years it was owned Joy and Vinnie Moody and housed several of Mrs. Moody's business ventures. Recently the west side was a gym and fitness center.

The building was recently purchased by the principles of Spruce and Hemlock (Faith and Andrew McClelland) and Stacked Graphics (Pat Bedore and Andrew McClelland) in a new limited liability corporation called Chum House LLC.

Mr. McClelland, representing his partners that evening, gave the planning regulators some of the details of their new commercial venture.

The western side of the building will be the new and expanded home of Spruce and Hemlock, Tupper Lake popular Adirondack-style souvenir and collectible store which has operated very successfully for the past two years at 52 Lake Street. The operation will continue to be seasonal from April to December each year.

Mr. and Mrs. McClelland are renovating the interior of the former Aseel family home at 52 Lake Street property and are now living there.

The east side of the building will be the new location of Stacked Graphics, which for the last ten years has operated at the Tupper Lake Free Press building. The silk screen printing, embroidery and sign company started by the two partners has many institutional, educational and commercial clients all across the region.

Both sides of the 100 year old building which saw a major facade upgrade about five years ago have seen considerable redecorating in recent months by the owners.

The owners will be creating 2,700 square feet of retail space at the relocated Spruce and Hemlock, a mini-cafe of sorts in the rear of the building, 6,000 square feet of production and service area on the Stacked Graphics' side (2,000 square feet on the ground level and 4,000 square feet in the very spacious basement.

There will eventually be 2,400 square feet of residential space on the second floor. An existing 1,200 square foot apartment will eventually be complemented by a second one of similar size, with six large windows looking down on the uptown business district.

Mr. McClelland said Spruce and Hemlock will occupy all of the west side of the building when the store reopens in April. “My wife Faith would eventually like to use the rear space for a small deli or bakery with perhaps a counter to serve food within the store.” He predicted a 2020 or 2021 opening for that side venture.

The young businessman said there are some “roof issues” in the rear of the building which need to be addressed in early spring.

He said the former Joy Photography side of the building will be the new home of Stacked Graphics.

While most of that half will be for production, he said he and Pat may eventually develop a small retail area in the front.

“We don't really need to be on Park Street and the only reason we are in that building with Faith is because it works financially.”

Planning board member Jim Merrihew, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of Shawn Stuart, asked him if production would start in the basement when the relocation is complete.

Andrew said most of their production will occur on the main floor, with the sign creation portion of their business relegated to the basement, which he described as very spacious.

A portion of it too will be for storage for Spruce and Hemlock inventory.

“You will have a storefront for your tee-shirts and signs in the front?” Scott Snyder asked him.

Mr. McClelland said the front area will be more of an office area for the business, rather than retail.

“We will create products for Faith who will sell them in her store. We're more of a manufacturer.”

He told Mr. Snyder, however, they are going “to feel their way” in this new location and may eventually have a small retail operation on their side of the building.

He said it may actually be something of a nuisance if tourists came into their side of the building and would be an interruption to their production. People will always be directed to Spruce and Hemlock next door.

“We wholesale for Faith in addition to the graphic arts services we provide our clients. You just can't come into Stacked Graphics and order one tee-shirt or one ball cap.”

Prompted by a question from Mr. Merrihew, he said the store windows in front of their half would be used to market Spruce and Hemlock products next door.

He said a new wall behind the back of the store windows would screen from view their production operation. “We don't want tourists seeing our mess,” he joked.

Asked about the second floor by Mr. Snyder, he said the rear apartment is very modern and currently occupied. The large front apartment is currently gutted of interior walls, awaiting a complete overhaul.

“We'll be applying to the new Main Street grant program to fund that apartment's rejuvenation.”

Jim Merrihew asked about the space for parking in the alley that runs behind all the Park Street businesses on the north side of the block.

“There is enough room for one parking space adjacent to the existing apartment. You could perhaps fit two small cars!” Andrew told the planners.

He said Rick Donah apparently owns the east end of the alley up to “our building.” After that the ownership of the alley for another 100 feet or so is something of a mystery, he added.

A public hearing on their plan is scheduled for the planning board's February 27 meeting.

The partners were asked to furnish the planners with “visuals” of the exterior of the building, including any new signs and lights. “That's very helpful to us,” Mr. Merrihew told him.

Mr. McClelland told the planners they would furnish exterior drawings of their new business.

Maroun unhappy with some state election changes

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

County Legislator and Village Mayor Paul Maroun is not happy with the changes that begin this year in the state's new election laws.

Earlier this year Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a number of election reforms as part of his 100-day agenda. Subsequently the state legislature passed a series of bills designed to make voting easier.

Part of the reform package makes it easier for New Yorkers to request and receive an absentee ballot. It would change the constitutional requirement that those who request an absentee ballot have a qualifying reason, such as absence form the county on Election Day or an illness or disability.

Another piece of the package calls for early voting, by as much as ten days before any general election. Also in the package is the move to synchronize federal and state elections, which among other things moves up September state primaries to coincide the federal June primaries.

That change in particular upsets the local county legislator.

Candidates for office next November have to make important decisions right now, he says.

People interested in challenging an incumbent need to talk to their political party leaders right now.

Beginning this year, just one party primary will be held in June. In the past primaries for federal positions were in June and primaries for other elected posts were in September.

Traditionally prospective office-seekers didn't decide until April and didn't start carrying petitions until June, with the September primary in sight.

Now campaigning will start in the winter, making for a very long season.

“Here's why I'd don't like it,” Maroun told the Free Press last week.

“The snow birds are still all gone.”

To run for county legislator this November, for example, under the election date changes, he has to start preparing by February 26. Election materials have to be filed by a date in March, he said.

“People will now be campaigning from now to November. -And it's a pain, to be out in the snow, gathering petitions.”

The other big issue in the election changes is the ten days of voting in prospect.

“In a county of less than 50,000 people, you have to have one polling station open. You can have more, but you have to have at least one.!”

With each polling station comes the need for security, the people to staff it- every day for ten days which include Saturdays and Sundays.

“We're looking at doing one in Saranac Lake and one in Malone.”

Here's another problem, he offered.

“Until the state goes electronic books and it hasn't yet agreed on a firm to do that,” there's possible trouble. “When Paul Maroun votes early ten days before the election, if his name doesn't get transferred from the polling station book to the main book, some people may end up voting twice.

Until the entire system goes electronic, election officials will have to check all the names on the prior day books and compare them to the main book, to insure there's no duplication, he explained.

So everyday the polling clerks at the polling stations will have to transmit the names of those who voted at their stations to the main book in Malone.

Opening up the voting to the days before every election is going to cost counties money, and the Governor has promised to provide $10 million for all the counties to share. Maroun hopes the Governor delivers on that promise.

A number of other North Country politicians are also unhappy with the changes, citing the five months between Primary Day and the general election. That could mean aspiring politicians will have to spend more money on advertising to keep their name in the public's eye and election signs on lawns for five months, not two.

Bones found on Wild Center property confirmed human

Dan McClelland

by Phyllis Larabie

Back on May 17, 2018 Kentile Excavating was hauling dirt away from the Wild Center property when some bones were unearthed. The property is adjacent to the St. Alphonsus Cemetery.

On May 29, 2018, more bones were discovered on the front lawn of a nearby private residence where fill from behind the Wild Center had been dropped.

These bones which were thought to have been that of a bear have since been determined to be human. They are still out for carbon-dating, according to State Police Public Information Officer Jennifer Fleishman.

The scientific process will determine if the bones are pre- or post- 1950.

Trooper Fleishman stated, “our hope is to determine if the bones are the result of an accidental excavation of an older burial site”. She also stated, “we are also pursuing DNA (testing), but that will probably only be useful in eliminating known missing persons, not positively identifying the remains.”

Lab experts would need DNA samples from family members to identify the bones, she noted.

Pavlus inducted into Tupper’s Athletic Hall of Fame

Dan McClelland

By Rich Rosentreter

Standout Tupper Lake athlete Wendy Pavlus was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame on January 5 during a ceremony in the high school gymnasium.

HALLofFAME copy.jpg

A 2007 graduate of TLHS, Pavlus excelled in both cross country and track, earning All-State honors four straight years and in her senior year was crowned state champion in the steeplechase. While at St. Lawrence University she won the 2009 NCAA Division III individual national championship in cross country.

Following the ceremony on Saturday Pavlus discussed her induction with the Free Press – and said she often thought about the Hall of Fame during her time as a student athlete.

“I would look at the plaques on the wall when I was in high school and it’s really an honor to have my own now,” she said. “I had hoped that someday it would happen. It’s exciting and such an honor!”

Pavlus said she found out a few weeks ago that she was nominated to be in the Hall of Fame and learned she would be inducted.

“That was nice. This really shows all the support in the community and it’s nice to still feel that even though I’m not competing in high school or college anymore,” she said. “It’s nice to still feel that there’s a connection even with so many years having passed.”

During the ceremony, Pavlus was praised by both Athletic Director Dan Brown and her former track coach and current friend Amy Farrell.

“The past is comprised of Hall of Fame athletes and coaches who paved the road for our current student athletes. Our Hall of Famers have set the standard for play, and built traditions which everyone has come to love and respect. The memories built by our Hall of Famers lay in this very gym … and on the football field out back,” Brown told the audience as he blended the past with present and future.

“The present is based around coaches and athletes who work hard to carry on what those before them have created – keeping tradition alive and creating new traditions for the future,” he said. “The past would not live on without the present, and the present would not be here without the past. Celebrating the Tupper Lake Athletic Hall of Fame is a strong reminder of this.”

Farrell discussed some “fun facts” and said that when she started to help with coaching in Tupper Lake in 2003, Wendy was the first of the athletes on the track team that she had met.

“As a coach you’re always looking for potential in your athletes. When I first met Wendy in 2003 I saw a redhead overflowing with potential,” Farrell said, adding that Pavlus showed signs that she was going to be a great runner. “I had a great time coaching her.”

It was the time spent coaching Pavlus that Farrell learned more about not just the athlete, but the person as well.

“Although her accomplishments are impressive and very extensive, the best part of working with Wendy was watching her grow as a person. She is probably the most humble athlete I have ever worked with. Her work ethic, her level head and sense of humor have helped her exceed her potential and become the amazing person that stands before you today,” Farrell said.

“Congratulations Wendy and we could not be more proud and good luck in your next adventure!”

The Tupper Lake Athletic Hall of Fame was established in 1987 by basketball coach Steve Skiff and in its 31-year history there have been nine coaches, three teams and 71 athletes inducted. In order to be inducted, a potential hall of Famer must be nominated to the athletic director’s office and a panel of current Hall of Famers will first discuss then vote to approve the nominee.

The highlights in Wendy’s athletic career are, in high school, she was the 2007 New York State Champion in outdoor track for the steeplechase; in cross country she was a three-time state meet placer with a 5th-place finish, a 3rd -place finish and a 2nd -place finish. She holds the Section X record for the steeplechase; Wendy was the NAC, Section X League MVP in 2006-2007 for indoor track; she was the NAC, Section X League MVP in 2004, 2005 and 2006 for cross country. In college at St. Lawrence University Wendy was a five-time NCAA champion and an eight-time All American.

Town leaders willing to meet village over consolidation talks

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

Town leaders said Friday they are amenable to a joint meeting with their village counterparts to discuss ways local government operations here could be more efficient.

In recent weeks Trustee Ron LaScala has pushed town officials, first at their December meeting and later at the village board's own monthly meeting a week later, to begin a study of ways to consolidate the two local governments and their operations.

The trustee right now favors a consolidation method where the village would expand to the same size as the town.

Following LaScala's presentation to his peers on December 19 Deputy Mayor Leon LeBlanc suggested the town and village boards meet early in the new year. Board members agreed and Mayor Paul Maroun said he would set up the joint meeting.

At the end of the town's lunch-time meeting Friday Councilman John Quinn raised the joint meeting suggestion with his colleagues, saying he was open to it.

“Maybe we should also be thinking of other things of mutual interest to discuss with them at the same time?” he suggested.

“We don't meet with them often, so it would be a good opportunity.”

Supervisor Patricia Littlefield thought the last time the two boards met in full session was about five years ago when the boards convened in the Wild Center's conference room to discuss the pending promotional contracts with ROOST (Regional Office Of Sustained Tourism).

“We talked about doing it more frequently, but it never came to pass!”

Mr. Quinn suggested that a representative of the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) be invited to the meeting. DANC, which just completed the town's sewer and water district consolidation project, would be a likely candidate to do any village-town consolidation study.

The supervisor said she will also ask the state department of state, which has advanced various scenarios for municipalities to combine in recent years, to send a representative to any joint meeting of the local boards.

“That way we hear: 'not what I think I know,' but how it works!”

She said one of her fundamental questions in any discussion of a consolidation study is “who pursues it?”

Littlefield stressed: “I'm 100% behind a study. But we need to know who is supposed to do that study.”

“If the village wants to expand its boundary to the that their study?”

“We're not shrinking. They want to expand!” she continued.

“I don't know that it's just not their business,” she confided to her board members.

“No one should go into a study saying 'we want co-terminus (governments)...or we want dissolution or we want consolidation.”

She said any study should determine the various options open to the community and what happens if one option is selected over another.

One answer that must come is who should be the sponsor of any study or can it be a joint-study, she mused.

“If the proposal is to expand the boundaries of the village to the town's, do we even have a right to be part of that?”

Quinn said Carrie Tuttle of DANC has forwarded information about consolidation options to the town for the perusal of the board members.

On the Article 17 option advanced by LaScala, Quinn said “ultimately if we were headed that way the town board would have to vote to approve and the voters in the area to be annexed into the village would have to approve.”

If a decision was reached to dissolve the village, that would be decided by the village board and village residents, not the town board and town residents, who would have no say.

The supervisor said if the study resolved that the best option would be co-terminus, maybe the best order would be consolidation or dissolution (of the village) or to do nothing.” She said there have been many studies on consolidation of governments around the state where it was recommended that nothing be done.

Councilman Mike Dechene reminded the board of the earlier study directed by Marvin Madore, where it was found basically that there would be little or no cost savings to taxpayers by dissolving the village.

The supervisor continued: “From what I gather the finished study doesn't recommend one direction. It will say: 'here are all your choices'. -And one choice could be: 'don't do anything'!”

She said she didn't think any study should be for the purpose of reducing to one form of government. The aim is to make things more efficient for the taxpayer. “These are all called 'efficiency studies'.”

“If consolidation (of governments into one) makes is more efficient, then so be it, but it may not!”

She said one option would be for the local governments to continue to work together, “and we already do a lot of that.”

Littlefield then proposed doing a study to see what is found.

John Quinn proposed a motion “that the town board is not opposed to participating in a study of what level of consolidation might be pursued.” Dechene backed his move, saying “since we've all been together we've always felt that way!”

Littlefield said it was clear no one can predict the outcome of any new study and what its recommendations will be.

“We can't sit in this room today and say we think it would be best if we did this or did that!”

A study would bring together all the pertinent facts, the ramifications of this move or that one, she stressed.

Free Press Publisher Dan McClelland said in the earlier study directed by Marvin Madore, there was no impartial person or organization to direct it.

Kirk Gagnier, town attorney, said “you need an objective arbiter in the middle to look at what cost savings there are and what decisions are hard in that way and the boards may want to look at some of those recommendations and say 'we don't want to do this, or do that, because it may create this hardship for people'.”

He said a key element in looking at making local governments more efficient is what that does to the jobs of individuals who work for the town and village.

“Having a committee do it, there's too much predisposition, given all the history and everything else, so you need some objective party” to oversee any process, he recommended.

Supervisor Littlefield noted that any consolidation of the two governments would involve an incredible amount of “legal preparation” and research done in preparation for the future operations of the various town and village departments.

“As lay people we cannot presume to know all the answers” to the many questions that will come up, she asserted.

Gagnier suggested the best way to proceed right now is for the both boards to commission the study and agree to split its costs.

Any consultant would come back to the board with an objective finding, he said. Ultimately the boards and the voters would decide, but it is critical that the information they will use to make their choice is objective. “That way you won't run into some dead end because some one is worried about what the answer might be!”

Littlefield said she wants to initially determine from the state department who should sponsor any upcoming study. She said there is grant money to initiate the study, more if a vote is held and the balance of costs coming if any consolidation occurs. “So in the end a study may cost nothing” to the sponsoring body. However, in the meantime, someone has to front the cost of the study and wait for reimbursement from the state, she added.

She proposed a department of state representative be at the discussion table when the two boards meet “to get the real answers.”

Gagnier suggested any state agency representative invited to that upcoming meeting be briefed in advance on some of the facts and details which are unique to this community.

One important detail in any discussion of combining town and village governments would be the effect, if any, on the village's municipal electric system, it was noted in that afternoon's discussion.

Patti Littlefield called the future of our relatively low-priced electric system “the biggest question” in any upcoming consolidation talks.

“Let's get the ball rolling, however” she said of the upcoming talks between the two boards.

Village water still not meeting state standards

Dan McClelland

by Dan McClelland

Despite the arrival of new, clean well water from the Pitchfork Pond Road site into the village water system this year, there is still enough water from the Little Simond source in the system to cause recent water tests to fail.

As required by law the village recently mailed a letter to all its water customers stating the local water system “has violated a drinking water standard.”

Similar notices have come annually for nearly a decade.

“Testing results from 2017 and 2018 show that our system exceeded the standard, or maximum contaminant level for total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and haloacetic acids (HAA5s).”

The levels for the TTHMs was 80 parts per billion and for HAA5s, 60 parts per billion.

The results came from the four samples collected each quarter at two village sites- the Pine Grove Restaurant and the village office on Park Street.

Since the well system came on the Pine Grove samples are below the maximum contaminant levels, but they have been exceeded at the village office.

Village officials wrote they expect the Pine Grove samples to get even better in the months ahead and also at the village office, where they are expected to soon pass.

“TTHM and HAA5 samples at the Pine Grove are now below maximum contaminant levels (MCL) and it is anticipated that within the next few quarters” the samples taken at the village office will also drop below state standards, according to the letter.

TTHMs and HAA5s are groups of chemicals formed in drinking water from lakes and rivers during disinfection when chlorine reacts with naturally occurring organic matter (leaves, algae, aquatic plants, etc.). Exposure over a long period of time has been linked to cancer and other diseases.

Drawing water from Tupper Lake and Little Simond are the reasons that village water tests haven't met state Department of Health and other standards for years.

It was the primary reason village leaders moved to develop the $6 million ground water system at the site off Pitchfork Pond Road in the past two years.

Both wells developed are producing a robust supply of water.

When the well system came on line this summer the village water department discontinued drawing water from Tupper Lake at its Moody Road filtration plant. In recent months steps have been taken by the water crew to shut down the plant and mothball it.

The water from Little Simond, treated at the Lake Simond filtration plant, still continues to be a village source, and currently flows into uptown neighborhoods and at Moody.

As time goes on more village water will come from the new wells and less from Little Simond, improving the overall quality of village water.

Right now downtown residents receive well water while uptown neighborhoods are receiving a combination from the two sources, Mark Robillard, water superintendent reported this week.

“We're using half as much water from Little Simond now than before the wells came on line,” he explained. That source will be used less and less as time goes on.

He said his crew was able to flush much of “the old water” from the entire system earlier this fall but didn't get a second opportunity to flush the system again, what with winter arriving so early.

Mr. Robillard said that in coming weeks and months they will be “pushing more well water” uptown and to Moody to further dilute the Little Simond water.

He said the eventual goal will be to have the well system service the entire community, if the abundant water flow from the wells is sustained.

For now, however, it's too soon to abandon that remaining surface water source located on the Reed property, he added.

State health officials want all communities to draw their water supply from below-ground water sources.

Village officials are adamant that all village water is “safe to drink, cook with and bath in. Some people may wish to take additional practical measures to reduce their exposure. We do not consider these measures necessary to avoid health effects, but they are provided as options. These include using bottle water for drinking and cooking purposes, or using water pitchers containing an activated carbon filter or tap-mounted filters. Ventilating bathroom area using exhaust fans or by opening windows when showering or bathing can also help reduce exposures from chemicals released in the air.”