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Regional support for Glens Falls Civic Center pushed

Lake George mayor proposes multi-community taxing district to aid arena
2013-04-24T18:30:00Z Regional support for Glens Falls Civic Center pushedMAURY THOMPSON -- thompson@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star

GLENS FALLS -- Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said he is preparing a proposal for a regional taxing district to subsidize the Glens Falls Civic Center.

“I’ve always believed that everything has a regional impact,” said Blais, who plans to “kick around” his proposal at the next meeting of the Adirondack Gateway Council, a regional coalition of local government, economic development and planning entities.

Even before the proposal is presented, it is drawing skepticism from some local government officials in the region.

“I’m not saying I’m against it. I think the Civic Center’s a great facility and it’s been very helpful. ... But it’s going to be a very tough issue, I would think,” said Moreau Supervisor Preston Jenkins.

“I’m unsure what the cooperative venture will be there, but it’s worth at least a try,” said Queensbury Supervisor Ron Montesi.

A regional taxing district will be one of the concepts discussed as government officials and business leaders consider ways to deal with the cost of operating the city-owned arena, said Glens Falls Economic/Community Development Director Edward Bartholomew, who also is CEO of the Adirondack Gateway Council.

Other ideas include allocating a portion of Warren County occupancy tax to the Civic Center, and establishing a volunteer ushers corps, which could reduce employee costs.

City officials also are talking with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff about ways to reduce energy costs at the arena, Bartholomew said.

Officials are looking for ways to spread out the expense of operating the arena beyond city taxpayers.

The city is budgeted to provide a $605,360 subsidy this year for arena operations and debt.

The subsidy could be significantly higher if the officials are unable to recruit a new American Hockey League tenant to replace the Adirondack Phantoms, who are expected to relocate for the 2014-15 season to a new arena being built in Allentown, Pa.

Peter Aust, president and chief executive officer of Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he will invite Blais to participate in a task force the chamber is assembling to discuss regional support for the Civic Center.

Several key business executives have agreed to serve on the task force, and he is now recruiting government officials and community leaders, with an initial meeting expected in mid-May.

Aust said he will identify the task force members once the complete membership is known.

Blais, who first mentioned the concept of a regional taxing district in a letter to the editor of The Post-Star published on Saturday, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday his proposal is based on a regional taxing district that was approved, but never implemented, in 1996 to fund a proposed convention center in Lake George.

The 1996 proposal called for Lake George property owners, who would benefit the most from the convention center, to pay the largest share of the special tax, with property owners in outlying municipalities paying a proportionate share based on how far the municipality is from Lake George.

“I thought we could use that model,” he said.

Blais said his secretary is preparing an analysis of the tax impact, based on a district that would include Lake George, Queensbury, Glens Falls, Moreau, Fort Edward and Kingsbury, including the villages within those towns.

The tax rate would be “miniscule,” spread out over such a large tax base, he suggested.

“It’s pennies, but it raised $500,000 to $600,000,” he said.

Blais said he he realizes the concept might be controversial.

“It’s something that if the politicians would go back to their communities and see what they think, I think it might be saleable. I’m not sure,” he said.

Jenkins, the Moreau supervisor, said he didn’t know enough about the proposal to take an immediate position, but many Moreau residents already feel the town shoulders an unfair share of costs for Crandall Public Library, and that might spill over into discussion of a new taxing district.

The library is funded by a regional taxing district that includes Moreau, Glens Falls and Queensbury.

About 35 percent of card holders that use the library live outside the three communities, Jenkins said.

“So that’s an issue for us. We’re not very happy about the amount we’re contributing there (to the library) when other communities aren’t,” he said.

Montesi said he would need to know more information about what property owners in each municipality conceivably would pay.

“If you’re looking at it from Queensbury’s point of view, we’re probably going to be the highest assessed community in that group. So I guess I would want to say, ‘What’s the impact on my taxpayers?’” he said.

Glens Falls Mayor John “Jack” Diamond said Blais has been a longtime supporter of the Civic Center and is a Phantoms season ticket holder.

“It’s nice to see him come up with some ideas to support the building,” Diamond said.

Copyright 2016 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. Bman
    Report Abuse
    Bman - April 25, 2013 8:23 am
    IF they can spread it over all the communities mentioned, i might bo OK with it depending on how much it will cost. I think they should spread out the library cost to more communities as well.
  2. Dave
    Report Abuse
    Dave - April 24, 2013 9:23 pm
    Hooray for Bob Blais. If the civic center is to survive it's costs have got to be absorbed by the community it serves. This idea is the way it should have been since square one. City homeowners have been paying more than their fair share for many years and guess what folks, the well has gone dry. Free rides for all are over.
  3. keith lou
    Report Abuse
    keith lou - April 24, 2013 7:16 pm
    Bravo Mayor Blais!!This is a MUST for the CC to exist.Every nearby town with hotels,shopa,eateries should contribute.Mostly saratoga county(So.Glens Falls)Places like the CC dont really make a profit,its what it brings for the area.When the Redsox and Bruins cancelled a game the area lost MILLIONS of dollars.Thats what a place like this brings in!!!When it closes I woud like to see the difference in business for the local places.Like Davidsons,Massies,Abbotts ,The Dugout(the last 3 being in SGF and do not PAY A DIME for the CC),Im willingto bet that they will lose tremondously.If done right this can be done.Keep it up Bob!!!

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