If Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his fellow Democrats want to show they care about upstate New York and the well-being of its citizens, they will listen to Lake George Mayor Robert Blais.
We suspect even the city-dwellers in the Legislature have heard of Lake George, its natural beauty and its economic impact on our region.
Earlier this week, Mayor Blais, a Republican who has been serving as mayor for nearly a half-century, appealed to Gov. Cuomo to rescue the village by funding the remaining $15 million of the $22 million needed for a new wastewater treatment plant.
This wasn’t just a request for a handout for the village and its 1,000 or so full-time residents, but a plea to secure the tourist economy of the entire eastern end of the Adirondacks.
The problem is that the current wastewater treatment plant is 85 years old. It releases excessive amounts of nitrates, contributing to algal blooms in the lake. It is a problem that should have been addressed long ago.
The amazing panoramic views and the pristine waters are what bring tourists here year after year, and without the water treatment upgrade, that reputation could be at risk.
The village has been beating the bushes for funds to build a new plant for years. It has secured $7.5 million in grants so far, but Blais says that if the village takes on the rest of the debt itself, taxes will double on homes valued at $240,000.
That could be catastrophic for homeowners and businesses alike and could especially hinder further upgrades and investments in business and tourism.
That is a concern.
LAKE GEORGE — Mayor Robert Blais is making a personal appeal to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for more funding for the new wastewater treatment plant, say…
We also want to point out that the state technically owns the lake, so they do bear a significant responsibility for ensuring its quality.
Mayor Blais explains that the governor often funds important infrastructure projects in the state budget. With the deadline for the new plant to be operational by August 2021, that means the governor would have to act this year.
We believe there is a great case to be made that this impacts tourism and the upstate economy, from Albany to the Canadian border and not just one tiny village, but we also know there are many infrastructure projects upstate in need of funding.
We suggest dangling a carrot; that might give the governor some incentive.
Gov. Cuomo has been trying to entice municipalities across the state to consolidate since taking office. He has even provided funding incentives to move forward.
We believe there is a deal to be considered.
If the governor agreed to fund the rest of the water treatment plant in exchange for the village government dissolving, there may be a way forward.
Mayor Blais would be the perfect leader to guide the village through this process, and he could retire as the last mayor of the village.
The village and town already share many services that benefit taxpayers and that would make any consolidation easier. Unfortunately, the village has far more debt than the town. That is a sticking point for town residents.
Maybe the governor could step in with additional funds to smooth out the debt problem and provide a win-win scenario for the village and the town.
The village and region get desperately-needed infrastructure funding, and the governor can point to a success story of two local governments coming together for the benefit of all.
We urge Gov. Cuomo to give Mayor Blais’ proposal the highest priority in the next budget.