History handed over to town to educate future generations

PLATTSBURGH History of the Town of Plattsburgh spanning three decades is now in the towns possession, thanks to a former town supervisor. Arthur L. LeFevre recently handed over several scrapbooks he assembled from his time in office nearly 40 years ago, in order to provide further education for townspeople and others interested in learning about the towns development in the latter half of the 20th century. The books contain newspaper clippings and photographs of what Mr. LeFevre considered to be pivotal moments in town history, from the creation of Interstate 87, most commonly referred to as the Northway, to the unfortunate closing of the Plattsburgh Air Force Base. Of the 932 towns in the state of New York, the Town of Plattsburgh by far saw the most growth from the 1960s to 1980s, said Mr. LeFevre. Having been involved with town government since 1962, serving on the town planning board until his election to town council in 1964 and subsequent election as town supervisor in 1968, it was an amazing time to be a part of the towns leadership, Mr. LeFevre said. An awful lot of growth took place at that time, recalled Mr. LeFevre. There was a big demand for improvement in transportation and infrastructure. And with water and sewer districts at one time we had probably 10 or 12 water districts and probably another eight or 10 sewer districts. Since then, theyve consolidated them. But to sell a system such as water or sewer back then, was very difficult. Even today, if you go to people in an area where theyre accustomed to having wells and septic tanks, and you say you want to include them in water and sewer service, its a hard sell, added Mr. LeFevre. Some dont hesitate to pay $100 a month for cable television, wireless telephone. But, if you charge them a water and sewer bill for $300 a year, they find a problem with that. And water is our best resource in the United States and especially the North Country. During his tenure with the towns government, Mr. LeFevre said another one of the most significant achievements for the town was the creation of zoning laws. Zoning back in the 60s was a no-no for most communities, recalled Mr. LeFevre. To merely converse to people and convince them it was in their best interest to have land use controlled, was almost impossible. People have their rights and they didnt want them infringed on. However, through the tedious and diligent efforts of what Mr. LeFevre referred to as a very active, well informed, educated planning board, zoning and subdivision regulations were put in place for the betterment of the town. Our town became the leader in development, and we were able to do that because of the zoning we created, Mr. LeFevre said. I was very fortunate to have the best of the best to work with. That zoning dove-tailed in with other projects such as the creation of the Northway in the late 1960s. When the Northway came in, that certainly put the North Country on the map, said Mr. LeFevre. We had to increase Route 3 to four lanes to handle the traffic created after the Northway was built and we increased the width of the Northway from a two-lane to a four-lane. With the increased traffic came the need for increased commerce, which eventually led to the building of the former Champlain Centre South mall and the current Champlain Centre. Another important accomplishment by the town government, said Mr. LeFevre, was the ability to obtain a fair share of the sales tax revenue generated within the town. Because the town has had a significant, yet fair portion of the sales tax revenue pie, he said, there has been enough revenue to eliminate the town tax residents would normally see, since the 1970s. We had enough sales tax to take care of the general fund and the highway fund and also return money to the county to reduce the county tax, said Mr. LeFevre. That may not always be possible, but it can be possible if we get our fair share of our sales tax. We have the infrastructure and all the necessary to attract businesses and we should have a fair return. Thats the complex of being town supervisor to have a handle on whats taking place in all departments, and have a planning board and zoning board that shares a vision. I dont think theres enough hours to do the job, but you have to make time, remarked Mr. LeFevre. The town before and after the Art LeFevre years, was such a significant change, said current town supervisor Bernard C. Bassett. There was no expressway, there was no mall, we didnt have the four lanes of Route 3. Theres just been a great deal of growth. Since Mr. LeFevres time in office, despite the closing of the Plattsburgh Air Force Base in 1995, growth has continued in the North Country, said Mr. Bassett. In fact, turning a negative situation such as the bases closing by creating the Plattsburgh International Airport and establishing the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation to manage the 5,000-acre property, have been two very positive developments for the city, the town and the North Country in general. With Mr. LeFevres scrapbooks now in the towns possession, the artifacts will be preserved in order to be put on display at the town office building, located at 151 Banker Road. What these really represent is an archival history of the Town of Plattsburgh, said Mr. Bassett. We lose a lot of that as time goes on and leadership changes ... Theres a great deal to be learned here.

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