Mountain Lake Services discusses plans with concerned Willsboro residents

WILLSBORO A recent Willsboro meeting brought people out to discuss concerns about a local agencys recent property purchases.

It was standing room only as about 40 residents and members of the town board asked questions of Dipu Basu, executive director of Mountain Lake Services (MLS), on Aug. 25.

MLS, formerly known as Essex County ARC, currently serves 20 developmentally disabled residents in Willsboro.

Willsboro supervisor Robert Ashline opened the meeting reading a statement from the board, acknowledging the agencys benefit to the town, but asking it to consider other less-saturated towns for housing. At issue was the agencys tax-exempt status and recent land purchases.

Right-sizing homes
MLS serves 500 people in Essex County, with 204 living in residences.

It currently owns six properties in Willsboro, three of which were purchased in the last year and a half.

Basu said that a recent push by state agencies to right size homes was behind MLS recent land purchases. MLS plans to move the twelve current residents of the Clarence Oliver Drive to three homes of four residents each.

Today the service model is shifting. New York State has realized that putting 12 people in houses are creating mini-institutions. They do not like that - they're going toward putting people in smaller homes, said Basu.

The larger Clarence Oliver Drive residence will be transformed into a day habilitation site for Willsboro MLS consumers. Basu explained that it would save time and expense of transportation to Keeseville.

Tax-exempt status raises concerns
The main concerns many residents voiced was the impact of removing a property from the tax rolls. Homes owned by MLS are tax exempt.

Basu explained that the agency made $5,000 of PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) to the town last year. Ashline confirmed that the payment covered the part of town taxes due, and added that the agency wasnt required to offer the payment.

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