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Board backs down on parking permit plan, restricts docks' use

LAKE GEORGE Faced with a village hall full of people ready to air their objections, the Lake George village board backed off their plans to charge students, teachers and other local residents up to $50 for a permit to park for free at metered parking spaces. An ever-increasing number of Lake George High School students are driving to school, which means parking problems for a school that has virtually no parking facilities. The village had waived meter enforcement for students and teachers, but local employers and workers objected to the arrangement this year, citing the practice was discriminatory, and should be expanded to include workers at local enterprises. Such an arrangement of free parking for all who requested it, however, might lose the village tens of thousands of dollars in revenue annually and tie up too many parking spaces unnecessarily, spaces that are needed by tourists, village officials decided. Over the past several months, with the schools initial blessing, the board devised a proposed ordinance to issue permits, initially arriving at an annual cost of $50. In a special meeting last week, after fielding some complaints from the school, the board decided to reduce the fee to $30. But Monday, they temporarily shelved the plan as dozens of school teachers, parents of students, and a school administrator were poised to air their complaints. Lake George Superintendent of Schools Mary Cahill, in a letter to the board, cited many services the school district provides at no charge for the village. Teachers Union President Tony Cocca said the conflict between tourists and students was minimal, since the demand for parking was greatest in the summer, when school was not in session. Parent Kris Miller agreed that parking wasnt generally a problem. Why charge students and teachers when you dont need to? she asked. Its ridiculous. Mayor Blais countered that with the villages ever-increasing busy seasons, parking was indeed a problem, and village store and restaurant owners had brought up the issue. He also said that under the present system of waiving fees for students, there was no sure way that police could determine whether a vehicle belonged to a student or teacher attending a school function or session. Cocca argued that the village should accommodate the schools parking needs, because the community had years ago had urged the school officials to keep the school downtown rather than build it off Rte. 9L near the elementary school. Mayor Blais said the school would have had considerably more parking space had the school district relocated its bus garages off Mountain Drive where it is wedged in between residences. Cocca said that even $5 for a season parking pass was too expensive to charge students. Village Board member John Earl reminded Cocca that with a tankful of gas costing $40 or $50, a $5 annual parking fee was minimal. School Board President Naomi OReilly argued that the school district would have to raise taxes. Earl countered that the school had a budget of tens of millions of dollars, and far greater resources to pay for parking permits than the local village taxpayers. Blais said that the over the next several months, board would consider solutions that would be fair to both village taxpayers, business employees, and the school district, teachers and students. We will work with you to come up with some sort of solution, he said, noting the board was aiming at getting the issue settled by January. In other business the village board: Enacted an ordinance to reserve the use of two new village docks on Lower Amherst St. for the exclusive use of vessels assisting in fire and rescue operations, law enforcement and lake stewardship. Before the vote, Fishing Guide Ed Lockhart objected to the ordinance because it prohibited boats like his from merely picking up and dropping off passengers. Heard reports from Blais that the vulgar slogans on T-shirts on display in some village store windows continue to dismay tourists and residents, and many had written letters objecting to the T-shirts. Blais said he had talked with Bill Massry the owner of the Mushroom Tree and Stormin Normans but that Massry had kept his offensive shirts in his windows. He reported that some store owners, including Massry, had recently been cited for outdoor displays of merchandise, and other store owners had complied and were fined a minimum amount, but Massry refused to take his wares inside, and the local judge fined him $300. Endorsed a request by Kim Cornelius for a special event permit to sell food off a portable cart in Shepard Park for Sept 6. She is in charge of raising $50,000 for Caldwell Presbyterian Church to build a new kitchen, she said. Approved payment of emergency repairs to a sewer force main off Sewell St. that broke last week and required people to work all night to fix the problem. The cost of the repairs will be $15,000 to $20,000, Blais estimated. Decided to allow Coast-Guard-approved life vests for swimmers at the village beaches. Now, no flotation devices are permissible. Voted to clean up and repair buildings at 35 and 41 Canada St., and charge the costs back to the property owners. Granted a special event license to Fort William Henry, with the customary fee waived, for their planned Cars4Cancer Automotive Show set for Aug. 31.

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