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Johnsburg Board Debates Ski Bowl Park Improvements

NORTH CREEK - The debate over how the town should spend funds awarded through a $250,000 Ski Bowl/Gore Mountain capital improvement grant continues to stir passionate opinions among board members and the public. After touring the town-owned Little Gore enclosed pavilion, Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed, and Gore Mountain Manager Mike Pratt, revisited plans to renovate the building. Concerns about its relative state of disrepair, cleanliness, and its suitability for public use have been town topics for several years. Goodspeed noted that due to budget shortfalls a significant portion of the original grant was applied toward the 2007 Ski Bowl project "soft start." He estimated that roughly $130,000 is remaining through the National Grid portion of the grant. The board heard numerous comments of support and opposition to the various proposals on the table, including a short proposal by Pratt for renovation. Concerns about the building center on the Ski Bowl's dramatically increased usage, and the poor image the facility projects to visitors. Commenting on the vision of building a brand new "ski hut" on the site, Goodspeed also acknowledged the economic reality of the situation, and the need for dual-use facilities. "he ultimate goal is to get the ski hut, with an improved design, back where the ski hut needs to be," Goodspeed said. "However, by losing the first phase of the money, and the timing as [Gore Mountain Manager] Mike Pratt describes it, we are left with nothing but the National Grid portion of the grant, which is currently estimated at $130,000 in total." During Pratt's presentation, he clarified several points regarding ownership and use of the property, including the role that Gore Mountain would have in the project. His plan called for the renovation of the enclosed pavilion into a presentable multi-use facility. In exchange for providing in-kind construction services through an agreement with Lincoln Logs, ORDA would be contractually permitted to use the building during the winter months. "I think the red enclosed pavilion has served us well, but it does not represent us as well as we would like," Pratt said. "We were in a similar position on Gore last year with the old gondola barn. It was an old post and beam building that we stripped down to its basic structure and started over again. What we were hoping was to discuss a similar type of project with the Ski Bowl building." With the majority of audience members in favor of some type of improvement to the facility, including a complete demolition and reconstruction, opinions varied widely on how this goal should be achieved. "Why should we pay for a building that will benefit the mountain but put a financial burden on the town," one resident asked. "Why can't they build their own building?" "It's a shame the building hasn't been properly maintained over the years," one project supporter noted. "But at this point, if this isn't going to cost us anything and ORDA is doing the work, then I think we should do it. "This is just a knee-jerk reaction," Town Board member Arnold Stevens said. "But at this point I do not support this project. I am very open to more discussion about it but we determined several years ago that this building should be torn down and I cannot support investing any more money in it." While a decision on the project remains elusive, Goodspeed vowed to revisit the issue as more information is accumulated. In a similar issue, Goodspeed announced his intention to devote a large portion of the April 1 board meeting to a recent Ski Bowl Park development grant. Noting the role of local resident Joel Beaudin as the town-appointed administrator of the project, Goodspeed expressed his desire to hear Beaudin's plans for the park, and to seek public input. "We need to prioritize and establish timing," Goodspeed says. "And there are a whole host of issues that we need to go through." In other town business, the board unanimously moved to accept the newly formed Town of Johnsburg Youth Baseball League under the auspices of the Johnsburg Youth Commission. The arrangement serves as an official Town of Johnsburg show of support for the league, and to provide them with the necessary liability insurance coverage. After confirming with the town's insurance agent, Goodspeed anticipated a maximum of $300 in increased premiums, which the league has offered to cover. An ongoing controversy regarding four area residential properties, each with significant zoning violations, was tabled pending a meeting between town Attorney Tony Jordan, and Zoning Enforcement Officer, Ed Tuttle. In question are the options the town has in regards to zoning enforcement, and whether to initiate legal proceedings against the individual landowners for lack of compliance. Goodspeed vowed to place the item on the next board agenda. As news of a looming national economic crisis continues to make headlines, along with budgetary shortfalls at the county level, Goodspeed expressed his concern for area residents who could be severely impacted by rising food and energy prices. Noting the need to discuss the concern, he outlined a desire to establish a town committee to look at the issue and make recommendations. Board member Ron Vanselow immediately pledged his support, and requested acceptance to the committee. The next regular meeting of the Johnsburg Town Board will be April 1, 7 p.m., at the Wevertown Community Center. The board will open with a short agenda, to be followed by an open forum and discussions regarding the Ski Bowl Park grant administration.

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