Dissent continues over festival buildings

Tessier repeated his assertion Friday that the buildings, if rehabilitated, could attract events to Lake George that would benefit the economy with millions of new dollars in revenue to local businesses and accommodations.

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with those buildings, and knocking them down would be a crime," Tessier said. "This whole thing is absolutely ridiculous."

Town employees, at his direction, have already spent considerable time fixing up the buildings.

Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce Luisa Craig-Sherman told county leaders that the buildings would provide needed headquarters for festivals, which were vital to provide commercial activity and income to area businesses and employees - particularly during the prevailing economic downturn.

But saving the buildings position was opposed by environmentalists and several citizens who attended, who support the festival space being turned into an open field.

"The county and the village need to become stronger advocates for the taxpayer," said Joanne Gavin, spokeswoman for the Citizens Group for Lake George. "The town supervisor's demands are not in the best interest of the residents -this board must acknowledge the many dissenting voices."

But Craig-Sherman reiterated the value of using the buildings to boost commerce rather than razing them. Event planners need interior space to hold festivals, she said.

"Gaslight has potential to be much more than just a land parcel," Craig-Sherman said. "We need to keep expanding our services or we will continue to lose market share in the tourism and festival sectors."

She said that if the county doesn't invest in facilities to attract festivals, tourism money will be lost and taxes will increase unnecessarily.

"Warren County is so dependent on tourism," she said. "If we don't make the appropriate investments, our county's entire economy will be in trouble."

Earlier this month, local engineer Clark Patterson concluded that to bring the two buildings to state code would cost over $1.5 million. This has lead to many supervisors supporting demolition of the buildings, particularly if it is at no cost to the taxpayers.

"These buildings are diverting attention from the original purpose of the property," Lake Luzerne Supervisor Eugene Merlino. "I am not sure what, if anything, this property will bring to Lake Luzerne taxpayers anyway."

Merlino's comments underscored an ever-growing frustration among supervisors over the lack of progress on the property.

"We need to sink our teeth into this thing and finally make a decision one way or another,"Thurman Supervisor Red Pitkin said.

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