WARRENSBURG - After moths of debate and a contentious public hearing three days earlier, the Warren County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Friday to retain and rehabilitate both the Cavalcade of Cars and Opera House buildings on the grounds of the former Gaslight Village, with a purpose of hosting events and festivals.
Having these buildings ready to use for festivals is a vital boost to tourism - particularly in these challenging economic times - according to Bill Kenny, who presides over the county Bed Tax committee that oversees income from motels and other accommodations.
"This is the most important tourism incentive that Warren County has ever undertaken since the occupancy tax," he said.
Lake George Supervisor Lou Tessier has been leading a lengthy crusade to retain the buildings to provide space for small trade shows, event coordination, open-air concerts and community activities on the 2.5-acre festival space of the Gaslight Village grounds.
The remainder of the Gaslight Village acreage is to become a stormwater-filtering wetlands park.
Representatives of environmental groups and their supporters had argued that the buildings should be torn down to maximize the objectives of the wetlands park, and that rehabilitation would burden the taxpayers, considering engineers' estimates of $1.6 million to rehabilitate the two buildings.
But Tessier has argued for months that the buildings could be fixed up for one-tenth that figure or less, using primarily town employee labor.
Agreeing with Tessier, Thurman Supervisor "Red" Pitkin offered reasons why he and other upcounty supervisors voted to keep and fix up the buildings.
"It just didn't make sense to pull these buildings down when have this offer from the town of Lake George to develop them," he said. "Those of us (supervisors) with construction experience, we thought the engineers' renovation figures of $1.6 million were way off and with Lou willing to use his people and take on the work, we felt the downside risk just is just isn't that great."