Paul Smith's College hosts discussion on future of VIC

PAUL SMITHS - A diverse group of officials, activists and administrators packed the Pine Room of the Joan Weill Student Center Jan. 25 to discuss the future of the Paul Smith's Visitor Interpretive Center.

Gov. David Paterson's 2010-2011 Executive Budget calls for the closure of the Adirondack Park Agency's two VICs - one is in Paul Smiths, the other in Newcomb. The closures would eventually translate to a $583,000 annual savings for the state.

Last week, the APA's Keith McKeever told WNBZ the VICs aren't considered part of the agency's core mission.

But it was clear Thursday that area residents and organizations are willing to step in and keep the Paul Smith's facility running.

Paul Smith's College President Dr. John Mills facilitated the roundtable discussion, which was more of a brainstorming session than anything else.

Mills explained in precise detail the college's role in relation to the center.

"The APA now oversees 1,398 acres of the property," he said. "We have the rest. The APA pays the town one-third of the assessed value of the land, that's the lease agreement. The buildings that are there are not taxed, that will be a serious consideration going forward."

The buildings at the VIC were maintained by the APA and funded through the agency's budget. Under the lease agreement, the state may only use the facilities for purposes of public education. Mills also noted the buildings and land can only be sublet with college approval.

According to Mills, the college is in no position to operate or maintain the VIC. For one, liability insurance is far too costly and two, the college cannot afford to hire staff.

And that's why Paul Smith's College is asking for input on how best to maintain the facility as an educational tool for park residents and visitors alike.

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