Facing budget axe, VICs fate mulled

PAUL SMITHS - A diverse group of officials, activists and administrators packed a room at Paul Smith's College Thursday to discuss the future of the Paul Smith's Visitor Interpretive Center.

Governor David Paterson's proposed 2010-2011 state budget calls for the closure of the Adirondack Park Agency's two visitors interpretive centers - one is in Paul Smith's, 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 said the centers 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 John Mills facilitated the roundtable discussion, which was more of a brainstorming session than anything else.

Mills detailed 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.

Mills said the college is in no financial position to operate or maintain the center. 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 facility for park residents and visitors alike.

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said the chances of getting the VICs back into the budget are slim-to-none.

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