SARANAC LAKE - With the backdrop of the proposed closure of several local state prisons and the coming election season looming, Republican Assemblywoman Janet Duprey talked jobs, gay marriage and the role of the Adirondack Park Agency last Thursday night at a town hall meeting in Saranac Lake.
About 40 local residents gathered at the Harrietstown Town Hall and last week's release of Governor David Paterson's proposed executive budget got top billing.
The potential loss of nearly 500 jobs in the region and the future of local job creation were the primary concerns of those in attendance.
And for Duprey, the closure of the prisons puts the future of the host communities at risk.
"These are very small communities. In Lyon Mountain, there is nothing else there," Duprey said. "Taking 90 employees out that small communities; it's the gas station, it's the deli sandwiches, and it's the things we sell in the town of Brighton."
Like many Republicans, Duprey said she's happy that Paterson's budget contains a less than 1 percent spending increase, but indicated the drastic cuts to healthcare and school aid is a concern.
Local restaurant and lodge owner Ernest Hohmeyer said the current state fiscal crisis and the resulting loss of jobs in a region so dependent on municipal employment could be the wake up call the region needs.
"Different times call for new thinking," Hohmeyer said. "The Adirondacks has primarily a second-home and service economy and we must try to market ourselves with a unified front."
Hohmeyer said that the dozens of area-specific chambers of commerce and marketing agencies should unify their efforts and promote the park as a whole.
Duprey admitted that she sometimes gets beaten up for making a distinction between upstate and downstate, especially concerning the differing economic needs of the regions.
She said that the progress being made on the St. Lawrence Gas natural gas pipeline, which would stretch from Clinton to St. Lawrence county, as well as broadband development are essential in bringing new private investment into the North Country, particularly from Canada.