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DEC's escalating fees to Americade are unjustified

As I write this column , the staff at the Inn at Erlowest is preparing for a community appreciation party they're holding for Americade founder Bill Dutcher and his staff.

To be held Tuesday at noon, the fete is a gesture of thanks to Dutcher for continuing to choose Lake George as home base for Americade, the world's largest touring motorcycle rally.

Dutcher launched Americade in 1983, and it soon became the biggest single annual boost to the economy of the Lake George region, as well as bringing national recognition to Warren County.

Recently, however, the tenure of Americade here has been threatened due to the state of New York's escalating demands for money from Americade. The Department of Environmental Conservation rents the state's Million Dollar Beach parking lot to Americade for its TourExpo motorcycle trade show.

What began years ago as a voluntary courtesy payment to DEC of $10,000 for a parking lot that would have been empty and locked anyhow, has morphed into a mandated annual charge of $52,000 for a week's use of the vacant lot. This spring, DEC upped the ante with a demand that Dutcher pay up to $165,000 for a week's use of the vacant lot.

Although that figure was negotiated down to $71,300, this lower figure represents a 37 percent increase over last year. Additionally, DEC officials have told Dutcher the charge will be boosted by yet another $15,000 next year.

Faced with such an increase in expenses, Dutcher has said he was considering moving Americade to Vermont, which apparently would gladly host the rally without such punitive charges. He said Monday Americade's staying in Lake George for 2011, but future years are still in question because of the state's demands.

This increase in charges by DEC is not only unjustifiable, it's lunacy on behalf of state officials - and it demonstrates a disturbing lack of clout on behalf of our legislators, reflected in their inability to curb runaway government excesses.

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