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Notes on Saranac Lake’s biotech deal

July 4, 2011
Editorial by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise: Publisher Catherine Moore, Managing Editor Peter Crowley

Obviously, it was great news for Saranac Lakers Thursday that a huge deal will add two biotech forms to a growing cluster of health and bioscience institutions, move the village government into the stately Harrietstown Town Hall and reopen the Sears lot to free public parking. We're thrilled.

Beyond the obvious, a few things should be noted for the record:

-The parking lot is the piece of the puzzle that directly affects the most people, and in a good way. The town hall facilities - which, beyond the town offices, have a Department of Motor Vehicles branch, a courtroom and an auditorium that's used for elections and numerous community events - already need more parking and would need even more with the village offices there. Plus, there is a parking crunch for everyone who uses downtown shops. Both of those are compelling public interests. The lease price isn't cheap, but then again, demand for the lot is clearly high. This sounds like as good a deal as taxpayers are likely to get at this point.

-It took a fair bit of sucking it up and setting aside personal feelings for the current village and town governments to move in together. Both sides recognized the right thing to do for the taxpayers when they saw it, and they did it. Mayor Clyde Rabideau didn't even ask to rename the building the Saranac Lake Town Hall.

-The benefits of that co-location will go beyond the "warm fuzzy feelings" Mayor Rabideau said the public gets over it. Now, hopefully, when someone from one municipality is dealing with something that affects the other, they'll be more prompted to think, "Hey, we really ought to mention this to the (town/village)," and it will be easy to walk up- or downstairs to do so in person. They'll pass each other on their ways into, out of and through the building. That personal interaction has real value to the public.

-This deal shows the power of initiative, teamwork and practicality. As village Trustee John McEneany said Thursday, Mayor Rabideau has "taught me what's possible if everybody is pulling in the same direction."

-On that note, this deal has primarily been Mayor Rabideau's baby from the beginning, and he deserves great praise for leading it along. So, too, do village trustees and officials, town board members (especially Bob Bevilacqua) and, of course, the biotech people who are the real actors here. They made the big leap, and their interests happily coincided with Saranac Lakers'.

-Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall showed practicality and diplomacy in reacting to the news. He was in the dark about it, but "Having spent 45 years in commercial banking in the North Country, I'm well aware of how these things develop and how negotiations like that will always be kept out of sight," Mayor Randall said. "That's the nature of business." He also properly noted that his village - under a prior mayor he defeated, no less - loaned the RBM biotech firm money to keep it from moving away from the area entirely. That is our primary competition - not among Adirondack neighbors that need each other, but against other parts of the world.

-Conspicuously absent at Thursday's press conference were the usual state politicians: Sen. Betty Little and Assemblywomen Janet Duprey and Teresa Sayward, whose districts split the village. Normally it would be common courtesy to have them present at an announcement like this, but Mayor Rabideau didn't invite them - not even with the call or email he placed the day before the press conference to the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Placid mayor and the North Elba town supervisor. U.S. Rep. Bill Owens was there, and Mayor Rabideau had invited Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but not our state lawmakers.

Mayor Rabideau has had personal friction with Sen. Little and has said publicly that the Assemblywomen are not relevant since their Republican Party is in the minority in their house. That's an unfortunate rift. Maybe this announcement could have been a chance to heal it; then again, maybe not. It takes more than a press conference to rebuild a burned bridge, although the lack of an invitation can widen the gap.

This initiative - especially the sharing of space by the village and the town - is the kind of thing our three state lawmakers do and strive for. We hope they appreciate it, for Saranac Lakers' sake if not for the mayor's.

But about that mayor - like him or not, he gets things done. This is his biggest achievement so far, a little more than a year into the job, and we expect it's far from the last.



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