TUPPER LAKE - Town Supervisor Roger Amell, a Democrat, is defending his seat against Republican town Councilwoman Patti Littlefield in the Nov. 5 election.
The Enterprise asked each candidate the same set of questions on topics including the Adirondack Club and Resort, the rail-versus-trail debate and how they would encourage new businesses to open in Tupper Lake.
If re-elected, Amell would begin his third term as town supervisor of Tupper Lake. He said he takes pride in the fact that he's kept taxes low and stayed under the state-imposed tax cap every year he's served.
Amell is a staunch supporter of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort project and said that if it comes to fruition, the benefits will ripple out into the surrounding communities.
Employment: Owner of Amell Logging Inc. for 25 years
Experience: Eight years as Tupper Lake town supervisor
Volunteer/other experience: Oversaw construction of and helped build the football field at L.P. Quinn Elementary School, donated time and equipment to prepare for Big Tupper Ski Area's reopening in 2009
Patricia S. Littlefield
Party: Republican, Independence, Conservative, Independent Bright Future
Employment: Corporate compliance officer for North Country Home Services, eight years as a compliance officer and administrator for Adirondack Arc
Experience: Currently in second year of a four-year term as town councilwoman
Volunteer/other experience: Member of the town of Tupper Lake Board of Assessment Review grievance board for four years prior to taking office, member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for four years, managed the Tupper Lake Skating Club for 11 years, member of the Foster Grandparent Advisory Board, several years on the school board at Holy Ghost Academy and the Parish Council for St. Alphonsus Church, more than 15 years' experience with the budget process, appropriations and civil service
"The tax base (from the ACR) is going to make our whole community a lot better," Amell said. "There's going to be more growth and creation of jobs. It's going to be a state-of-the-art ski area for Tupper Lake and the surrounding communities."
The biggest issue, he said, is the legal battle waged against the ACR project by Protect the Adirondacks and the Sierra Club.
"The governor said the Adirondack Park is open for business, and in a lot of ways it is, but, you know, the environmentalists have more protection than the average taxpayers here," Amell said. "Until they have to pay the opposite side every time they lose, they have nothing to lose. It's a big stall-tactic game for them, and it causes major problems for the whole economy in the Adirondack Park, not just for Tupper Lake, and that's the big thing that holds these communities back from economic growth. They should be liable for the damage they're doing to us."
It is possible the ACR will never see the light of day. To that end, Amell said he and others are looking out for the town's future.
"I don't foresee anything (else) on that scale, but we're looking for any kind of businesses to move here and create more jobs," Amell said. "We're also starting up a task force to help out and work out issues at Sunmount. There's a lot of stuff coming down the pipeline and rumors. We're trying to get to the source of the rumors to find out if they're rumors or true facts."
Amell cited the board's recent resolution to sell the 7-acre Setting Pole Dam parcel to ECOsponsible Inc. as evidence that the town is heading in the right direction. Littlefield and Councilman John Quinn voted against the resolution.
"There's not going to be a significant amount of jobs, but there's going to be another two, three jobs, once it's running, created there," Amell said. "There's going to be another dozen jobs created through the construction of it, which is about two years. That (property) will be going back on the tax rolls, so that will be happening, too."
The dam was not the only contentious resolution the board passed recently. Last month, the board voted in favor of converting the railroad corridor from Thendara to Lake Placid to a multi-use recreational trail. Both Amell and Littlefield voted for it, but Amell said the resolution didn't meet his ideal vision.
"I wanted to do a two-phase operation with it," Amell said. "Lake Placid doesn't really want the rails over there, so I was hoping my board would pass a resolution to support leaving the tracks from here down to Utica and making Tupper Lake a hub if the rails ever did come through, so we could have both pieces of the pie. We could have from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid a trail system that would go to Fish Creek and Rollins Pond for biking and snowmobiling.
"The only downfall with that is, with the rails going into Old Forge, we wouldn't get that traffic (from snowmobilers) unless we got the snowfall needed to cover the tracks," Amell said. "My thought on that was the two-phase thing because anything with the state is going to take at least 10 years to get finalized."
Even without such a trail, Amell said the board has worked on increasing snowmobile traffic in Tupper.
"We budgeted for a new groomer for snowmobiling, and we're helping out with the snowmobiling to make the trails nicer," Amell said. "We're also working with Franklin County and St. Lawrence County to improve those trails and add more mileage to the trails. We have the issue with the railroad track, so we're creating trails beyond the railroad tracks so we can work around those problems."
Amell said a trail system that would connect Cranberry Lake, Parishville and Nicholville to Tupper Lake is in the works.
To increase traffic in the warmer months, Amell said the board will work closely with the chamber of commerce and focus on a few big events next summer instead of trying to hold an event weekly. That will include upgrades to the Warrior Run and a possible Tin Man race next fall.
Amell said the events attract tourism, which is a key component of Tupper Lake's future.
"We're in the heart of the Adirondacks, at the crossroads of (state Route) 30 coming from the south and (state Route) 3 coming from the west," Amell said. "Our location is really our key thing-the beauty of our lakes for fishing and boating, the mountains for camping and hiking, and the people are really friendly. We're not thriving for jobs, but after the ACR comes through, people will start moving in."
Thinking beyond the now-in-limbo ACR, Amell said he'd focus on the positive attitude of the people in Tupper Lake to encourage a business owner to relocate to the area.
"I'd say come here and talk to the people," Amell said. "Everyone in Tupper Lake is really friendly. Explore what you want to get into, and before you jump into it make sure there's a need here and move forward. Everybody has a positive attitude. We're fighters; we're not giver-uppers."
If elected, Littlefield would leave her four-year councilwoman seat mid-term to take on the town supervisor role. The Republican candidate said she would try to change some things about the way the town board does business, including maybe rescheduling its meetings from 4 p.m. on the second Monday of each month.
"Open government is essential in keeping the public informed," Littlefield said. "It would be wise to examine our process and perhaps to schedule meetings at a time more convenient for people, especially the working public to attend to witness their elected officials conducting public business."
To that end, Littlefield said more cohesion between the town and village would benefit both entities.
"Both the village board and town board could meet together occasionally to work on opportunities where the two governments could come together for the good of all," Littlefield said. "Especially with the proposed new fire and police department, and the costs associated with it. This way all parties involved with the decision-making process are clear on what has been concluded, and the taxpayers could be present."
Littlefield also said she would like to begin the process of establishing policies for the town that are currently not in place.
"Having current practices put into written policy and procedure could alleviate issues down the road," Littlefield said. "Establishing written policy and an annual risk assessment, together with an annual audit, is a directive of the Office of the State Comptroller."
She also said the town board and highway superintendent should work cooperatively toward long-term planning for equipment inventory and maintenance, as well as road reconstruction, renovation and maintenance.
Earlier this month, Littlefield and Councilman Quinn spoke out against the town's resolution to sell the 7-acre Setting Pole Dam parcel to ECOsponsible Inc. Amell supported the resolution.
"Property owned by the town taxpayers should be considered carefully prior to sale," Littlefield said. "Review all the pros and cons to the taxpayers, and regarding Setting Pole Dam especially, consider the residents who have been affected by previous flooding.
"I would have liked to see a referendum initiated by the town board. In the end, if the sale does go through, we need to be cautious on how that money is used. A one-shot revenue should not be used to fund recurring expenditures."
Littlefield said the Adirondack Club and Resort will serve as a magnet to attract people to the area.
"The ACR will be a great asset to Tupper Lake," Littlefield said. "When completed, it will add to our stability, provide jobs for our future generations and bring people back to the area. We all know Tupper Lake is a great place, and this economic venture will help to open the doors to traffic and business in order to enhance what we already have."
Like Amell, Littlefield voted in favor of converting the railroad corridor between Thendara to Lake Placid into a multi-use recreational trail.
"After many years of debate, reading loads of commentary, opinions, statistics and talking with parties from both sides and reviewing the unit management plan for the corridor which runs through Tupper Lake, I believe it is time that we encourage the state of New York to revert back to the item in the plan which allows for removal of the tracks and open the travel corridor up for tourism via hikers, bikers, walkers and especially snowmobilers," Littlefield said.
Littlefield added that Tupper Lake is missing out on a lot of winter tourism by not having easy access for snowmobilers to get here. She said year-round recreational tourism is essential to Tupper Lake's future growth.
"We need to keep up the great efforts to promote Tupper Lake and work with local groups to develop a consistent brand consistency for Tupper Lake for tourism," Littlefield said.
To help promote that tourism, Littlefield said improvements to The Wild Center nature museum, the town-owned golf course, the Adirondack Public Observatory and Little Wolf Beach and campground should continue. She also applauded the local chamber of commerce for its role in attracting visitors to the area.
She added that an interactive print and electronic recreational guide with maps, photographs and commentary on local natural attractions, combined with an easy-to-navigate and mobile-friendly website, would appeal to visitors.
Getting people to visit is one thing, but convincing them to stay can be more difficult. Littlefield said there are a few factors that she'd mention to encourage a business owner to relocate to Tupper Lake.
"There are many sites available to new business ventures, and together with Tupper Lake's municipal electric rates, that makes it an enticement for any new business wanting to locate here," Littlefield said. "The joint village and town planning board, together with Paul O'Leary and Pete Edwards, make the system to get started as painless as possible."