There have been a lot of words, both written and spoken, regarding the town of North Hudson's interest in acquiring the former Frontier Town properties.
Some have said or implied that both the North Hudson town board and the Essex County Board of Supervisors have conducted their discussions on this matter in secretive sessions behind closed doors. I disagree with those who feel this way and ask that you review the minutes of those meetings and those articles which the press published in regard to them. I also ask, how is it that those who make these accusations would know how we conduct those board meetings? Until recently, they never were present at them. Had they been present, they would have known as far back as December that there were discussions regarding the purchase of the former Frontier Town properties. The information that they put forth is only partial information, used to spin the story to their advantage. The result is that the public is misinformed and not fully made aware of all of the facts. My purpose here is to try to present the facts to the best of my ability.
When the discussion of an upcoming tax foreclosure sale first began last fall, I discussed with the town board the possibility of the town trying to acquire it. In December the board authorized me to try to negotiate the transfer of those properties to the town. Our concern was that after nearly 10 years in the hands of the private sector, the property had been neglected and had decayed to the point where three buildings had to be condemned, while the owners were asking at various times in excess of $700,000 for the property. Our fear was that, once again, this property would fall into similar fate.
The town board felt that if we were to acquire it, we could develop some of the property for recreational use, as it adjoins our existing multi-use trail system. Additionally we could work in conjunction with the county Industrial Development Agency to develop an area to attract business investors. Again, our interest is to expand recreational opportunities, which would attract people to the town, which, in turn, we hope, would lead to business development in the town.
The town made an offer to the county to purchase the property for taxes owed, minus interest and penalties. The offer was declined, and eventually the Frontier Town/Republic Steel Task Force was assigned with the task of providing a recommendation to the full Board of Supervisors as to how to best proceed with sale of those properties. That recommendation was to combine four of the Frontier Town parcels and establish a minimum reserve bid of taxes owed for the property as of the April 30 sale date. That was estimated to be a little more than $146,000. The recommendation of the task force was accepted by the full Board of Supervisors. Both the Plattsburgh Press-Republican and Denton Publications reported the details in March. This information was available to the public; it was not a secret or part of some clandestine plan. Unfortunately, at the time of the auction, when the high bid for these properties was reached, no mention of the reserve was made. Had a statement been made, such as the minimum reserve bid has not been met, it would have saved everyone from the frustration we all feel.
That being said, the terms of the contract clearly state that the Board of Supervisors may accept or reject any bid for any reason. I am told that this was also announced at the auction and so should have been clear to everyone. As the bid of $49,500 was far less than the reserve of taxes owed, the Board of Supervisors rejected it. At the next meeting of the North Hudson town board, I asked how they wished me to proceed. By unanimous vote, I was directed to offer the county $60,000 for the properties.
That pretty much brings us to the present. I would have never, in my wildest imagination, thought that this issue would have escalated to the point that it has.
With that in mind, I made a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors that we try to reach a compromise. My recommendations for that compromise were the minimum that I felt would ensure a permanent, long-term use of the lands for recreational uses. The counter-offer made from George Moore did not ensure a permanent, long-term opportunity for the town of North Hudson.
These are the facts. I believe they can be verified through various newspaper articles and the various meeting minutes. Again, this was not some last-minute, secretive plan hatched the day after the auction, but rather a discussion that has been, and is, ongoing since last fall.
We are trying to improve the town's economic future. We felt that if we were able to maximize the recreational opportunities that will become available with the establishment of a snowmobile connector from Palmer Pond to Newcomb, Minerva, Long Lake, Indian Lake and points west, along with the future state acquisition of the Boreas Ponds tract, maybe that would attract business growth. We are not seeking any profit; we are only seeking business growth through the recreational opportunities that are possible with the above-mentioned state plans in North Hudson and the greater Five Towns, Upper Hudson Recreation Hub area.
As has been publicized, a petition was circulated to bring this to a vote. Although the petition was invalid for a number of reasons, the town board voted to bring this to public referendum. This may be the most important decision this town will make in recent memory. It will decide our economic future. I think the question boils down to, does the town of North Hudson want to control its own destiny, or does it want George Moore to?
Ronald Moore is supervisor of the town of North Hudson.