Lake George Replacing “Runway” with “Gateway”
Critics liken the southern approach to Lake George to an airport runway. A $7.8 million project will turn it into a gateway.
Town officials hand-delivered a $904,000 check to the state Department of Transportation on Tuesday, April 14 that’s expected to jump-start the renovation of Route Nine from Exit 21 north to the village line.
Queensbury-based CEG (Cutting Edge Group) submitted the lowest of six bids, $6.8 million, for the nearly mile-long job that will create a boulevard-style, southern entrance to Lake George including a raised median with tree plantings, Victorian era street lighting, bicycle lanes, and new sidewalks and benches for pedestrians.
Work is scheduled to begin in early May and conclude in late 2016, with a modified 3-½ day — Monday to Thursday — work week during the busy tourism season from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
“Things are going to be moving really quickly now,” Planning and Zoning Director Keith Oborne told the town board Monday evening (April 13).
Oborne is especially anxious for work to begin because he is scheduled to leave his position in the near future and move to Paul Smith’s near Lake Placid where his wife, Shannon, recently took a job as director of marketing at Paul Smith’s College. The town has begun advertising for someone to replace Oborne at a salary up to $50,000 per year.
The Gateway project is one of several major issues the next Planning and Zoning director will have to deal with, and Oborne is anxious to get someone on board that he can advise and train before leaving the town.
Engineers estimated the Gateway project would cost $7.8 million. Three bids came in at more than $8 million including a high proposal of more than $8.5 million from Jensen Construction Co. of Florham Park, N.J. Kubricky Construction of Queensbury also submitted an $8 million-plus figure.
Oborne said CEG has already been vetted by the state. However, the bid couldn’t officially be awarded until the DOT had money in hand from the town. The $904,000 includes some town money along with state and federal grants.
Eventually, the town will be reimbursed for all but $304,000 of the job. The federal government is contributing approximately $1.25 million. The rest is coming from the state.
Originally, while the project was still on the drawing board, the state committed up to $10 million. Federal dollars will be used first. If the project stays within the $6.8 million budget, any remaining money will returned to the state, Oborne said.
Oborne said CEG still has to hammer out work schedule details with the DOT, which is overseeing the project. The exact length of work days hasn’t been determined yet.
In summer, however, no work will take place from Thursday evening to Monday morning, when Lake George is filled with vacationers and tourists. Some lanes will be re-routed during construction, but all businesses along Route 9 will stay open, Oborne said.
After Labor Day, work will progress full bore as long as weather permits.
In other action, the town board on Monday approved a new fee schedule for residential and commercial building project applications. Residential applications are going from $50 to $100, while commercial applications are increasing from $100 to $250.
Oborne said the fee hike, the first since 2004, is needed to offset the “administrative burden” and cost of publishing public notices ($30 to $40) for some projects. In addition to newspaper legal ads, mailings must also be made to every property owner within 500 feet of a given project, which costs time and money, he said.
Commercial fees are going up more than residential fees, percentage-wise, because those projects are typically larger and more involved.
Oborne said some parties will save money under the new fee schedule because they’ll pay a one-time fee instead of sometimes having to pay two or three times during complicated, drawn-out applications. However, some projects don’t require public notices. So some people will wind up paying more than their fare share under the new fee schedule.
“It’s project dependent,” said Oborne, adding that the new rates are comparable to what other municipalities charge.
“It seems a little excessive,” councilwoman Marisa Muratori said. “I don’t think everyone’s going to make out here.”
Councilman Vincent Crucitto said, “I don’t want it to become a profit center for the town.”
The new fee structure was approved by the town planning board. Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said the town should support the planning board’s decision and try the new rates for at least a year. If there is significant opposition, fees can be changed again next year, he said.
The town is also considering a change to Caldwell Sewer District billings. The district, created in the late 1940s, covers the east side of Lake George.
Until 2006, a property’s assessed value was factored into the formula for charging people, with higher-priced lakefront parcels paying more than homes and businesses away from the water.
Under the new billing system, however, properties farther from the lake are now paying more than lakefront homes, Dickinson said.
Plans call for having Chazen Companies, of Glens Falls, study the situation and come up with a more equitable billing system. Assessed value will be included, but not to the degree it was prior to 2006, Dickinson said.
“We want to go back to the old formula and tweak the assessed value so it’s not too much, but still in there,” he said.
The board also established spring cleanup days for April 27 to May 22. Bagged yard waste, small branches and items that can be handled by one employee may be placed curb side. Brush and branches should be bundled.
After May 22, brush may be taken to the town transfer station.
Two public hearings will be held prior to the next town board meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 11. A hearing about a proposed update to a local law dealing with septic systems is scheduled for 6 p.m. A hearing on the town’s contact with Lake George Volunteer Fire Department is scheduled for 6:15 p.m.
In other action, the board approved allocating $50,000 in occupancy “bed” tax funding to Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce for its work booking and promoting tourist-related events in the town.