During U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s visit to the Adirondacks, he met with local officials to hear their concerns.
Senator Schumer was at the North Elba Town House to talk about funding for job training and to hold a roundtable discussion with local officials on Adirondack issues. Essex County Board of Supervisors chair Randy Douglas kicked off the conversation by presenting a printed report and verbal update on the region’s infrastructure status following 2011's Tropical Storm Irene. Douglas told the Senator they are still dealing with FEMA issues and problems. “Essex County and specifically the towns of Jay and Keene would not be able to recover as much as we have without the Senator’s help. Him working hand in hand with Governor Cuomo has made us recover. We say it’s a five year plan, we’re almost three years in.” Schumer asked “What would you say your biggest FEMA issue is?” Douglas told him “The problem with FEMA is they change leadership so often, and then all of a sudden a month later we have noone.” Schumer inserts “You’ve got to start all over and they make commitments that the new person doesn’t keep.” Douglas agreed. “Exactly.”
The Town of North Elba includes the village of Lake Placid. Supervisor Robi Politi and the Senator discussed tourism and the recently held Summit Lacrosse tournament, now the second largest competitive event in the village. That led to a discussion about the Olympic venues. “Our Olympic venues and the venues that we have that sponsor all our world class events are always in constant need of repair. And USA Luge is our only governing body. It’s important that we continue to have them.”
Senator Schumer turned to Olympic Luge Silver Medalist Gordy Sheer and USA Luge Association CEO and Executive Director Jim Leahy. “We are the only national governing body in the North Country and we consider ourselves the only national governing body in the state of New York. We run about 120 to 130 kids through the program. We’re here hoping that we can work with you and some other political leaders for sustainability of our national governing body in this state for years to come.” Schumer responds “You just let me know what you need.” Leahy continued “In the case of luge, we get zero funding from the U.S. government and it’s all sponsorship and private donations.” Schumer asked “Doing so well this year, doesn’t that increase contributions, increase interest, increase training, or no?” Leahy lamented “We would hope, but not yet.”
Following the discussions on the region’s sports and Olympic infrastructure, Robi Politi turned to economics and the issue of on-line sales tax collections. “Small business owners, not only in our region but across the country, are facing a hurdle of having to compete with on-line internet companies that do not pay sales tax.” Schumer updated the group on Congressional action. “There’s a proposal that says you can’t tax things on the internet. The House wants that bill. So we’re trying to tell them we will not pass that unless you add the ability of states to collect the on-line sales tax.”
Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce President Tim Hesseltine reported that tourism traffic is up about 40 percent and two new hotels will soon open. His concern is the burden of fees that businesses face. “There seems to be quite a layer of fees. I happen to be a car dealer and the amount of fees that it takes for a transaction, state fees, are overwhelming.” Schumer asked “The Governor had said he was going to try to reduce these fees, but that didn’t happen?” Hesseltine told him “No that hasn’t happened.” Schumer said he would try to help. “I’m trying to keep taxes down and make a business friendly climate.” Hesseltine noted “That’s the overall thing for small business. Keep it simple. Keep the fees down and the taxes.”
Senator Schumer also toured Tupper Lake to discuss revitalization and future economic development efforts. The Adirondack Park Agency has approved the largest ever development project in the Adirondacks in that village, but a lawsuit by two environmental groups is challenging that decision.