Long Lake, NY, August 12, 2011
US Senator’s Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand stopped by Long Lake Central School on Friday, August 12th as part of a whirlwind tour of the Adirondack North Country Region to meet with leaders from around the Adirondacks and to engage in conversation about jobs and the most vital issues facing Adirondack residents today.
On tap for the structured panel discussion included William Farber, Chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, Brian Towers, President of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, Mark Brand, Superintendent of Indian Lake Central School, Kate Fish, Executive Director of ANCA, Garry Douglas, President and CEO of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, and Ann Melious, Director of Economic Development and Tourism for Hamilton County.
Kirsten Gillibrand arrived in the room first, shook everyone’s hand and made light of the fact that Chuck was still out in the hallway talking. Gillibrand opened up the discussion with her appreciation for everyone coming out to meet with them and cited the most important issue of the day: jobs.
Senator Schumer entered the room with Bill Farber and greeted everyone and remarked on the beauty of the area, the bustle of the town, the great weather and then the panel got down to business.
Bill Farber led the meeting, thanked Long Lake Central School for hosting the event then and called on the panelists to share their insights.
Brian Towers spoke first and gave both US Senators copies of the APRAP study. The report is the result of a two-year research effort by and for the communities of the Adirondack Park to provide a data-rich, factual baseline for discussion and planning of park issues at both the local and regional levels.
Brian Towers touched upon the human desire of people who want to live in the Adirondack region because of the natural beauty, water, quality of life, small schools, but the lack of jobs has bled the region dry. He listed several ideas that included attracting innovative thinkers in rural development to the region, and the need to create and develop loan funds to support infrastructure. Other ideas included: the possibility of carbon credits, developing family friendly jobs focusing on biomass and to foster a way to encourage and reward private investment.
Mark Brand reminded Senator Schumer of previous visits to the Indian Lake Central School. Schumer remembered his visit fondly as he had a school lunch featuring fish sticks. After a moment of levity Mark Brand spoke about the schools in the immediate area. He emphasized the answer is not to consolidate schools, but to create opportunities out of challenges. Model the regional school districts as the Newcomb, NY school district has done, and to seek federal help to revise immigration laws to make it easier for smaller communities and public schools to host foreign students and limit unfunded mandates.
Kate Fish spoke about the Common Ground Alliance’s successful meeting held in July (in Long Lake at Mt. Sabattis) which is a cross-section of people in the Adirondacks with differing views. This year’s event the Common Ground participants were asked to rank potential workable ways to model a future for park residents and the overall consensus was to work on the model for the Sustainable Life, but for that to succeed it was vital to have broadband available in the region.
Garry Douglas outlined the potential revitalization of the historical train corridor route between Utica and Lake Placid with an emphasis on connecting to Tupper Lake. Douglas also mentioned the possibility of developing it as a recreational corridor, clarifying that trains and a viable recreation corridor for hiking, biking and snowmobiling would not be exclusive of the other.
Both Kate Fish and Garry Douglas touched upon the importance of broadband to the region and the topic elicited a big reaction and much interest from both Schumer and Gillibrand. The panel discussion veered off course so the senators could clarify the needs of the area. Where broadband is available now? Where wireless is available and if one was more viable to the region than the other depending on the area it was serving.
In Long Lake cell phone service is available from AT&T only and not Verizon. Long Lake does have DSL available and it is serviced by Frontier Communications. At this time the Town of Long Lake has plans for two wi-fi hot spots at both Mt. Sabattis Pavilion and the Long Lake Town Hall. Plans for implementation and timeline have not been released yet.
The broadband discussion emphasized the need for money to serve the last mile of broadband. The hardest challenge is the connection from a main hub to the local residents. Gillibrand is working on a farm bill and discussion on the agricultural committee is the consideration to put a requirement similar to the original telephone bill to make broadband service available and mandatory all across the country.
Ann Melious from Hamilton County, NY spoke about the effort by the county to promote and attract younger families with children to move to the region. Hamilton County is starting a campaign to tap into what is most attractive about our area to live including: safety, scenery, sense of community, small schools and to encourage people to work from home. She sought support from the senators to consider the possibility of Hamilton County being part of a pilot program and model for rural communities across the nation.
Schumer and Gillibrand wanted to clarify that their job encompasses everything from big problems to small and they are here to serve the needs for everyone in New York State. Everyone is encouraged to contact their office with their thoughts, concerns or ideas. Schumer mentioned that the elimination of earmarks was tough on rural economies and directly effects those in the Adirondacks. “Getting rid of earmarks makes our job harder.”
Time was short, the itinerary was tight and the Senators took some photos with guests at Long Lake Central School. Once photo ops were completed they continued on their North Country Tour.