RAY BROOK - The North Country took a substantial hit Jan. 18 when Gov. David Paterson unveiled his 2010-2011 executive budget.
And while the closing of three correctional facilities is getting the most attention in upstate New York, two other popular facilities are facing closure as well.
Paterson's budget calls for the closure of the Adirondack Park Agency's Visitor Interpretive Centers in Newcomb and Paul Smiths.
An official from Paterson's budget office said shuttering the two VICs would translate to a savings of $129,000 in the coming fiscal year. The state would save $583,000 per year starting in 2011-2012.
In a Jan. 18 interview following Patterson's speech in Albany, APA Spokesman Keith McKeever spoke about what the cuts will mean.
"In the governor's budget, there is a proposal to phase out the Newcomb and Paul Smiths VICs by January 2011," McKeever said. "We won't be laying off any staff this year. But they are planning to phase them out by next year."
McKeever said due to New York's economic state, all government agencies are being asked to sacrifice. He said agencies need to scale back services to match need, not want.
Agency officials are open to leaving the programs in place, but McKeever said they aren't a top priority.
The VICs provide environmental education programs to school children and adults, and offer miles of trails for hikers, skiers and snowshoers.
"The services and programs provided by the VICs are well-received in our communities and they're valuable programs, but they are generally accepted as not being part of the agency's core mission," he said. "In these very difficult times, tough choices have to be made, and regrettably the VICs are being proposed to be phased out."
Although the savings to the state are minimal, McKeever said the savings for the APA are fairly substantial.
"It's a significant savings in the agency's budget," he said.
The APA has been leasing the land surrounding the Paul Smith's VIC and SUNY ESF for nearly two decades, McKeever said.
"It's private land, it's not forest preserve," he said. "This year, in our budget, we reduced the cost of repaying the lease by giving the college back the opportunity to do some commercial logging and some educational programs on the property. There will be some opportunities in the future to use that land."
McKeever could not say how many jobs will be affected by the closure of the two VICs.
If closed, the Huntington Wildlife Forest land that hosts the Newcomb VIC will remain in the possession of Syracuse University and maintained by the SUNY ESF.
Newcomb Supervisor, George Canon is hopeful that VIC programs will continue to be offered despite the threat of closure.
"The town is willing to to discuss ways to keep the VIC operational," he said. "We do not, however, have the funds to operate it independently."
Canon said he will do what he can to make sure the doors of the VIC do not close on the town of Newcomb and the surrounding communities.