LAKE GEORGE - Local and state officials will be meeting soon to negotiate lower state fees in an effort to dissuade Americade motorcycle rally founder Bill Dutcher from moving his nationally famous event out of the area, Mayor Blais reported Monday.
Blais said Dutcher is poised to move the rally to Springfield Mass. or another municipality in the northeast U.S. as soon as 2012 if he can't get the state Department of Environmental Conservation brass to lower their $82,000 fee for the use of the Million Dollar Beach parking lot down to its historic level of about $50,000 for a week.
Blais said state Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward and perhaps state Sen. Betty Little are expected to participate in this meeting.
"We're going to Albany and plead our case," he said. "Dutcher said the proposed DEC fees are not acceptable."
Blais said Dutcher told him and other community leaders in a meeting this week that Springfield Mass. offered him use of a convention center in their city four times the size of the Lake George Forum at half the cost he was renting the Forum annually for a portion of his massive Tour Expo trade show. The bulk of the vendors are traditionally chiefly located in the Million Dollar Beach parking lot, prompting the DEC fee. He noted that the Gaslight Village festival space, considered an alternative site for Tour Expo, wouldn't be ready for a year or two, and parking motorcycles wasn't feasible on the unpaved surfaces at Gaslight.
Blais said that if DEC lowers their fee to the $50,000 range, he will commit to keeping Americade in Lake George until 2015 or 2016.
Dutcher told the local and county leaders that he needs to know the amount of the DEC fee within the next few weeks because he'll be soon advertising the site of Americade in future years, Blais said. Americade has been held in Lake George each year since 1983, growing from modest beginnings into the world's largest touring motorcycle rally.
In other business, the village board:
• Boosted the all-week Americade parking fee from $9 to $10 after Greater Glens Falls Transit increased their fees to the village. The parking pass includes free transportation on village trolleys all Americade week, rather than a limited number of trips as was allowed in the past.
• Announced intention to install a temporary traffic signal on Canada St. in front of Fort William Henry Resort during Americade week to allow motorcyclists to more easily enter and exit the hotel, which is the new headquarters for the rally. Officials have reported that there are substantial traffic snarls at the resort entrance during Americade week.
• Voted to borrow money through a $1.8 million 30-year bond at no interest from the state Environmental Facilities Corp. to fund upgrades to the Lake George sewer transmission lines and processing plant. The project includes lining the pipes with an impervious material to prevent leaks or ruptures.
• Decided to send proposed electronic sign ordinances back to the town planning board for re-wording. The color of lights on these digital "reader board" signs and the signs' placement, particular on doors, were issues concerning the village leaders.
• Shelved a request to allow a "water ball" attraction to operate at Shepard park Beach. The amusement features a five-minute walk on water inside a large sphere that's attached to a 10-foot tether. The enterprise was rejected due to lack of appropriate space and possible conflict with swimming and other uses of the shoreline - as well as potential noise from a generator used to inflate the ball. Also, Blais said, the state Health Department was seeking assurances from the village that no water-walker would vomit or defecate inside the ball.
Trustee John Earl and others suggested the water-ball promoter pursue the idea with lakeside hotels and motels that own a stretch of the Lake George shoreline.
"It sounds like a nice addition, but due to the logistical issues, we're not interested," Earl said.
• Agreed to equally share the $3,500 cost of hiring Elan Planning to prepare a grant application to explore the feasibility of consolidating the village Public Works department with its town counterpart. This initial grant for $25,000 would evaluate, among other initiatives, moving all village vehicles and equipment to town facilities so the village DPW garage on Helen and Schuyler streets could perhaps be used as a new home for the Lake George Emergency Squad. Consolidating the two public works departments would make the municipalities eligible for a $250,000 grant, Blais said.
• Heard that a public meeting would be held at 4 p.m. Thursday Feb. 17 at the Lake George Town Center to begin planning the Lake George Holiday Lights Spectacle, a display and recurring show of synchronized holiday lights and sound in downtown Lake George. Village Trustee Ray Perry has said such a nightly show in Lake George between Thanksgiving and New Years Day - to feature lavish, extensive lighting displays in both Shepard Park and on buildings opposite the park on Canada Street - would bring national attention to Lake George.
• Welcomed the news that replacing incandescent lights with LEDs for holiday lighting displays had decreased electricity costs from $1,682 to $1,332, or a 21 percent decrease.
"Installing the LEDs certainly proved worthwhile," Blais said.