Sunday, November 27, 2022

Bob Blais, 85 & in his final term as LG Mayor; his annual report as newsy as ever

By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor

At the age of 85 and finishing his 50th year in office, Lake George Mayor Bob Blais’s “Annual Report to the Village Taxpayers” is as newsy and compelling as ever. Here’s just some of what I gleaned from the four-page report issued as 2021 turned to 2022.

• It may be time for Lake George Village to have its own police force again. Mayor Blais writes, “With the advent of legalizing cannabis and increased tourism activity almost year-round I believe the Village may again have to consider organizing a new Police Department somewhat similar to Bolton Landing. The costs today will be substantial but our residents, as well as our tourists, may need a local department to maintain a safe environment.”

2019: Lake George Mayor Bob Blais, left, and Boston Red Sox co-owner Phil Morse, of Lake George, on the day Bob Blais threw the ceremonial first pitch for this beloved Bosox. Cathy DeDe photo

The mayor notes, “The Village merged our Police Department in 1988 into the Warren County Sheriff’s Office…

“At the time we had a full-time Chief, two Sergeants and two Patrol Officers as well as 12-16 seasonal officers. The move resulted in savings of over $400,000. Since that time we have contracted with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office for weekend patrols in season at a cost of $25,000-35,000….We have experienced a minimum of problems, created a Peace Officers’ program that received statewide awards and have generally been quite fortunate to have little crime or vandalism in the village.”

• Business booming. “The summer of 2021, despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, will go down as one of the busiest in history!…Both Sales Tax revenue and Occupancy Tax were up 5-8%. Our meter revenues water and sewer flows …indicated one of our best seasons ever.”

• ‘Parking Meter Revenues Set Record!!’ Mr. Blais writes, “Our total meters increased from $697,000 in 2020 to $1,392,000 in 2021. Village Officials increased the parking fee to $2.00 per hour on the streets and extended our enforcement from April to October.”

The mayor says the Village rates are in line with or lower than Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach, Lake Placid, Provincetown and Ocean City MD.

He says, “We received few complaints” about the fee increase. “I answered all complaints with the same philosophy. Our visitors are asked to pay meters to enjoy the many amenities that we must provide for their safety and enjoyment.

“Fireworks, free band concerts, public restrooms, police protection, garbage collection daily, street sweepers, a Visitor Center, a free beach and hundreds of special events a all there for their enjoyment. Parking meters pay for all of the above.”

• Lake George Village opted out of allowing marijuana sales. Mayor Blais says the village board voted unanimously and the public “overwhelmingly spoke against cannabis sales. “Many motel owners spoke of several incidents during last summer that users caused numerous problems. The Town of Lake George and Bolton have opted-out as well. Most other towns have decided to allow the sale.”

• ‘Wastewater Treatment Plant Ready.’ The mayor writes that “the Village’s new $24M (million) Wastewater Plant is ready to go online after two years of construction….The plant is now one of the most efficient in the state and is a major step forward in protecting our lake.” Mr. Blais notes, “The Village was able to get $17.4M in grant funding…Our 30-year bond of $7.6M is expected to create a debt payment of approximately $330,000 annually and is interest free.”

• ‘Ice Castles Are Coming.’ The mayor writes, “Weather permitting these fabulous Ice Castles will open in January, 7 days a week, until March. It is expected to draw thousands to our Village and make Lake George a year-round destination.”

• ‘Wood Park A Huge Success.’ The Mayor writes, “Bookings for Wood Park festivals reached new heights….The Festival Space is paying huge dividends for our tourism industry and the Village.”

• ‘Car Show complaints’ continue to come in about the Adirondack National Car Show in September, the mayor writes, though he adds, “the complaints of noise, littering, burn-outs and illegal behavior seemed to be less this year as the Sheriff shut down Route 9 for several hours during Friday and Saturday night. We will continue to work with the Albany Club that does the show and try to mitigate the above problems as much as possible. Some bars complained of the shutdown, while others thanked us for the new measures.”

• ‘Complaints on Dillilgaf Stores.’ “We continue to receive several complaints on William Massry’s two DILLIGAFF stores,” writes Mayor Blais, but he says, “Utilizing the F*** and other derogatory words is protected by the First and Second Amendments and we are powerless to act. I have met several times with the owner to no avail. It has hurt our image as a family resort to many who complain they will never return.”

• The public is likely to vote whether to dissolve the village. The Mayor says a study is in the works “to determine the value of dissolving the Village to save the taxpayers money.” He writes, “The Village Board has promised a vote on this study. Three previous studies were never brought to a vote by residents of the Village.” Mayor Blais adds in bold type: “This is probably the most important decision you will be asked to consider.”

• ‘Fences, Fences, Fences’ erected at two Village beaches. Mayor Blais writes, “A fence was erected to close off Shepard Park Beach during non-lifeguard hours.” He said the “State requires that we do not allow swimming when there are no lifeguards present. Signs and Peace Officers could not control this large beach after 6pm daily. We had three drownings, all after hours. COVID regulations required that we limit the beach to a specific number of bathers. All impossible without a fence.”

At Lake Avenue Park, the mayor writes “after many complaints about tourists abusing this small park…a fence and permit system were instituted….Permits were issued to 32 families…and it has been a great success. It has created some concerns for nearby motels guests but they have agreed to cooperate.

• ‘You Must Have A Number On Your Home!!’ headlines another item. “State law requires a street number on every building for identification purposes in the event of an emergency! We will be sending one warning to all who are in violation! Please check for compliance.”

• Mayor Blais will exit in 2023. He writes, “My last day in office will be March 31, 2023. Yes, this time I will actually retire. My leaving will be difficult but I would like to believe I am leaving the Village in a far better place economically and physically than in 1971” when he first took office.

Along with “one of the area’s lowest tax rates,” he writes, “We have built a Visitor Center, new firehouse, Village Hall, DPW Garage, Water Filtration Plant, Lakefront Walkway and put in 1.7 miles of new water lines during my tenure. We built Wood Park and this year will host on the nation’s top attractions ‘Ice Castles USA.’

‘I have been blessed with a very cooperative and talented Village Board.”

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