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Minutes of a Town Board Meeting held Wednesday, September 18, 2018

State of New York
County of Fulton
Town of Caroga

Minutes of a Caroga Town Board work session/town hall meeting held Tuesday September 18, 2018, at the municipal building located at 1840 State Highway #10 at 7:00 pm with the following persons in attendance by Roll Call:

Supervisor James K. Selmser – Here
Council Member John Glenn – Here
Council Member Jeremy Manning – Here
Council Member James Long – Here
Council Member Kent Kirch – Here

There were about 150 members of the public in attendance.

At 7:00 pm Supervisor Selmser called the meeting to order by asking for the roll to be called. The salute to the flag followed.

Supervisor Selmser stated it was nice to see the large turnout for this important subject. There will be a presentation by the Caroga Arts Collective to start with and then questions can be posed to them or the town board. This will be one of a number of meetings regarding this subject. If the town board takes any action it will have to be done after a public hearing.

Mr. Ruby thanked everyone for coming this evening. He hoped to be able to share some information. He stated there is misinformation and urban legend and they hope to clarify some of those things tonight.

Kyle Price joined Mr. Ruby. A slide presentation commenced. He reviewed the mission statement: reigniting the Caroga experience through interdisciplinary and inter-arts collaborations among musicians, artists, scholars, and the community.

He noted they became a nonprofit in 2016 stemming from the Caroga Music Festival in 2012.

They have four programs now:

  1. Caroga Lake Music Festival
  2. Your Body is Your Strad
  3. Inter Arts Symposium
  4. My Hill film Series

They also had education programs through the Paul Nigra Center & FMCC. This year they did one for Schoharie and Fulton County students through a grant from the Saratoga Arts Council.

They have done numerous benefit concerts.

In 2018 there were over 100 artists through the course of the summer with 40 + events. Almost all the concerts are free. It lasted 9 weeks. There were over 120 volunteers that helped make everything possible. Volunteers in attendance were asked to stand and be recognized and were thanked.

Kyle stated there is something very attractive about this area and he thought Sherman’s was a part of that. His program would revitalize local culture, business, and life. They would provide unique and accessible community experiences through performances, exhibits, community outreach events and adult/youth education. He showed an animated slide.

Raising Funds not taxes: Mr. Ruby stated one thing he has heard was that Sherman’s would become the exclusive place of the music festival and the Caroga Arts Collective (CAC). “This is 180° from the truth.” The CAC would be the umbrella origination that would allow…. A kayak poker run had a challenge as it was difficult for the town to deal with being able to manage Sherman’s. Two years ago the board allowed CAC to use Sherman’s for concerts but it took up to 6 days before the first concert to get permission. This year Sawyer Fredericks performed to almost 1800 people.

Mr. Ruby noted the expanded business brought to local businesses when they host a concert. He noted the 19th Hole was closed two years ago but CAC was involved with helping their business. He stated Caroga is becoming a tourist town due to the rodeo and concerts. They want to make it a community space. They want to have a fireworks display and a concert this year, the carousel lit and running and people being able to ride it. He knows that the Ferris wheel turns.

Kyle Price stated the CAC can generate revenue he listed comparable projects:

  1. Glenn Echo Park MD
  2. Ravinia Highland Park IL
  3. Old torpedo Factory Alexandria VA
  4. View Arts Center Old Forge

It was noted that there is a difference in population in most of these projects.

Jim Hopkins, a CAC board member, gave his back ground information and how and when they obtained property in the Town of Caroga. He is heading up a capitol construction task force for CAC. With him on the committee are Tim Delaney, Tim Mitchell, and John Leonforte who is a sewage and water supply engineer from NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection along with others. They have visited the similar project The View in Old Forge. They want to use the ideas that others have used. His wife is heading up a grant task force. He stated they have made incredible progress for our dream which is to build a town center that we can all be proud of.

A few members of the board of directors and the advisory board were then introduced:

Bruce Veghte stated their gift with no strings attached was the donation of My Hill. He hopes to help the economy develop in Caroga Lake.

Michael Finn – Exec. Director of the Palm Beach Chamber Music Society and former dean of Julliard. He is impressed with Kyle’s vision. He is a firm believer if you build it they will come.

Barbara Lee was introduced. She is an attorney and has a residence in Caroga. She noted she was vocal in the issue surrounding the donation agreement. She is the secretary of the CAC and has been involved for about 3 years. The CAC board is heavily invested in this group. She stated we have a chance to avoid legal problems if the CAC owns this property. She stated George Abdella who donated the property to the town still maintains the position that the donation agreement, which was declared to be void by the town attorney at the time, is valid and fully enforceable and will be enforced should the town sell the property. He will sue on the donation agreement. She did not think he could win. Recently Mr. Abdella wrote a letter to the town board should the property be transferred to the CAC he will not sue the town, he would indemnify and hold the town harmless. The threat of a lawsuit that has been held over the town would be taken away if this goes through.

Nancy Purcell board member gave her back ground information and how and when they obtained their property at S. Shore Road of East Caroga Lake. They enjoyed their outdoor playground. She noted everyone has a story about Sherman’s. She and her husband volunteer for many organizations and they have volunteered their home and have cooked for the musicians. She has donated time to improve the property at Sherman’s. She listed positive projects and events happening in Caroga… the proposed bike trail, and the farmers market.

Mary Peck is passionate and appreciative to what CAC bring to our community. She also houses and feeds the musicians.

Kyle noted the grants obtained by CAC and the support of the 11 local business sponsors. As a non-profit he realized they have to be financially transparent. Recently they were offered a $125,000 matching grant for a performance venue.

Katie Kowalski sent a risk identification spreadsheet she created showing– Liability to the town if CAC became the owner of the Sherman’s Property. It will be posted on line in the future.

Kyle noted the poster boards with their conceptual ideas for the Sherman’s property. It showed a floating platform for musicians to perform. He stated the people write to him saying they want other types of music, and that is where they are going. They’ve had “cool events” that feature award winning artists. This only happens with a huge group of volunteers. The CAC vision for Sherman’s includes a Lakeside Performance Venue, Main building with performance/banquet/conference/Town Hall meeting space, Carousel for banquets and art gallery installation space, Informational Booth for supplying info on Caroga and the Adirondacks, He noted Caroga is the gateway to the Adirondacks.

Rick Ruby stated the CAC would be the managing entity to work to schedule any type of event. They want to be the umbrella for this entire community to be able to use this property. They note the comprehensive plan supports their plans.

Pat Lowry introduced herself and gave her experience working with arts organizations in Florida. She is heading up the grants task force. She is confident they can match every penny of the $125,000.00 to have $250,000 for a performance venue. She noted how community oriented The View is with its many activities. She noted the financial indebtedness and loans that are taken on with a project of this nature.

Words from Local business people:

Gail Irish Fisher of Pleasant Lake Inn has seen the obvious benefit to the town. She supports the project.

Rich and Geri Blackton own Pine Lake Lodge and have benefited having CAC perform at their business this year and had a fantastic night. They plan to have them next year and support them.

Bill Fielding – 45 years ago he bought Canada Lake Store. His kids went to school here moved away and then came back. The enrollment at school now is 120 – we need a shot in the arm. The music festival has brought people here for longer periods of time. They hold barge concerts every year.

Becky Ward from the 19th Hole sent an email. She stated how fortunate they were to have had the pleasure of housing the kids for the past two seasons. She stated how extremely talented they are and what an asset they are.

Scott Horton thinks CAC is fantastic. He has housed two musicians and has donated to support them. He has worked in community development and done some legislative work. He was the chairman of the Caroga Planning board and worked on the Comprehensive Plan. He stated the Sherman’s property is the most important piece of property in the town. It is his opinion that the property should be owned and managed by the town. If the Town controls the property all of the revenue generated goes to the town. He believes the CAC goals can be obtained by leasing the property. Everyone has a right to that property. He wants the town to progress and believes in the town. The way we give it a try is not to sell the most important asset to any group. The town board has to decide what to do. He was thanked for a different perspective.

Barbara Lee noted we are in the beginning stages. They want to see people having a wonderful time using the property. They want it be treated respectfully. They are not exclusive.

Council Member Kirch noted a lot of people came tonight to express their views and we have not had a chance to hear from everyone. It has been great to have everyone be respectful to everyone else. He believes there is a chance not everyone sees this the same way. We are here tonight to hear people’s opinion. He asked speakers to keep the questions or comments to roughly 3 minutes.

Tony Toskas he was opposed to whole thing right from the beginning. His concern was getting the Sherman’s property off the town’s dime. Let someone else foot the bill for it not the taxpayers. A lot of people shared their opinions with him and most were negative. His only suggestion in listening to CAC is if you want to purchase the property make a reasonable valid offer. He did not want to see a sale for $2.00.

Laura Nealon supports CAC and noted they have brought more people into town. She asked the board to develop a plan. She would love to see the beach open. She didn’t believe it cost a lot of money for insurance. Sherman’s is a destination.

Dan MacIver noted how wonderful Sherman’s was then it started to depreciate. When he heard about the donation he thought it was great. The town could now generate some revenue and bring this beautiful historic property back. The burden to bring it back was onus. There is no way the town could bring it back. Then we thought we could sell it. It’s been 10 years, we haven’t gotten any bids and the property has been ignored. It has become more and more dilapidated and more of a liability. If the town had stepped up 3 years ago… let’s rejuvenate it, let’s sell, get the revenue and put it back on the tax rolls. But nothing is happening. The town is not doing anything. CAC is doing something. With the volunteers they have revitalized it. They are drawing national acts. Restaurants are full. They are the only people doing anything to bring it back. For that reason and that reason alone he thought it was a good decision to turn this over. Let’s do something with this beautiful property.

Kim Hart and her husband understand business. They have seen the red tape of government. She encourages people to come to the monthly meetings. She stated that items are put on the agenda month after month. She stated the Caroga Arts Collective is a collective group of citizens in Caroga that is what it is. “You are talking about the Town of Caroga when you talk about that group.” She has seen them create a sense of community that was lost. When she first came up here 12 years ago they would call around and nothing was going on. Now the town is coming back to life. She asked how do we keep them here. We feed them and house them, and support them monetarily. She has met so many people through this group and has developed friendships and a sense of community has been restored. She wanted the board to take action and not push this off from meeting to meeting to meeting. Come to meeting that will get it done.

Linda Fake lives here half a year. “Just take a look at this structure around you. If you think this town can take care of Sherman’s…. they can’t even take care what we have here.”

Al Kozakiewicz – Planning Board Chairman, encouraged everyone to go on the town website and look at the comprehensive plan. Read the first seven pages. The rest is a lot of data. He noted the CAC fits into that vision. He would like to see a public private partnership like the Hall of Springs, Saratoga Springs Park. That type of use has a benefit for all of the community. He would not like to see in four years Sherman’s is in private hands and a zombie property. It is the most important parcel in that part of town and the whole comprehensive plan revolved around it.

John Lorence is on West Caroga Lake. He has Sherman’s stories. He has seen what it was and seen its decline and seen what has taken people away from it and now what is bringing people back toward it. He is the guy with the other proposal. There were only two. He heard there is a possibility that CAC is going to have $250,000. He thought that might be a fair purchase price. The thing that is not discussed here is why not do both. That’s in line with the Comprehensive Plan public and private and not for profit coordination. He has reached out a couple of times. What he has tried to lay down on paper is to do something that made sense that has use for four seasons which can create some cash dollars and jobs keeping what it here today. That is his intention and what he would like to see. He would like to see the conversation be on how we can all work together. He thought CAC has done a good job and thinks we can fit it all in.

Mr. Ruby thanked Mr. Lorence. As some background Mr. Lorence sent him an email after the announcement of the grant. We are open to that. The biggest problem we have is lack of communication, Mr. Ruby stated. We are interested in doing this kind of thing; it is not for the CAC alone. Another resident of West Caroga Lake, a developer called Mr. Ruby at 7 am this morning. He is excited about this. CAC wants to be the umbrella to work to make this successful for the community. One of the huge problems with leasing it is you can’t get a mortgage if you don’t own the property. He didn’t think the town was going to sign on for a mortgage for a tenant. Mr. Abdella’s reason for changing his mind was because of that reality. If you are going to do something substantial you have to borrow money. You need to have ownership of the property for that reason.

Mr. Lorence understands the financial complications. He has worked in this business for 16 years as a project manager and engineer. He is very certain he can help out in this situation.

Kim Hart tasked if CAC has a purchase agreement or if it is turned over for ownership to them is the only way right now that George Abdella is willing to release it from the town. If that is the case if the town does not keep it where does it go? She was confused if other developers are brought in and what that would mean.

Mr. Ruby stated nothing has been decided with the town at this point. “We are still in negotiations. We gave the town a first draft of a contract they have given it to their attorney. That is still in discussion.” From his own personal view he does believe that this group will be able to make Sherman’s more successful than it has been in the last three years, going long into the future. He did not have an answer to give her tonight.

Kathy Ellerby her question was if the town does not give the property to CAC does Mr. Abdella still waive the right to litigation against anybody else interested in purchasing the property. On the other hand, as a business owner up here she is glad that the businesses north of town hall were helped. She is directly across the street from the Sherman’s property. “With all the people you’ve brought in I have not received one person as a customer in two years and I have been there for four.” They are there 7 am till late at night. “It doesn’t’ prosper us at all.”

Kyle stated that was a great point. He hasn’t met everyone one in the community and would be happy to talk to her afterwards and discuss ways they can give help. He noted all of the musicians like to get breakfast – sometimes their parents come in with them and there aren’t a lot of places that serve breakfast.

Beth Morris had the honor of being on the board for two years. The year before that she worked with Barbara Lee, Jeremy Manning, and Kent Kirch because of the problems with that donation agreement. She still believes after all this time that Mr. Abdella does not have authority over what the town board does. It is our gift. We voted as a town to have that donation agreement rescinded. As far as Sherman’s goes we do not know what the property is worth. What we do know is that this town is a poor town and we can’t afford to be XXXX XXX ???.

We need to find out what the property is worth and take that under consideration. Then as a town, all of us can come together work with the town board and hopefully make a good decision. It is not just good for one group or this group or another group. Then finally after four years we can heal and become one town again.

Tim asked what other options; does the town have with the property. George says he will sue us if we choose to do what we want with it. Why can’t we give it back to him and let him deal with all the law suits and everything. Do we want to take on the liability? So why don’t we give it back. Council Member Kirch stated that has not been an option at this point. Mr. Ruby responded that he would ask him.

Tony Toskas told another story.

Mr. Ruby thanked everyone for coming out tonight on behalf of the CAC he appreciated your communication and listening to us. His phone # at Ruby & Quiri is (518) 365-1139.

Council Member Kirch noted the board will be having more meeting like this as the process moves forward. He hopes to see everyone at these meetings. He thanked everyone for being here.

RESOLUTION #2018-106 to set Trick or Treat for the Town of Caroga was offered by Council Member Long at the work session of the Caroga Town Board held on Tuesday, September 18, 2018, at Caroga Town Hall.

WHEREAS, the Town desires to hold Trick or Treating in the Town of Caroga, and

WHEREAS, the Town consults with the Wheelerville Union Free School to set the date for Trick or Treating in the Town of Caroga, now therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Caroga Town Board does hereby set October 31st, 2018, from 6 – 8 PM for Trick or Treating in the Town.

Council Member Manning seconded the motion.

Adopted by a vote of 5 Ayes, Selmser, Glenn, Manning, Long, Kirch

At ____ pm Supervisor Selmser made a motion to adjourn, seconded by Council Member Long. All board members were in favor of adjournment.

Respectfully submitted,

Linda M. Gilbert, RMC, CMC

Town Clerk

Copyright © James McMartin Long 2017–2021