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Lisbon considers new road at campground and possibility of selling the property

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LISBON – The Lisbon Beach and Campground could get a new road installed this summer that bypasses the campsites, providing easier access to the boat launch.

The town is also considering setting aside a separate account for the beach and campground’s funding and examining what would happen if the property were sold.

Highway Superintendent Timothy Dow said at Monday’s Town Council meeting that building the road would address a safety concern. He said it’s “just to get the boat traffic out of the campground.”

Mr. Dow estimated that building the new road would cost roughly $26,000, but Town Councilors Alan D. Dailey, Nathanael Putney and Town Supervisor James W. Armstrong asked Mr. Dow to get a firmer cost estimate.

“It’s an option ,and there is a tremendous amount of traffic,” Mr. Armstrong said. “There’s lots of land there. It wouldn’t encumber anything.”

But he wants to make sure the town can afford it.

The town has largely relied on the New York Power Authority to fund improvements at the beach and campground.

In its 2003 relicensing settlement with towns affected by the construction of the St. Lawrence-FDR power project in Massena in the 1950s, NYPA agreed to remove Lisbon from its project boundary, leaving the town ineligible for annual payments under the settlement for towns still considered part of the project area. The town instead received a $500,000 one-time payment.

NYPA also agreed to fund improvements to the Lisbon Beach and Campground, including a $360,000 bath house that was completed in 2003. Since then, the town had also received about $240,000 from NYPA from the sale of former project lands, some of which has funded bath house improvements and electrical upgrades to the beach and campground.

Mr. Armstrong didn’t know exactly how much NYPA money was left, but minutes from the May 2012 council meeting show the town has about $20,000 of Power Authority money to spend.

Mr. Dailey said, “I’m not opposed to doing the road, but I don’t want to blow all the money so it comes back on the taxpayers.”

“I appreciate the safety issue,” Mr. Dailey added in an interview Wednesday, “People are going to have to be careful driving and be careful walking. But building another road, I’m not sure how much safety it would add.”

Mr. Dow was asked to come back to May’s meeting with a better estimate of the cost of building a road.

The prospect of spending town money at the beach and campground prompted Mr. Putney to ask whether the town has ever considered selling the enterprise to private hands.

“This is going to be nothing but a burden in the future,” Mr. Putney said. “You’re looking at leach fields, you’re looking at electrical, you’re looking at potential liability fees.”

Mr. Dailey said talk of selling the beach and campground is “Pie in the sky,” for now, but he thinks it’s a discussion worth having.

“Nate and I both feel that it should be put on the tax roll. Government shouldn’t be running it; it should be private enterprise,” Mr. Dailey said. “When you run out of Power Authority money and you have to have the townspeople support it, do you raise taxes? When the people in Lisbon have to start footing the bill for the whole thing, then that will be the time when we have to look at it.”

At the moment Mr. Dailey said the beach and campground has overwhelming community support, and supports itself on fees it charges for camping and day use.

“But after four or five years of having to fund the whole thing on the backs of the town of Lisbon they might feel differently,” he said.

He said he and Mr. Putney only “brought it up to alert people to the fact that we’re not always going to have the Power Authority to pay for it.”

Regardless of whether the town remains as the beach and campground’s owner, Mr. Dailey said a separate account within the town budget should be maintained for it.

“I think it would be prudent for us to set up a capital reserve fund just for the beach,” he said. “Any money they make every year, I wouldn’t be opposed to taking that amount of money and putting in the capital reserve.”

He said the move would enable the council and the residents to better understand the finances of the beach and campground and what it will look like when Power Authority funding is no longer available.

“I’m hopeful that with all the new renovations it will be self-sufficient,” Mr. Dailey said.

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