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Sun., Sep. 21
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The week’s headlines

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Here are some thoughts on some of last week’s headlines:

SURPLUS PSYCH CENTER LANDS

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, announced Friday that the Senate included in its 2014-2015 budget a measure transferring 160 acres of surplus St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center land to the city of Ogdensburg.

Having it included in the budget was a wise move to ensure its swift passage, and I applaud Mrs. Ritchie for her hard work to follow through.

Much of the state-controlled land has been sitting idle for the better part of a century. The acreage includes prime commercial land along Route 37 and pristine St. Lawrence River waterfront at Point Airy. It is ripe for commercial and residential development.

It will probably take a while for that development to happen, but once it does it will add significantly to the city’s tax base and hopefully alleviate the property tax burden a bit for city residents.

The city currently has far too much tax-exempt property. City officials have said that just 36 percent of land within the city limits is taxable. Land owned by schools, churches, and government and nonprofit agencies is not taxed, and private property owners must make up the difference. Adding surplus psychiatric center lands to the roll will bring the amount of taxable land up to 40 percent. That is still not great, but it’s an improvement.

The Senate action is a positive first step, but the measure has yet to pass the Assembly. Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said Friday she is confident that companion legislation she introduced will be approved. I hope that happens quickly so the city and Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority can get the ball rolling on getting the land back into private hands. City taxpayers could use a break.

POTSDAM DAM PROJECT PROGRESSES

It appears that the village of Potsdam’s West Hydrodam project is finally getting off the ground. It’s too bad that the project has been plagued by so many problems, many of which were outside the village’s control. Village officials could not have foreseen that Canadian Turbines, the company they hired to supply the parts, would not follow through on its contract and eventually go belly up. The result is a project that is years overdue and more than $1 million overbudget.

Moving ahead, however, the project should provide steady income for the village to help ease its reliance on property taxes to pay the bills. I hope village officials are able to sort through this latest technical snag with faulty vibration sensors so the dam gets up to maximum production capability as soon as possible.

Congressional race heats up

Just when we thought the 21st Congressional District race couldn’t get more interesting, Democrat Stephen W. Burke of Macomb has thrown his hat into the fray in an attempt to force a primary race with Aaron G. Woolf, the Democrat district party bosses endorsed last month to run for the seat. Those party bosses after Mr. Burke’s announcement reaffirmed their endorsement of Mr. Woolf.

Mr. Burke has lived in St. Lawrence County for 30 years, is currently a Macomb Town Council member and is a former Heuvelton Central School board member. He has had several unsuccessful runs for state and federal political office, but that does not mean he is not a serious contender. In that respect he is not unlike Republican Matthew A. Doheny, who has twice run unsuccessfully for the Congressional district seat.

Mr. Burke has been here long enough to understand the issues facing the north country, and has experience holding political office. He is as much a contender as any of the other candidates.

Competition is a healthy thing, and I wish Mr. Burke the best of luck garnering the 1,250 petition signatures he needs to get on the primary ballot. It will be difficult, but not impossible if he enlists volunteers to help him knock on doors.

If he is successful, there will be Democratic, Republican and Green Party primary elections to decide which candidates will be on the ballot in November. That many candidates to choose from is a great thing for voters.

EXPO IS NEXT WEEKEND

The Ogdensburg Boys and Girls Club Expo is next weekend. There is still time to get a $10 ticket for a chance to win cash and prizes donated by community businesses while supporting the club. Keep your eyes open for volunteers selling tickets at local businesses.

As our newspapers’ contribution to the effort, we are offering free $10 tickets to the first 50 people over 18 who walk through the doors of the Edgar A. Newell II Golden Dome during Expo and say “I love Ogdensburg!” So mark your calendars and plan to attend. You might have the luck of the Irish on your side.

THANK YOU

On a personal note, I would like to thank JMS Mechanicals, Ogdensburg, for working so quickly to replace my mother’s furnace after her basement flooded a few weeks ago. Their professionalism and quick work helped get her heat back on so she could return home. My siblings and I thank you for your caring service.

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