Clute Park construction begins soon
WATKINS GLEN--The Watkins Glen village board voted to award $88,643.05 to Stantec for the design of the multi-million dollar redevelopment of Clute Park. The plans call for a new winter ice rink, a pavilion and new bathrooms.
"We have a basic concept in terms of design, but it's not 100 percent going to be built as the design stipulates because as construction is going on we might have to change some things," Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk said.
Costing roughly $4.5 million, Leszyk reiterated that none of the money going into the project is coming from the village.
"We are paying for this through a combination of grants," Leszyk stated.
Leszyk said the Clute Park redevelopment is important for turning Watkins Glen into a tourist destination year round, even in the dead of winter.
"I think the impact for Watkins will be big...it will bring more usage of the park because we will have an event center. [It will allow] more year round usage of the park because right now it's basically closed in the winter. The pavilion that is currently there isn't insulated and the bathrooms have to be winterized so we are hoping the park becomes more year round where weddings or events can still happen in the winter," Leszyk said.
Along with the ice rink, which will be open in the winter, Leszyk said the redesigned Clute Park would be an important driver for Watkins' winter economy.
"The more people who come the better impact on our local economy. We want to be a tourist community where it is 365 days a year. Even now there is some lodging or restaurants closed because there is no business for them," Leszyk said.
He added that while the tourist season has increased with the expansion of the wine and breweries in the area, there are still dry months in the winter.
"And this is part of closing the gap, and that has a spill over effect where people will stay at local hotels and eat at the local restaurants and shop at the stores on Franklin Street," Leszyk said.
Construction is expected to start in the spring.
The board also voted to approve the participation of two employees working in the water reclamation department to enter into an apprentice program to become licensed waste water treatment plant operators.
"There is a very high failure rate, between 70 to 80 percent failure rate (for the test). So this here gives them tools to be better operators and is paid for through grants from the state. This is good for Watkins Glen, it's a win win," said Terry Wilcox, superintendent of the water reclamation department.
After the meeting Leszyk said the village is at the tail-end of a rate study being conducted through the state that will most likely end with electric rates being raised some 17 percent.
"We haven't raised our rates (for the last 15 years) ... and if we plan on moving into the future and having growth, we need the infrastructure to keep up with it. There is always sticker shock of a 17.5 percent increase... but that increase will equal roughly a $30 increase per $200," Leszyk said.
According to village officials rates are not raised by the village, but instead by the New York Power Authority.
"We have to do what they tell us to do," Leszyk said of NYPA as it relates to village electric rates.
According to village officials, the process for determining exactly how much rates will increase is not finished and there is no official timeline as to when the rate increase as mandated by the state will occur or what the exact increase will be.