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The Tug Hill Commission is one of those government agencies that actually work.

Efforts to save Tug Hill Commission

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Local leaders are scrambling to save a state agency that supports the isolated communities of the Tug Hill Plateau. Governor Cuomo wants to dissolve the Tug Hill Commission in next year's budget. 15 people would lose their jobs.

The Commission serves more than 60 towns and villages in rural Lewis, Jefferson, Oswego, and Oneida counties, helping with economic development, planning, and natural resource protection. David Sommerstein reports on efforts to save the agency.

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When Glen Gagnier was mayor of Croghan, north of Lowville, he saw a poor community with rich resources but no good plan.

The community needed help and there wasn’t a place to go.

Gagnier reached out to the Tug Hill Commission.  Even though Croghan was technically outside the Commission’s service area, it helped the town survey its citizens, apply for grants, and spruce up its Main Street.

The expertise and the people that they know and the people that they can bring in to play so that you can get things done in your community is amazing.

Now that regional asset is fighting for survival.  As a part of his effort to reduce the size of state government, Governor Cuomo wants to zero out the Tug Hill Commission’s 1.2 million dollar budget.

1.2 million, that’s all it is, to apply to a ten billion dollar deficit.

Rodman town supervisor Gary Stinson scoffs that’s like applying twelve cents to a thousand dollars.  Stinson says aside from the town clerk, he works alone.  And he needs help drafting laws and doing the barebones of local governing.

And I believe in cutting back.  I absolutely believe in cutbacks.  But the services they provide to the Tug Hill towns and the four county areas, it’s just easily worth 1.2 million dollars.

Stinson hopped off from grooming snowmobile trails to take my call.  The Tug Hill Plateau is wild natural place, battered every winter by feet of lake effect snow.  Its vast tracts of forest have attracted conservation easements from the Nature Conservancy.  But it also relies on snowmobiling and ATVing for its economy.

The Tug Hill Commission helps to balance economic and environmental concerns…with success, says Neil Woodworth of the Adirondack Mountain Club.

For the concept of sustainable well planned smart growth, I think the Tug Hill Commission did it well.

Commission director John Bartow says the Tug Hill Plateau is a special case that needs special attention.

You’re talking about some of the most rural, remote, less populated parts of New York State.  It’s an economically challenged region.  Its economic development is typically of a very small scale that typical economic development assistance doesn’t reach to.

Bartow says the Tug Hill’s state lawmakers, Senator Joe Griffo and Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush are looking more deeply into Cuomo’s proposal.  Bartow acknowledges Cuomo may have new programs that could fill in the gaps if the Commission disappears.

With New Yorkers clamoring for lower taxes and smaller government, these are the kind of cuts that hurt when theory becomes reality.  Leaders across the Tug Hill are writing letters to Cuomo in support of the Commission.

Hopefully I’ll have it out in the next couple days.

Former Croghan mayor Glen Gagnier acknowledges the people of the Tug Hill are conservative.  In all likelihood, they voted for reducing the size of government.  But Gagnier says this is a different case.

The Tug Hill Commission is one of those government agencies that actually work.

Gagnier says Cuomo should search for the ones that don’t.

For North Country Public Radio, I’m David Sommerstein.

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