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[BDC] is not doing enough about luring businesses into this community.

'Rooftop highway' boosters eyed for cuts

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The not-for-profit that has spearheaded the push for an Interstate highway between Watertown and Plattsburgh is under fire. Massena's mayor says the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena hasn't been audited in 8 years and isn't doing enough to create jobs. David Sommerstein reports.

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David Sommerstein
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Jason Clark, director of the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena, has become the leader and figurehead for the rooftop highway, or I-98, as he calls it.  He’s young and returned home to Massena to stop others like him from leaving for jobs.  Here’s Clark talking in 2009.

Every time I came home the one thing that really stood out is, where’s the highway?

By his own admission then, one of Clark’s main focuses at the Business Development Corporation, or BDC, has been the rooftop highway.  He recently helped secure 20,000 dollars from St. Lawrence County to promote the project with pamphlets and ads.

But the BDC’s 120,000 dollar a year funding comes from the village and town of Massena.  It’s charged with economic development.  And some local officials want to see Clark do more in their neck of the woods.

He is not doing enough about luring businesses into this community.

Jim Hidy is the village of Massena’s mayor.  He’s proposed completely defunding Clark’s organization in this year’s budget.  Hidy says he supports the idea of a rooftop highway.  But he says the BDC has 300,000 dollars in reserve.  And it hasn’t been audited since 2003.

When you’re working with public money, and in their bylaws it states that they’re to have an annual audit, to not have an audit in several years is…it’s not acceptable.

Jason Clark says the audit situation is a matter for the BDC board, and he expects it to take up the issue at its next meeting.

Clark says he has been busy promoting the Interstate project the last couple years.  He’s been lining up hundreds of resolutions of support from boards and local lawmakers.

We’ve gotten commitments from our federal officials.  We’ve gotten commitments from federal highway officials.  Now we’re waiting on commitment from the Governor.

That’s so important because the state Department of Transportation has so far been against a full-blown divided highway between Watertown and Plattsburgh.  The DOT prefers small improvements to speed up traffic along the Route 11 corridor.

Clark says the BDC is making progress on economic development in Massena.

Contact bases in the Canadian markets, several grant proposals.  In the last four years, we’ve generated over half a million dollars in grant money for Massena.

One of those grants is developing a rail spur for Massena’s industrial park.

Massena’s village board is divided on the proposal to cut the BDC’s funding.  The issue will be decided as a part of the budget process over the next few weeks.

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

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