By Eli Ruiz
LIBERTY The Town and Village of Liberty boards held a joint meeting at Village Hall on Monday evening. The joint meetings are held on those months of the year where a fifth Monday exists on the calendar and were implemented by Town of Liberty Supervisor Charlie Barbuti as a means toward fostering better communications between the separate but geographically-linked entities.
“We share the same problems and it’s always good to have an open line of cooperation,” said Barbuti of the meetings. “In the past there was little or no communication between the boards and the fact is that a good healthy relationship between the town and the village will be an asset in the long-run… we’ve both got challenges and it’s much better to work together.”
Representatives from Sullivan Renaissance were in attendance, with a presentation to the boards by the 2012 Sullivan Renaissance interns taking up the first half of the meeting.
The presentation by three of this year’s interns stemmed from a survey targeting visitors, residents and business owners present at this year’s Fourth of July celebration held on Main Street. The goal of the survey according to a packet handed out by the interns was “to conduct an objective assessment of Main Street, Liberty.” Jonathan McCoy, Kristen McEneaney and Seth Wegener presented the findings of their study titled “Downtown Liberty: A Community Effort,” in which they pointed out that the public found that the downtown area lacked pubic facilities, helpful signage and family attractions. Visitors to Main Street would like to see a greater variety of stores in the village as well as better maintained sidewalks and more landscaping and benches. More “old” businesses were found to exist on Main Street than “new,” with local proprietors asking for lower taxes, cleaned-up storefronts (mostly related to the currently shuttered storefronts in the village) and a more “modern appeal” to the area.
One of the more interesting findings of the study found that of the local businesses included in the survey the vast majority, or 68 percent, did not belong to the local Chamber of Commerce. Twenty-four percent belong to the local Chamber with 8 percent of the businesses involved in the survey being former Chamber members. Reasons for the lack of engagement between Main Street business owners in the overall Liberty Business Community were not clear. Twenty-five local merchants participated in the survey.
Among several recommendations made to the town and village boards based on the findings of the study included an increase in police presence as well as better lighting in target areas like public parks and spaces, more community events in said spaces to increase foot traffic through the areas, more “easily accessible” public restrooms and the installation of water fountains, trash receptacles and signage directing people to parks and services along Main Street.
After the presentation the boards discussed some ways to implement some of the suggestions, tossing around the idea of purchasing an electronic sign-board that can be remotely updated to reflect upcoming events in the village and town.
Later in the meeting Village of Liberty Mayor Rich Winters turned the discussion toward finding some viable revenue streams for Liberty, asking, “rather than worry about how we’re gonna cut this or cut that, how about looking for ways to bring in more revenue?”
Winters pitched a Lake George style RV park at Walnut Mountain in Ferndale. “We have beautiful venues like Bethel Woods and people come up for the shows and then go back home, but if we had somewhere for them to park their camper and stay for the weekend, maybe some for weeks… those people will spend money locally,” explained Winters.
Barbuti expressed concerns about the Walnut Mountain location explaining, “We’ll have to do a lot of exploring but it would be easier to do something with Hanofee Park… Walnut Mountain was purchased in-part with Federal monies and there are certain caveats with what we can do there.
“I know there are no caveats with Hanofee Park and if the town wanted to go into the camping business, we could,” Barbuti added.
Both boards agreed to further research the proposals and gauge their viability. The Town and Village of Liberty boards will meet again on October 29 at 6 pm.